Plum Island
from Newburyport
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Paddle Trip{short description of image}{short description of image}(A Level 4 Trip)

Circumnavigation of Plum Island:
Every year I like to take one decently long paddle. For 1998 that was a solo trip around Plum Island on my racing surf ski (using a wing paddle). I launched at 10:30 from the seawall in Newburyport on Water Street (high tide was sometime after 2). I headed straight across Joppa Flats and out the mouth of the Merrimack. This is not a stretch for the faint of heart, or slight of skill. Every year or so a small motorboat (16 to 20 foot boats) gets swamped by the waves and currents in the mouth of the river. There was in incoming current with several sections of standing waves. Probably the toughest stretch was rounding the end of the jetty. The current was coming along parallel to the front beach and then taking a fairly abrupt turn to enter the river. You could see the height change of the water as it rounded the jetty.
. The Paddle Trip

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This resulted in a brisk current plus standing waves while making a turn. Going down the front side of Plum Island was uneventful, the refuge appeared to be closed to humans. Just small flocks of terns and shore birds for the entire stretch of the refuge. As you paddle down the front side there are 2 hills in the distance; one is the hill that Cranes Castle is on the other is Hog Island in Essex bay. As you near the south end of plum island the only hill you can see is Hog Island, so it looks like you've got farther to go than you do. After rounding the point, I pulled over to stretch my legs and drain my boat (it leaks a bit). The first point was was rocky so I continued on, the second point was sandy but there were lots of people fishing. The third, and final, point looked great reasonably deep water right next to the sandy beach. I pulled in between 2 motorboats pulled up on the sand. I lucked out and pulled in between 2 boats, one of which one of my friends owned! They offered me juice boxes, soda, beer, cold cuts, chicken salad... I sucked down a couple of juice boxes and hung out with them for about half an hour. Headed up the backside was nice, slight tail wind (which had been a minor headwind going down the front) with the current. It was also high tide, as I passed the Parker River so there was plenty of water. About a half mile shy of the Plum Island Turnpike Bridge I was distracted by a waterskier and his friends (they didn't know how to pick up a skier and were yelling at each other) so I got lost ;-) I found myself even with the end of the plum island airport runway, as the river branched repeatedly and got smaller and smaller. I turned around before it was too late. While paddling back from mistaken turn I watched 4 people parachute onto Plum Island, an unusual sight: birds I'm accustomed to seeing not parachutists

After finding my way back to the main channel (the fork I missed was right where I had encountered the water skiing crew), the right fork goes to the bridge, the left one wanders through the marshes behind the airport. Just past Woodbridge Island I saw a minimum of 25 big swirls from large fish or schools taking off as I passed by. It almost made me want to take up fishing. It's easy to understand why so many people were fishing in the area. I landed at about 3:20.

According to one of the people hanging out at the south end of Plum island Plum Island is 7 miles from end to end. I was awful tired, and really slow, if that distance is accurate.

Trip contributed by Kirk Olsen

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