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  Canoeing on the Ipswich River
Canoeing on the Ipswich River

What to Bring

Old sneakers   Hat (summer)
Sunglasses   Watch
Waterproof pouch or plastic bag for cellphone and
  Insect repellent
Sunscreen   Water
Snacks   Fleece (spring/fall)
Plastic bag for
  Extra dry clothes and shoes to leave in the car


From Boston, take Route 1 North
Continue straight past the intersection with Route 97 in Topsfield
About 1.5 mile after Route 97, turn right a
light on Ipswich Road (follow the large sign for Bradley Palmer State Park)
Continue straight on Ipswich Road for about 2.5 miles until you see a small sign on the right for Foote Brothers. There is a long wooden fence and generally several cars parked along the road.
  Good to know in advance
Open from April to October – actual
opening/closing dates depend on weather conditions – call ahead to inquire

Open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Base rate reduced to $25 on weekdays
Restrooms at the base
PFD, paddle and seat cushion included
Foote Brothers: Willowdale Dam, 230
Topsfield Road, Ipswich MA 01938, Tel:
Carry out your trash
Dogs prohibited in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
Do not collect plants
Leave no trace when you go ashore and
respect private property

ID Card

Overall rating: Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating
Difficulty: 2/5
  Time from Boston: 45 minutes
  Duration: Full day


  Main activity:


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Located 30 miles north of Boston and easily accessible, the Ipswich River is one of the nicest places to paddle around Boston. The river runs through a varied landscape of forests, meadows and wetlands, much of it protected or undeveloped. This trip allows you to spend an entire day on the river and explore it at your pace.

The River's main asset is its undeveloped environment. This area of the North Shore has remained a relatively protected area where farmland is ubiquitous and horses can still be seen roaming meadows. The Ipswich River reflects this environment: it partly runs through the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary and the Bradley Palmer State Park, and most of the riverbanks have been left untouched.

The best way to explore the River is to rent a canoe for the day at Foote Brothers, a small outfitter located in Ipswich. The flat, daily rate of $30 per canoe is expensive if you rent only for a few hours, but it becomes quite reasonable if you spend the day on the river, stopping for a picnic along the way – and maybe for an afternoon nap... No paddling experience is necessary – if it is your first time on the water, the team will teach you the basics (tip: if you sit at the rear of the canoe, you can use your paddle as a rudder, and steer by holding it along the hull and turn it to go right or left).

From where Foote Brothers is set up, you will paddle upstream against a very moderate current. There are several opportunities to stop on both banks along the way. The obvious one, reached after less than an hour of paddling, is Bradley Palmer. You can stop at the second bridge (under Asbury Street). The park entrance is just a few yards away.

The next formal stop can be Audubon's Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, with its more open landscape and wetlands. It is further up and it will take another couple of hours to reach the canoe landing near the Sanctuary headquarters. Even without reaching it, the stretch after Bradley Palmer is quite nice. The river gets further away from the road (which can sometimes be noisy when you leave the base in Ipswich) and you will paddle in complete silence.

In spring and early summer, make sure you bring your insect repellent, as mosquitoes flourish in this environment and can be quite thirsty. Similarly, it can be tough to find shade on the river in the summer, so be sure to bring enough water, sunscreen and hats or caps to stand the heat.

You will paddle back to Ipswich at the end of the day, the trip being a bit faster with the help of the current. Still, don't overestimate your strength and give yourself ample time to come back at your pace. Foote Brothers close at 6 pm.

Foote also offers a drop-off option: for a slightly higher fee of $35, they will shuttle you and your canoe upstream to Topsfield, allowing you to paddle downstream for the entire day. Just show up between 8 a.m. and noon, and they will drive you up, which leaves you at least 6 hours for the trip back to the base.

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