The best way to explore the Concord River is by canoe or kayak. From the launch, it takes about 45 minutes to reach the North Bridge, where the “shot heard round the world” was fired, April 19, 1775. The first British soldiers of the American Revolution died here, marking the start of the Revolution which gave Independence to these United States.
Besides the historical significance, there are scenic views and abundant wildlife along the way. It is the perfect place for a picnic on a sunny day.
My family used to canoe the Concord River together every summer. We would launch several canoes with my siblings, our friends and whatever exchange student we were hosting at the time. My mother would pack a picnic lunch and we would catch (and release) turtles along the way.
My brother once disappeared ahead of us and we couldn’t find him. As we passed under a bridge, I felt an entire cooler of ice water drop on my head. It was pretty funny, despite the fact that I was soaking wet and we had nothing to drink for the rest of the day.
I have such fond memories of canoeing the Concord River as a child, I couldn’t wait to bring my own children.
We set off from the South Bridge Boat House. They make the whole experience so easy, because they supply you with everything you need. You can rent your choice of canoe or kayak. They will suit you up with life jackets, put your boat in the water, hand you a paddle and you’re off!
The five of us fit comfortably in one canoe. James and I did most of the paddling. It’s pretty easy on the way down the river because we just floated along with the current. The way back was a bit more of a challenge but nothing we couldn’t handle. The level of difficulty depends on the wind that day.
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
From the boat house to the Old North Bridge was 1.5 miles and took us about 45 minutes each way. The ride is really peaceful and scenic. We watched kingfishers diving for fish, great blue herons stalking their prey and red-eared sliders basking in the sun.
It is a wide river and the trees lean over the water providing just the right amount of shade. The kids loved going under the bridges, but they loved when Daddy steered the boat under branches so that Mommy got hit in the face even more.
Trivia: a “minuteman” in U.S. history was an American Revolution militiaman who agreed to be ready for military duty “at a minute’s warning.”
Paddling to the Old North Bridge was the perfect distance for our kids and it was a great reward to dock the boat and have a picnic. We walked across the bridge, saw the Minute Man statue and gave them a little history lesson. There was a park ranger there to answer questions and a man dressed as a red coat who was happy to pose for pictures.
On April 19, 1775, minutemen and militia faced off with the British at the Old North Bridge. In what would later be called the Battle of Concord, this event is what ignited the American Revolution. The minuteman statue represents a farmer who leaves his plow and picks up his musket to defend his land and liberty. Civil war cannons were melted down to create the bronze statue.
We walked a quarter of a mile to the visitors center which has nice gardens, air conditioning and bathrooms. There is also a gift shop and a short video about the history of what happened there. Be sure to look for the plank of wood from the original Old North Bridge hanging over the mantle place.
This is the book I read to my kids to teach them about Paul Revere and his ride. The illustrations are great and they loved following along his route on the map.
For a perfect ending to the day, you can get great ice cream at Beford Farms which is just around the corner.
Sometimes we remember childhood experiences more fondly than they actually were. I was happy to see that canoeing the Concord River was just as special as I remembered.