Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nissequogue River

When you travel the Nissequogue River by canoe or kayak, you do it by the tide. The river is tidal, with fresh water springs feeding it along its banks. When the tide is slack or about to ebb, that's the time to get into the water at the Smithtown Bull boat launch -technically a midpoint, but for canoeing purposes, the head of the river.

One of the first things I noticed, and you will too in July/August, is the abundant brilliant red flowers along the fresh water. I haven't been on the river before, so I've never noticed them. We couldn't take out eyes off of them.

Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis. I would have taken close-ups, but it was quite difficult to steady the canoe while messing with my camera and the tide pulling us down stream.

Our high tide was around 8:30 am, putting us in with a low sun and cooling shadows along the river.

The river is about 5.5 miles long from the launch to the mouth.

It opens up about 1/3 of the way. Its by no means a secluded river, being surrounded by old and new homes along its banks in spots. Local and state agencies are actively trying to manage the watershed.

In 1999 the Nissequogue State Park was created, adding acreage from the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center (which attracts the paranormal types). You can see the infamous Building 93 and power plant stack towering in the back of this photo.

Finally, we reach the mouth of the river which empties into the Long Island Sound. My brother is taking in the lovely spot.

Upland at the mouth.

The shoreline is both rocky and sandy.

Canoeing the Nissequogue takes only about 2.5 hours. Less if you're a speed demon. After your trip, a van will take you back to the headwaters. If you you came via car, plan to use the rest of your day exploring Caleb Smith State Park or Sunken Meadow State Park. You could also hike part of the LI Greenbelt Trail, something I plan to do this Autumn.

For those coming by train, the Long Island Railroad has a Smithtown station, less than a mile to the headwaters launch.

The canoe and kayak rental business lists tide times for the coming months. Fifty bucks rented the canoe and equipment or you can bring your own.


  1. Those river pics are stunning, and the lobelia! Wow, clearly likes wet feet!

  2. The river was lovely. I wished it was longer. How bout that lobelia? Even better in person.

  3. How weird. I know this area well. I lived in Smithtown as a teen. I studied the Nissequogue and Short Beach when I lived there. I used to ride my bike there all the time. I canoed the "river" - really a tidal estuary, as you note - several times.

    What was the occasion? How did you even know about this?!

  4. Xris,

    I went to what was called the Nissequogue Preserve in the 4th grade. I grew up in Centereach, just down route 25.

  5. Enjoyed your pictures and comments. I'm thinking about taking a canoe ride this May.

  6. This is the perfect place to spend my vacations because I like fishing and doing other activities, and then going to the beach and seeing beautiful ladies.


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