Floating In The Summer Tide

During a recent visit to Guilford Harbor and the mouth of the East River, I saw a man on a paddleboard. He wasn't paddling or riding the waves. He was just laying on his back with a hand in the river gently tapping the surface of the water and letting the tide take him wherever it wanted.

Ah, summer paradise.

One of my best summer memories and favorite things to do in the warmer months is to float in and out with the tide along a tidal river. My first memories of this was a place called Hatches Creek within the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. During low tide, I would explore the tidal pools for hermit crabs, starfish and snails. The muddy banks were filled with fiddler crabs scurring for the cover of their tiny holes.

But when the waters of high tide flowed in from Cape Cod Bay, it was time to jump from a rickety old footbridge into the cool waters and float through the marshes while listening to a gull scream in the air and watch the high grass sway in the wind as the tide gently pushed you along.

Those memories came floating back during a recent visit with friends to Grass Island at the mouth of the East River in Guilford. We had taken a Boston Whaler across the choppy waters of Long Island Sound from Westbrook and turned into the harbor and East River as the scenic Faulkner's Light – built in 1802 and the second oldest lighthouse in the state – seemed to watch over us.

As we anchored on Grass Island's sandy beach ladened with slipper shells and looked up and down the tidal river, I knew I had arrived at a familiar place. I dove in from the back of the boat and smiled as I became a passenger of the tide and began floating up the river passing moored sailboats and watching a great blue heron fish along the banks.

Over the years of writing my nature columns, I had seen bits and pieces of this scenic river at Audubon Connecticut's Guilford Salt Meadows Sanctuary or Guilford Land Conservation Trust's East River Woodlands, but I had never been one with the waterway. And as I watch dozens of people kayak, sail or jetski up the river, I am not alone in seeking out the beauty of this briny paradise.

It's fun to watch my children and their friends enjoy the action of the tide as they jump from the boat and scream and then frantically swim back against the swift current to the safety of the boat ladder just to do it all over again. I watch them with a smile as I think back to those simpler summer days.

I haven't been back to the waters of Hatches Creek in years. Our favorite place to go now is Boat Meadow River in nearby Eastham - another place where the waters of Cape Cod Bay flow in and out. But as I found out visiting Grass Island and the East River, anywhere one can float in and out with the tide is a place you can call a summer paradise.

Route 1 to Route 146. Turn on Whitfield Street and follow to a public boat launch at the end of Old Whitfield Street.

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