Who would imagine that, within sight of the Portsmouth shipping terminal, a kayaker can begin a voyage into rural New Hampshire and Maine? Head north on the Piscataqua River from the Dover Point and you quickly reach the tree-lined banks of the Salmon Falls River. This quiet section of tidewater is a road less travelled, protected from ocean storms, and perfect for a novice kayaker getting acquainted with the sea.
To see a map of this trip, including the route, launch sites, caution areas, and public lands, click here
What You'll See
North of Dover Point, the river is wide and the banks harbor countless piers jutting far into the water. Slowly, the houses become less frequent and the forest takes over. Above the Maine Route 101 bridge, houses are few and far between, with a state park along the banks and bald eagles in the trees. Eventually, you reach the dam in South Berwick, and must turn back.
There are two hassle-free launch sites
on this stretch of river: a paved ramp at Hilton Park on Dover Point, and a sandy beach at the Route 101 bridge. The head of tide on the Salmon Falls River is at the dam in South Berwick, Maine, 7 nautical miles, one-way, from Dover Point, and 2.5 nautical miles from Route 101. These launch sites allow paddlers to create an up-and-back trip of a length appropriate for their group and their goals for the day.
On the east bank, just north of Route 101, paddlers will discover the 250-acre Vaughan Woods State Park
, with hiking trails accessible from the water. In South Berwick, there is a small park just below the dam on the east bank, with picnic tables and room to stretch.
Tidal currents under the Dover Point Bridge are extremely strong (up to six knots), so paddlers should be very careful if they venture south from the launch site. However, for those paddling toward South Berwick, there is no need to approach this area.
Tides & Currents
Because this section of river experiences fairly strong tidal currents (more than one knot off Dover Point at maximum current), we will try to plan our trip around the tidal currents. We should also avoid low water in South Berwick because the river gets quite shallow.
are available for the Salmon Falls River at the Route 101 bridge. For more information on tides and tide prediction, see this issue's installment of "The Sea."
Unfortunately, there is no tidal current data for the Salmon Falls River. There are data for stations west and south of Dover Point, but currents in those locations are affected by Great Bay and are very different from those experienced on our trip.
Kayakers who have paddled the Salmon Falls River say that high-water slack at South Berwick occurs about a half-hour before the reported high tide. That means that paddlers should try to reach South Berwick approximately 30 to 60 minutes before high tide at the Route 101 bridge.