How to explore the Charles River in Boston, MA

We’re giving you a lay of the land (er, water).

Multiple kayaks on the Charles River with Boston in background

We’ll all float on okay.

Kayaking, canoeing + paddleboarding are great ways to explore the Boston area.

But before we dive in, let’s get a lay of the land (er, water). Check out these unique facts about our region:

  • The Charles River flows 80 miles from Hopkinton to Boston Harbor. It’s navigable for 10 miles, from Watertown to the harbor.
  • The Watertown Dam to Boston Harbor — the “Lower Charles” — is one of the busiest recreational river segments in the world, with jogging paths, sports fields + concert performance facilities.
  • Boston’s longest river is quite slow moving, averaging speeds of roughly 368 cubic ft per second. To compare, the Connecticut river flows at 16,180 cubic ft per second.

Next, we should talk about paddling safety, so you don’t capsize:

  • Be on the lookout for traffic on The Charles. Power boats, Duck Boats, sailboats + local rowing teams are out on the water too, so be aware of your surroundings.
  • For a fully detailed list of do’s + don’ts, check out this paddling safety guide.

And finally, here are a few local options for getting your feet wet:

🌊 Community Boating, 21 David G Mugar Way | Weekdays 1 p.m. to 30 mins before sunset + weekends 9 a.m. to 30 mins before sunset

Kayaks + paddle boards are available for rent at the Esplanade for two hours, at $34 per person. Enjoy the sites of Boston’s skyscrapers, the CITGO sign, and of course the occasional passing of the Red Line over the Longfellow Bridge.

Pro tip: bring your own lock + avoid the additional $5 fee for use of a day locker.

🌊 Paddle Boston, 15 Broad Canal Way | Hours vary by location

With rental units in Cambridge, Allston, Somerville, Newton, Medford + Waltham, you can paddle through nine out of the 10 mile navigable stretch. Single kayaks and paddleboards are available for rent starting at $30 for one and a half hours.

You’ll catch views of the Museum of Science, Zakim Bridge, and the campuses of MIT and Boston University.

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