Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Season: Kayak Touring New England Fall Foliage

New England is famous worldwide for its glorious fall foliage. The amazing color variations of leaves during this season include reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and everything in between. Different plant species change color at different times, so the color palette changes over the course of the season, and from place to place. Color change comes earlier in the north, and later in the south, and can also be affected by elevation and micro-climate conditions. When exactly the change begins and ends differs from year to year, and can be affected greatly by the amount of summer rainfall and the weather patterns. So, it's no guarantee any particular year will be ablaze with color variation. Most years, though, reward us with spectacular scenery. 2017 is forecast for a spectacular show (story here). New England fall tourism can generate billions of dollars of revenue for the region. Most people drive to their favorite locations, like the White Mountains, then hike a trail, or stop at a scenic lookout. Folks get out on foliage train ridesboat cruisesbike tours, ATVs - so, why not include kayaking in the fun?

New England fall foliage
New England lakeside fall foliage

One of the great advantages of viewing foliage from a kayak is you'll have much less competition for a prime viewing spot. Unless you're in a busy waterway, you'll have nothing between you and the trees. In some places, you'll be able to paddle right up to, or underneath, them. Another advantage is, well, you'll be in a kayak, enjoying all the benefits kayaking offers the rest of the year. It's just an enhanced version in the fall. Daytime temperatures can remain quite warm during the fall, but will chill as the season progresses. Dressing in appropriate layers is key to comfort and safety (see my post 8 Tips for Dressing Right for Your Kayaking Adventure). Shortened days give you a narrower window in which to enjoy the water, so time your paddle to return well before late afternoon. With proper planning, though, you can enjoy sun filled days with crisp, clean air, amidst a vibrant visual display.  

In order to get close to the best foliage, you might consider a lake or river paddling location (here's a list of rivers from That said, ocean bays and inlets can offer foliage options as well. Either way, chart a course that keeps you close to land, or at least among islands with leaf bearing trees, so you can get a good view. If you plan on taking photos, paddle somewhere quiet and placid, so you can concentrate on getting great shots without sacrificing safe operation of your kayak. I like quiet backwater estuaries that give you the best of all worlds - salt water (and its attendant wildlife) and proximity to the coast. One great example of this scenario close to me is Newcastle, New Hampshire (see my post Newcastle, New Hampshire - a Kayaker's Dream). There are plenty of coastal trees here, as well as trees on multiple islands, and Sagamore Creek is available to get farther upstream and inland. This leads to still waters that reflect the foliage for a great photo subject.

Squamscott River foliage, Exeter, New Hampshire
Fall foliage reflected on the Squamscott River in New Hampshire

Fall fishing can be pretty good, too. Stripers are chasing baitfish all over the New England coastline. You can fish with a view of the glorious leaves as your backdrop. Then, if you land a big one, your buddy can catch the foliage in the background of your show-off pic 😉. Fall is also a great time to beach your 'yak near a trail and take a short hike to view the leaves close up. The bugs are mostly gone, and you won't get overheated in the cool air. Boat safety is better - boat traffic has diminished in most New England locations after Labor Day, but lakes and rivers could still be busy, so practice due diligence.

So long as you dress right, practice proper safety (see my post Safety is a Mindset - 10 Tips for Kayaking Safely), and make sure you time your paddle correctly, the fall is a great time to kayak in New England - and an even better time to enjoy the show the trees put on every year, before they shed their leaves for the long winter sleep. Do yourself a favor: get out there and take advantage of the season for paddling - before your long winter sleep.

TB on the Water


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