• By Lou
  • July 23, 2017



Copyright 2017 Kayaking CT with Lou

Coginchaug River Paddling

Guilford-Middletown, CT

Last paddled: 7/20/17, 7/26/17

Matabesset River

Root system of a fallen tree near convergence of Matabesset and Coginchaug Rivers

Coginchaug, means, “great swamp and this narrow winding river does have adjoined areas of swamp that can be explored and paddled. Surrounded by areas of swamp, farmland, and forest makes this river a great place for wildlife as well.

A doe and two very small fawns  surprised us during our most recent paddle on this river! The doe pulled leaves from a tree and her fawns pulled grass from the river bank nearby while we all played a game of do you see me! We froze and she froze every time she stopped to look in our direction. Staring into the eyes of a doe while we both freeze in place was so funny it almost caused me to laugh and spoil the whole affect. Finally, something about us caused her to stop eating, leap over a small creek and join her babies; however, she did not usher them away and all three continued to eat as we drifted by. One fawn bravely stepped forward and gave us a complete look over! They were OK with us; but, I didn’t think reaching for and pulling out a camera would’ve been considered a cool move.

Heron, swallows, finches, and a couple of beaver lodges were also seen. However, it was the tree formations and numerous root systems of fallen trees that most intrigued me (See photos).  Some could even be viewed from an artistic perspective.

Coginchaug RiverTidal affects are not as physically noticed as is the case with other waterways that are affected by the Connecticut River further south; however, the more casual change in water level between high and low tide can sneak up on paddlers here. When paddling above the kayak launch (launch info below) at lower tide levels, pay attention to very low areas of water; realize that at very low tide levels some of those already low areas might become too low to paddle on the return trip as the water recedes. More obstacles will likely become closer to the surface as well. Tide level also affects how far up river kayakers can paddle. For these reasons, high tide is recommended. High and low tides can be slightly different than high and low tide levels on the nearby CT River due to water being pushed up and pulled back from a more narrow water way.  As is the case with all rivers, water level, weather, and other conditions can change these conditions.

Near the mouth of the Matabessett River and on the Connecticut River, paddlers will experience more traffic noise. In fact, if paddlers arrive at the convergence of the two smaller rivers and they’re confused by which way is the direction of the Connecticut River take-out–just listen. Distant sound of traffic will lead paddlers to the Connecticut River. Overall, traffic noise is not an issue during this trip even though there are areas where it can be heard.

Prior to 2015, this river was accessed by paddling the Mattabesset and Connecticut rivers; the opening of  the Philip Salafia Canoe and Kayak launch (click link to see map and launch photo) on the Coginchaug River has afforded paddlers a new option to put-in at one launch and take-out at another. (See boat launch section below)! 

Coginchaug River boat launches:

All three launches  can be paddled from and back to the same launch. However, utilizing the Philip Salafia Canoe and Kayak launch as a put-in and Harbor Park Launch as the take-out, paddlers have more time to explore vs. paddling back over the same section of river to the same launch. Use of Harbor Park requires paddling on the Connecticut River and should only be done by experienced tidal river paddlers who have experience paddling rivers like the Connecticut River.

NOTE: Both launches have a cement ramp down a grade to the water. Vehicles cannot be driven to the water’s edge. Kayaks must be carried to the water. I would not consider the distance to be difficult for healthy river paddlers.

Philip Salafia Canoe and Kayak Launch: 181 Johnson Street in Middletown, CT.

CAUTION: During our second trip of the season, I slipped, fell, and hurt my arm using this launch! There is a coated wire loop dead center in the middle of the ramp as you walk down with your kayaks. Stay on the gravel, not the slimy cement blocks as you approach the water and don’t get your foot caught in that wire loop which is bolted in place near a slightly raised cement block  in the middle of the ramp! If you do get your foot caught, you’ll stumble forward head first. I was lucky to have only hurt my arm. This is extremely dangerous and very poorly designed! How is the person who is carrying the back portion of a kayak suppose to see this loop at their feet? I looped the wire loop back on itself so others won’t stumble on it; however, it won’t stay back that way on it’s own. 

Paddlers can paddle up and down the Coginchaug River from and to this launch and avoid paddling on the Connecticut River. If it is used as a put-in, paddlers can paddle as far up river as is possible, return, and continue down river. The Matabesset and Coginchaug River converge a short distance before the Matabesset flows into the Connecticut River.  At this point, paddlers can paddle left up the Matabessett River or stay right and continue to paddle towards the Connecticut River take-out.

Once on the Connecticut River, paddlers will see Wilcox Island ahead of them; at this point, paddlers can paddle left and around Wilcox Island or paddle right towards the take-out. Harbor Park is river right beyond the bridge expanse and the old railroad swing bridge (about one mile from the mouth of the Matabesset River). 

Connecticut River

View of CT River near Harbor Park Launch at slack tide.

Harbor Park, Harbor Park Drive, Middletown, CT

NOTE: use of this launch requires paddling on the Connecticut River for about a mile. This launch should only be used by experienced river paddlers who are familiar with tides, wakes, boat traffic,  and other conditions found on the Connecticut River.

Mattabesset River Cromwell Launch, 24 Shunpike Rd, Cromwell, CT :

Mattabesset River Kayak Launch

Mattabesset River kayak and canoe launch at Duncan Donuts in Cromwell, CT

This formal launch is locate just beyond the back right section of the Dunkin Donuts’ parking lot at the above address.  By river, this launch is about 2.79 miles from the Coginchaug River Launch. Paddlers can paddle from and to this launch or use either of the other 2 launches as a put-in or take-out in conjunctions with this launch. Similar to the Coginchaug launch, this launch has a long grade to the river; vehicles cannot be brought to the water’s edge.

During our most recent paddle, we paddled from the Coginchaug Launch to this launch, grabbed some Dunkin, paddled up river on the Mattabesset as far as was possible, then back down to the CT River and back up the Coginchaug for a total of 8 miles.  With three launches, kayakers can create a customized paddle to fit what they’re looking for!

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