The Gulf River Passage (from Gannet Rd.)

Details: Launch your kayak or other small, man-powered boat from the access to the Gulf River from Gannet Road. If you come from North Scituate, there is a little pull off on the left side of the road just before you cross over the river. You can park your car there and easily walk your boat from your car to the river. There is another place to pull over and park your car a little further past the river on the right side of Gannet Road. 

Length of Route (detailed map): about 45 minutes; 2.84 miles (2.96 km)

Difficulty: Easy- This route is extremely easy due to its complete protection. The Gulf River is a slow moving river that adjusts with the tides. The greatest difficulty that a kayaker could experience on this river is having to paddle upwind or against the current that fluctuates with the tides. The only part of this route that could become dangerous if not prepared for is the area underneath the Mill Bridge that leads into Cohasset Harbor. During low tide, water flows very swiftly into Cohasset Harbor and even creates small rapids that can be difficult to handle if you are not an experienced enough kayaker or do not have proper equipment.

Hazards: Natural Elements

  1. Tides, Wind, and Weather- Being aware of and prepared for the weather conditions and tides on the day you decide to kayak will make this route extremely safe and easy to paddle. This river is accessible during low tides, but kayaking during at least mid-tide (three hours from high or low tide) would be the safest bet of having plenty of water to paddle in. Towards the mouth of the river in Cohasset Harbor, a low or decreasing tide could have a significant pull on your kayak towards the Mill Bridge, Cohasset Harbor, and possibly the rapids. Be aware of how strong the current is when approaching the mouth of the river. Knowing the tide will also allow you to make the decision of whether you would rather paddle against the tide on your way towards the Mill Bridge or on your way back to the car. Also, have a good understanding of wind and weather conditions before you venture out on this route. This river is completely protected from any extreme wind and water conditions present out in the ocean, but even a little breeze can impact the enjoyment of a kayak trip when you have to paddle against the wind. Again, knowing the strength and direction of the wind can help you decide whether you want to paddle upwind towards the bridge or upwind on your return trip. Also take a look at Scituate’s local weather forecast before embarking on this route and arrive to kayak prepared for any slight change in weather or temperature. If you keep all of these natural conditions in mind when planning your kayak trip, you can guarantee a safe and really fun trip!

Nature: The Gulf River is home to various kinds of plants and animals natural to salt-marsh ecosystems. The river is extremely quiet and peaceful in its isolation from the busy, civilized parts of Scituate and Cohasset. While kayaking this route, you can see Egrets, Blue Crab, Diamond Terrapins, Laughing Gulls, and Herring Gulls. Various plant species exist within the tall grasses that you immediately see including Salt Hay, Black Rush, and the Common Reed. For conservation purposes, please do not disturb the environment by travelling very far from the river into the grasses. This route is also especially scenic. In addition to the various animals and plants, the river bank is dotted with old, antique homes dating back to the 19th century. You will be able to see large red barns and old colonial style houses whose backyards reach to the edges of the river bank. 

History: The Gulf River is known for its peaceful, rich natural environment and its historical significance in both Scituate’s and Cohasset’s existence. For many years during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Gulf River existed as the boundary dividing Scituate and Cohasset. The boundaries were altered by 1830 to accommodate for farmers living in what is now Cohasset (at the time this area was known as Hingham) who were interested in harvesting their fair share of Salt Hay. Salt Hay grew abundantly along the river and throughout Cohasset Harbor and was in high demand for its use as a very nourishing food for cattle. Farmers harvested Salt Hay using flat-bottomed barges known as “gundalows”. These barges were navigated using long poles to maneuver them through the shallow parts of the marshes. Still located along the river banks are a few “landing places” for these barges. These “landing places” look like small stone walls imbedded in the river bank.

The Gulf River was a great help to Cohasset during the War of 1812. In 1814 when Cohasset residents feared a British invasion, the fishermen hid twenty-seven vessels in the Gulf River. These men even went as far as sinking the hulls of the ships to the bottom of the river so that British troops could not burn the ships. The Gulf River was home to many mills throughout history, the most well-known being Elisha Doane’s Mill. In 1792, Elisha Doane built a dam and grist-mill at the mouth of the Gulf River in Cohasset Harbor. The grist-mill was built in order to power the machines used to grind grain, and the dam held back salt water while allowing fresh water from the river to accumulate and freeze enough to support ice-boats.

*sources include “The Gulf River Association” (www.thegulfassociation.org)      

The Scituate Historic Trails project formed from a partnership between Scituate Historical Society, People for Active Transportation & Health (PATH), and Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary to create and promote walking paths and bike routes connecting historical sites, beaches, downtown businesses and other fun places to relax, learn, eat and enjoy Scituate, a charming New England seaside town founded in 1636. Scituate is a coastal town located 25 miles south of Boston with nearly 17 square miles of history and centuries old character to be enjoyed on foot, on a bicycle or from a boat! From out of town? Hop on the Greenbush Train from South Station with your bike and enjoy a healthy, historical adventure to Scituate Massachusetts.

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