Guided kayaking tours take paddlers up river and through time
By Heather Killen
Gentle splashes break the hush as paddles dip the surface of the water. It’s Thursday evening and about a dozen kayaks are meandering towards Paradise.
Each week a group gathers in Jubilee Park for a guided tour of the Annapolis River. Depending on the times and tides, they may head as far west as Bloody Creek before they follow the current back home. This evening the surface of the water is composed of rippling bends as the bows cut through the water.
“You should have been here the other night, the water was just like glass,” says Murray Freeman, one of the guides. He motions towards a mass of bushes lining the bank and adds, “A few weeks ago that was covered in white roses.”
For the past several summers, starting in late June, guided kayak tours are given every Thursday evening. Murray Freeman and Doug Parker, both retired teachers and members of the Clean Annapolis River Project, know the river’s nooks and crannies and are happy to point out various landmarks along the way, or talk about the river and its ecology.
It’s a different view from the water, a reflective glimpse into the past and present. In places it’s possible to see the jagged remains of lost wharves, from the days of wind and sail when supply ships travelled up the river and unloaded during low tide.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when boats were built along the river and the Town of Bridgetown was a vital port that connected the Valley to the world through sailing ships.
Now for long stretches the riverbanks are abandoned to nature, with horses and cattle grazing along the fields above. It’s easy to notice the boundaries of town limits, the well-groomed shorelines of private properties and the occasional dock.
Freeman and Parker are involved with the River Guardian program, a volunteer effort to monitor the health of the river, and are happy to talk about the river today, the ecology and the issues now affecting it.
Whether it’s invasive species, or water quality, these weekly outings are an opportunity to gain a new appreciation for this vital channel that links the hearts of each Annapolis community to each other.
Steve Raftery, Bridgetown’s community development coordinator, said that shortly after he was hired, he was asked to look for recreational activities that could be introduced in the town that would promote the Annapolis River and new uses for Jubilee Park.
Kayaking was one of the first ideas that came to him and he began looking for a private contractor to provide kayak rentals. The first year kayaks were available through this company, but eventually Raftery found money through grants to purchase a few for the town.
The town has three single and one tandem kayak available providing there is staff on hand to assist. So far the program has been very popular and often the kayaks are reserved weeks in advance.
Many people bring their own kayaks along for the Thursday adventure, according to Raftery. Kayaking has become so popular, this year they’ve added a day and make them available during the Tuesday Farmers Market.
For more information, visit http://www.town.bridgetown.ns.ca