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At low tide, families can explore the broad sand flats inside the river.

Paddler's Delight: Bass River, Cape Cod

Text & Photography By Tom Richardson

The Bass River on Cape Cod forms a border between the towns of Yarmouth and Dennis, and was once considered as the site of a canal that would have bisected the Cape. Today, the river serves as a scenic and protected playground for paddlers of all skill levels.

A kayaker approaches the Rte. 28 bridge.

You can bring your own ‘yak or SUP to the river or rent one from Cape Cod Waterways, at the base of the Rte. 28 bridge, or Bass River Kayaks & Paddleboards. If you have your own kayak, you can put in at Bass River Park, as well as upriver at the Wilbur Park Launch off High Bank Road, where you’ll find a nice, sandy beach adjacent to the ramp and free parking. Another spot to launch is the ramp at the end of Uncle Freeman’s Road in West Dennis. Limited parking is available along the road.

Kayaks can be rented at two locations.

Once on the water, you’ll find more than enough to occupy you for a full day. Osprey, herons, egrets, hawks and other birds are commonly seen along the river, and the fishing for striped bass can be excellent, especially in June and again in the fall.

Downriver, you can explore the marshes behind West Dennis Beach or enjoy the sand at Boater’s Beach, just inside the inlet. Upriver is Grand Cove and the Wilbur Preserve, where you can beach your ‘yak and enjoy a picnic or swim. And if you’re feeling especially energetic, you can paddle all the way north under the Rte. 6 bridge and into Follins Pond, but you’d best plan that kind of trip around the tides, which can really rip at times.

This historic windmill is one of the interesting sights along the river.

If you’re hungry, you can stop for lunch or dinner at Sundancer’s or the Summer Shanty, at Bass River Marina.

Before planning a trip, check the forecast for wind speed and direction, as well as a tide chart. A stiff wind opposing the tide can chop up the waters in some of the more exposed stretches, making for tough paddling. That said, the Bass River is a good spot for beginner paddlers, as it offers lots of protected spots that are out of the wind and current. Know your limitations, watch the weather, and plan accordingly.

A sailboat swings on its mooring near the river mouth.
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