Register for upcoming trips on our Trips and Events Calendar webpage

Enthusiastic Kayaker Gives Two Thumbs Up. At the UMass Lowell Kayak Center you can rent kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards or sign up for kayaking instructional programs, tours and events!

Come paddle with the Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP)! We have a variety of amazing paddling options here in Massachusetts! Our trips range from the Merrimack River (here in Lowell where we have our summer Kayak Center), other rivers in Massachusetts, and coastal paddling. We use kayaks on the coast, and also have access to tandem kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards for inland adventures.

Merrimack River

Lowell's section of the Merrimack River is beautiful to look at as well as paddle on - calm and relaxing on its flat water, and exciting below the dam with significant rocks and rapids. Our OAP trips will stay on the flatwater upstream of Lowell's dam, where the water is calm with a mild downstream current. The river is wide with trees on both sides. We will paddle under bridges (like the Rourke Bridge) and there are great places to explore, like the channelized Stony River, which goes underneath buildings! On the Merrimack River, some trips may use canoes or stand-up paddleboards, as well as kayaks! Occasionally, we may do trips that are downstream of the whitewater section near UMass Lowell (UML), in areas where there might be more challenge, like increased flow and obstacles (rocks, etc.). The Merrimack River originates in the White Mountains of NH and flows through several major N.H. cities (Concord, Manchester and Nashua), before flowing through Lowell (and its many historical canals) and out to the ocean north of Gloucester.

Exertion and Skill Level: Merrimack River

  • Merrimack River duration: 1-4 hours.
  • Conditions will shift based on weather, but generally the section of the Merrimack River we use (upstream of the Lowell dam) is very friendly to beginners, with slight current, wide flow, and few obstacles. In the case of significant wind or thunderstorms, we will adjust our plan. Rain is no problem for paddling!
  • Skill level: No experience necessary.
  • Physical exertion*: Light to Moderate.
  • For cold water trips (April/May on the Merrimack River), plan on using a wet suit that we provide. Under the wet suit, you should wear a swim suit on warmer air temperature days or non-cotton slim-fitting athletic wear on colder air temperature days. 
one woman smiles in a kayak on the ocean with the shore behind her

Atlantic Ocean and Annisquam River Near Gloucester, Massachusetts

The Massachusetts coast is iconic - rugged rock, salty wetlands, intertidal areas, and beaches. Kayaking is a great way to experience the coast! The Gloucester area offers a little bit of everything and provides options no matter the conditions. Our exact trip locations are determined by the conditions that day -- the open coast near Rockport can be beginner-friendly on a calm day with low waves and swell; however, if conditions on the coast are too unwieldy, we move a short distance to various protected locations on the Annisquam River. The Annisquam River is connected on both ends to the ocean, so it swells up and down with the tide. Fish, crabs, shorebirds, along with various wetland plants are all part of what we'll see on this trip! Kayaking is an all-body workout when done right, so you can expect after this day trip, you will gain a little extra arm, leg, and core muscle!

Exertion and Skill Level: Coastal Kayaking

  • Coastal Paddling duration: 3-6 hours.
  • Paddling difficulty rises with increased wind speed, wave direction and period, and ocean swell.
  • Skill level: No experience necessary.
  • Physical exertion*: Moderate to Vigorous, depending on wind and tide conditions.
  • For cold water trips (during spring or fall on the coast), plan on using a wet suit that we provide. Under the wet suit, you should wear a swim suit on warmer air temperature days or non-cotton slim-fitting athletic wear on colder air temperature days.

*Exertion levels are estimates based off of individuals who regularly fulfill the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines (pdf) and have no major limiting conditions. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding the physical exertion level of any of our trips.

Tentative Itinerary (Coastal Paddling)

Due to the nature of outdoor trips and uncontrollable variables, all itineraries are subject to change.

  • 7:45 a.m. Optional - Grab a ride from East Campus in the van from the Outdoor Adventure Center & Bike Shop (5 Lawrence Drive, Lowell, MA 01854)
  • 8 a.m. Meet at the UML Bellegarde Boathouse (500 Pawtucket Blvd, Lowell, MA 01854)
  • 8 - 9 a.m. Collect all gear, kayaks, and load van
  • 9 - 10 a.m. Drive to Trip Location
  • 10 - 11 a.m. Instruction & Preparation
    • We will get ourselves and our gear prepped - put on wet suits, learn about some basic strokes and talk about safety.
  • 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Paddling fun! Enjoy paddling and exploring the area, any destination will be determined by the conditions and the group. Picnic lunch.
  • 4 - 4:30 p.m. Return to van. Pack up, load kayaks
  • 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Drive back to Lowell
  • 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Return and clean gear, debrief
    • Every boat and all gear (wetsuits, life jackets, paddles, etc.) will be washed and scrubbed with fresh water and returned to its proper location. The group will then spend a little time debriefing the trip.
  • 7 p.m. Latest Dismissal

Curriculum Topics

  • Leave No Trace
  • Water Safety
  • Kayak Strokes
  • Appropriate Dressing for Ocean Conditions
  • Navigation & Chart Reading
  • Wind, Tides and Ocean Conditions

Packing List

The items on this list are strongly recommended for your trip. The weather forecast and your thermal perception should be considered when packing.

  • Online medical questionnaire and waiver
  • Personal Medications
  • Medical Insurance Card
  • Sunscreen
  • Chap Stick/Lip Balm Sun protection
  • Baseball Cap/Full-Brim Hat Sun protection
  • Sunglasses Sun protection
  • Sunglasses Keeper Strap Protects sunglasses; floating strap recommended
  • Bandana versatile as a rag, hanky, napkin, etc.
  • Method of Payment and/or Lunch & Snacks
  • *2 Water Bottles Hydration
  • Swim Suit To wear underneath a wet suit when Coastal Kayaking
  • Synthetic Clothing Quick dry; wear physical activity/outdoor clothing; avoid cotton, no jeans; Recommend long sleeves and pants when used without wetsuit on Merrimack River.
  • Water Shoes/Sandals or Old Sneakers Protect your feet from cuts/infection; shoes or sandals; must cover toes; no flip flops. You will step into the water and should always be prepared to get fully wet.
  • Towel
  • An extra set of clothes This is critical for coastal trips, recommended for Merrimack River trips; will be left behind inside or in van while paddling.
  • **First Aid Safety first, First Aid Kit, Emergency Communication Device
  • **Activity Specific Gear: Dry bag, paddle, life jacket, wet suit, splash jacket

*All items with one asterisk are available to check out and are included in the cost of your registration.

*All items under "Activity Specific Gear" are supplied automatically by the Outdoor Adventure Program. All participant equipment is subject to trip leader approval. Please, contact us to review any personal gear you would like to bring in substitution of the gear we may provide.

Register for upcoming trips on our Trips and Events Calendar webpage