Ahhh. Victoria Day weekend.
For Canadians, this 3rd Monday of May heralds the unofficial beginning of summer. The days are noticeable longer, the leaves are unfurling, things are growing again, and the bugs are back. People are pulling out their patio furniture and starting up the lawn mower and barbeque, and everyone enjoys an extra day to their weekend. Around where I live, several enjoy the “May Run” – an annual event that includes off-roading with trucks, jeeps, and ATVs through backwoods trails and mud bogs.
My friend and I enjoyed a different sort of May Run – one including a couple of kayaks and beginner rapids on a river still swollen from the spring freshet. It was the last weekend this portion of the river could be navigated by kayak, and even as it was, there were a few spots where the water was pretty low and we were getting stuck on the rocks.
We put the kayaks in the Hammond River at the village of Hanford Brook where the road crosses the river. There was a nice little path leading down to the water’s edge under the bridge and was easily accessible. We left one car here, and had left another car further down the river in the community of Smithtown. We didn’t take much note of the time it took us to kayak from one spot to the other, and we were taking our time, stopping in calm areas to take pictures or to eat a snack or reapply some sunblock. My cousin, who told me of this run, said it had taken him about 3 1/2 hours when the river was a little higher.
Interesting gypsum rock formations along one part of the river, with a mini waterfall.
If you are looking to try this scenic kayak trip, there are several different places you can finish at: there is a covered bridge on the Damascus Road (Smithtown / Damascus), or further down at the bridge on the French Village Road (French Village / Quispamsis, or further down still at the Hammond River Angling Association (Quispamsis / Nauwigewauk / Hammond River). After that, the river continues to a delta area surrounding Darlings Island with the Kennebecasis River (you can read about our experience kayaking this area here).
In order for this upper portion of the river to be deep enough for a kayak, you need to go in April – mid May (otherwise, the area near Darlings Island is deep enough throughout the summer). You won’t need a high skill level of kayaking, but I would recommend some previous experience just so you are familiar with paddling as you’ll need to skirt around rocks quite a bit. We used the average sit-in touring kayaks.
It was a beautiful day to enjoy this river and its amazing views of the countryside. The sound of water rippling over the rocks and feeling the sun on your face after a long Canadian winter was the perfect way to enjoy Victoria Day.
Footnote: Victoria Day is a public holiday in Canada that began in the 1800’s to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday which was May 24th.