Getting Ready

The Mystic River is a 3.4-mile-long estuary that empties into Fisher’s Island Sound and separates the towns of Groton and Stonington. Its charm attracts tourists and locals alike. I recently kayaked down the river, learning about Mystic’s prominent landmarks and vessels and their pivotal role in its history.

Our tour started at 5:30 on a temperate Wednesday evening with the sun lowering before our eyes. Its reflection cast metallic hues over the water and patches of shadows all around. Standing at the water’s edge, we were a party of six and ready to embark on our next adventure, with Bella at the helm.

History on the Water

We paddled onto the river and our tour guide pointed out the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original Mayflower. The Mayflower II will be sailing to Plymouth, Massachusetts next year to commemorate the 400th year anniversary of the Mayflower’s initial voyage.

The Draken Viking longship came into view with its magnificent craftsmanship. The traditional dragon’s head is said to protect the ship and her crew along the voyage. As I gazed upon it while passing by, it naturally raised images of the Norsemen setting sail toward a new world or to Valhalla. The Draken was launched in 2016 from Norway and arrived at the Mystic Seaport Museum in 2018.

As we passed the Mystic Seaport, we saw the majestic Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whaling ship. The Morgan sailed on 37 voyages during her whaling career. Bella pointed out the rowboats nearby and explained that the crew would row up to eight miles to reach the whale, cut off the blubber and extract the oil. She went on to say that for the 38th Voyage, the river was dredged out in preparation for her final journey.

After the seaport, we turned around and headed down the river toward the Mystic River Bascule Bridge. It was thrilling to hear the thumping and jostling sounds above as we slowly passed underneath. We learned that the first wooden bridge was built in the 1800’s and was reconstructed in 1922.

To my left was the Mystic River Park. In contrast to the stillness of the scenic views from the northern side of the bridge, I noticed an immediate stirring of life as time seemed to return, and people strolled down the boardwalk, fished off the pier, and waved from their boats.

Our tour slowed down as we passed the Mystic Fire Department’s fireboat, Marine 1- 232. The children in Adventure Mystic’s kids camp get to witness the cannon being fired and climb aboard the boat to see how it works.

We neared the end of our trip, passing by Fort Rachel Marina, where we learned that the British were fought attempting to enter Mystic during the War of 1812.

We turned around at the Mystic River Railroad Bridge which carries Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) over the Mystic River. The current bridge was built in 1984 and is a truss-style swing bridge.

We headed back and I was renewed from the fresh air and revitalized from the exercise. Have you taken a tour yet? If not, book yours soon!

by Shandon Foley