Friday, June 1, 2012

Mystic, CT: Through Time and by Four Bridges

   Looking for a place to entertain a group of widely diverse ages?  Mystic , Connecticut fits the bill.  Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport both have activities and displays aimed at all ages.  Nearby are the Submarine Force Museum (free!), nature trails and beaches.

But beyond the attractions, West Mystic is an attractive town.  Grand Federal and Italianate houses line the upper river.  If you’re out on the Mystic River in the morning, you may see rowing crews practicing. 
     We headed out on the river at 5:00PM, having been delayed by a late lunch/early dinner.  The MysticRiver (Hand Carry) Launch is on  River Road, and from there you can paddle up to a dam further upstream, or downstream past Mystic center to Long Island Sound (and beyond.)  Good news , no no-see-ums bothered us, either at launch or later as we came in.

The trip begins by passing under I-95, and its two closed sprandrel arch bridges.*  We paddled down the west side, clinging to shade, admiring the many fine houses.

     Soon we were at the second bridge, a trebuchet styled drawbridge.* Conveniently located there is the Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream CafĂ©, which unfortunately did not have water side service.
Trebuchet Drawbridge*, Ice Cream Cafe in green, Condominiums in brick
     Lower Mystic has a variety condominiums, both newly built and located in renovated industrial buildings.  Alongside the condominiums, marinas line the shore.

     Most of the marina boats were pleasure craft, but a few fishing vessels had berths, along with this houseboat, which I doubt sees much movement.

     Our next bridge was a full sized Erector Set Train Bridge,*  which rotates on a giant gear below.

    We headed east of Mason Island.  The private aids to navigation in that area seemed to be in different places than noted on the chart.  This is the shallow side of the river, particularly at low tide,  much more carefree than the channel to the west.

    The smallish bridge to island is fixed* with a clearance of 3 feet, so I suspect this area sees little traffic much of the time. 

    Long Island Sound was once again quiet.  We circled round Dodges Island.  Off in the distance Fisher Island (NY) and Latimer Reef Light beckoned, but we’d started too late in the day for that adventure.

    Instead we paddled back, by  deer on Andrews Island, and back through Mystic center. 
     It’s entertaining to paddle by the ships of Mystic Seaport, though no substitute for visiting the museum.  You can see the figurehead on the Joseph Conrad(top photo).

   Currently, the last wooden whaling ship in the world, Charles Morgan, is on shore being refurbished.  You can climb to the top of this huge ship for an amazing view. 
The Charles Morgan is wrapped in plastic
      When we visited Mystic Seaport last May we did just that, and also had great fun with the simulated tug program.  This time we were surprised to see the slightly incongruous, Theodore Tugboat in the harbor, just for a short visit.

    It was a wonderful evening to be out, so it was no surprise that several other kayaks were out as well.  Just a delightful evening paddle.
 * bridge style names range from somewhat accurate to completely made up.

Summary:  Launch Mystic River Hand Carry Launch, 660 River Rd, Groton, CT.  Small dirt pull off and dirt launch.  Launch 5:00PM, finish 7:30PM, 7.4 miles around Dodges Island and back.  Low Tide about 7:00PM 


  1. Loved this post-- it brought back memories. My husband and I visited Mystic years ago for a quick get away when our kids were little. It's a beautiful little town and the museum is so interesting, especially the ships. I really enjoyed seeing the seaport and Mystic River from a kayaking perspective!

    1. That's what drew us to paddle there, lots of fun family trips made there over the years. It is a great place to visit!