Paddle Boarding the Spurwink River, Scarborough


“There is no drop of water in the ocean,

not even in the deepest parts of the abyss,

that does not know and respond to

the mysterious forces that create the tide.”

Rachel Carson

The first time we discovered the Spurwink River, our younger son was about twelve. The three of us kayaked the river, he and my husband sharing a double-kayak back in the day.

My husband works inside Hannaford’s corporate offices in Scarborough. He shouldn’t be working inside, in a cubicle. His dharma is all about nature and the natural world. He comes alive outside in the fresh air, and the sunshine brings him to life.

He’s a prolific gardener who thrives in the out-of-doors. He is a birdwatcher (and feeder); he is a baker of the most artistic deserts; and he says if he had ever known about the park ranger of Acadia National Park job as a young boy, THAT is what he would have sought.

But he didn’t know.

No one exposed him to that in his youth. He didn’t know such “jobs” existed.

So from Hannaford, each lunch hour, he drives to Kettle Cove, Higgins Beach, Fort Williams to eat his turkey or roast beef sandwich and bottled water he packed that morning and totes in a cooler.

It was on many of these lunch hour excursions that he saw the kayakers on the Spurwink River and then brought us.

The Spurwink River is a 4.6 mile long tidal river that begins in Cape Elizabeth and flows west through salt marshes all the way to the Atlantic Ocean at the far end of Higgins Beach in Scarborough. Off Route 77, there is a bridge at approximately the halfway point of the river where a few cars can park and you can kayak, canoe, or paddle board your way down the river….at high tide.

There was the time we kayaked, not yet aware of the tides and their impact on this river. Low tide crept in on our way back to our starting point. The river got so low, our kayaks got jammed.

And I wasn’t wearing shoes.

Although the sea water in the river is beautifully clear and the bottom pure steel gray sand, there was no way I was stepping barefoot into the now-muck, smelling of the flats, and fearing clam worms.

My poor husband, smartly wearing water shoes, pulled his double-kayak-mini-van with Ben sitting in the prow and then pulled my single….much of our way back.

Never again did we go to the river without checking the tides. At high tide, it’s dreamy gorgeous. At low tide, it’s impossible.

The river snakes among tall grasses, cat ‘o nine tails, the beautiful land of Ram Island Farm to the left. Our kayaks or paddle boards meander slowly toward the open ocean at the end.

It’s so quiet.

And peaceful.

It smells clean and of the sea.

Egrets, cranes, deer, sea gulls inhabit this river and its shores. Quietly, we paddle past, so close to all of these and so respectful of each other. We, so respectful of their habitats and grateful for the opportunity to share it.

The shore to the left is tree lined – enormous, ancient, weathered trees. We are blessed to see meadows of corn growing on the Sprague land, fallen trees laying in the river and all the inherent natural chaos.

To the right are homes, far up away from the river. Their owners are sometimes paddling past us on our boards, friendly, sharing a word or two.

Sometimes, they’re sitting on porches overlooking the river, and us paddling by, with their extended families on a beautiful late-summer day.

Once we near the end of Higgins Beach, that is my favorite. The air changes and cools. The wind and waves pick up. The current pushes against my board. Ram Island Farm, with horseback riders trotting across their meadows and the old boat shack with its long dock just across the river from Higgins look like an idyllic painting to me.

We’ve paddled all the way to the end. When the tide is far out at Higgins, we can walk the sandbar in between where the ocean waves are smashing on both sides of it. We land on the Higgins side, the only people on the sand, which is pure white talcum and the waves smashing. The ocean water is warm at the tail end of August and deep.

Diving into the river after our paddle out is truly pure release, pure bliss.

And it gives us the oomph we need to get back up on the boards and meander back down the river, hopefully now with a bit of a tail wind as my core is definitely feeling the work out.

A few hours paddling down the Spurwink River on a late summer day is a must for us each summer. It is a beautiful natural surrounding that reminds me how blessed I am to say this is where I live.