Parker River Wildlife Refuge (Newburyport MA) to Plum Island Sound Channel Marker 23A kayak trip log

28 06 2009

We sought to do a “replay” of our former failed adventure that took us out to the middle of the marsh. While that trip taught us how different things can look at low tide, this trip showed us how different things can look at high tide. We also realized just how big Plum Island Sound really is.

Route Map


June 27

Launch Point

Parker River Wildlife Refuge Lot 1 (Parking available, pay to enter refuge with an annual pass or $5 per car day pass.)


Primarily, to get out to the Sound successfully (easily achieved.) Ideally, make it out to Sandy Point at the end of Plum Island (notsomuch.)


We left 2 hours before high tide, so paddled into the incoming tide in the Sound for a bit, but not too strong at all. Details: Launched at 2:15, hit the Sound around 2:45, channel marker 23 at 3:45, turned around so that we went back “with” the incoming tide through the Sound. High tide was 4:17. we got to the PI river around 4:45.  We though there would be this point on the River when we’d get carried toward Lot 1 on the outgoing tide (the “switch” point behind PI)…but that didn’t really pan out. It wasn’t crazy strong though. We got back around 5:15 — so about a three hour tour (a three hour tour.)

Trip Length

3 hours of continuous paddling at fairly good pace.


The weather wasn’t a slam dunk – it had been cloudy all week and looked like rain. Yay for doppler,  allowing us to track it semi-neurotically before deciding to go. In the end, we determined that if we were off the water by 5:30-6p, we’d be fine. We’d also seriously researched thunder and lightning the day before, so decided that we sort of knew what to do if something bizarre happened with the weather. Anyway. There were others leaving from the launch before we left (always a good sign that you’re launching at “the right time” given the tides and such.

It was super misty. We headed left at the first fork, successfully averting our failed trip last time. We paddled up Plum Island River toward the sound.

Heading up the Plum Island River

Heading up the Plum Island River

We headed out into the Sound, passing other kayakers and very interesting boat label “Tri Yak” — which looked to be the creation of a brilliant and crazy mind — a sort of trimaran sail boat looking thing that perhaps you can row? If the name wasn’t there, we would have thought it was a weird sail boat. And, I didn’t get a pic fast enough.

It took us about 1/2 hour to Plum Island Sound.

I decided we could maybe get to Sandy Point. We stayed pretty close to the shore due to the mist and the few power boats that were out there (mist + power boats + kayaks = not my favorite.) There weren’t too many boats though — it was misty and mellow for the most part. We saw lots of birdz. Herons and such. There were some weird fish jumping incidents (From Sesame Street: Heeeere fishy fishy fishy!). And it got progressively foggier.

We pressed on to a sandy point that we believed to be the Sandy Point reservation, as in, beach at the southern tip of Plum Island. Upon getting there, we realized it was a sandy point, lower case. Not even close to what we were looking for. We paddled to a nearby channel marker and compared it to our handy dandy Map Tech waterproof map (a must!):

Patrick and Channel Marker 23A.

Patrick and Channel Marker 23A.

Woah. Plum Island is big. We figure it might have taken another hour or so to get up to the actual Sandy Point…but we didn’t have that kind of time due to the tide, the weather and the time. So we turned around in the increasingly misty Sound, now really more like a thick fog, and paddled back along shore.

Fog in Plum Island Sound

Fog in Plum Island Sound

Getting down the Sound was fine, but finding the Plum Island River was a bit dicey. We ended up using my iPod with Google maps (not a must, but it’s been very nice to have!) to get back in the right channel. There are some dead end creeks that can fool you or me or…ok, let’s not focus on who’s fault the dead end creek was. Next time, I’ll make note of what actually marks the real PI river entrance. Given another recent experience, I’m guessing that there’s a boater oriented sign there…maybe “No Wake” or something, which in estuary channels is apparently kind of like those roads marked “No Thru Trucking” — a dead giveaway that they go “somewhere.”

Anyway, we made it back to the Lot 1 ramp. Or…the shallow pond formerly known as the Lot 1 ramp. Here’s the launch at high tide when we got back (a very high tide, I think) vs. low tide (another time, but at about dead low tide.)

No parking, Patrick.

Lot 1 ramp at a very high tide

Lot 1 ramp at low tide

Same spot at low tide (and bonus: It's what makes a Subaru a pic.)

Full gallery:




One response

10 07 2009
Refuge Lot 1 (Newburyport MA) to Plum Island Sound Channel Marker 23A kayak map « Newburyport Kayak Report

[…] Refuge Lot 1 (Newburyport MA) to Plum Island Sound Channel Marker 23A kayak map 10 07 2009 Check out our full trip log of Parker River Wildlife Refuge Lot 1 (Newburyport MA) to Plum Island Sound Channel Ma… […]

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