89 Peconic Avenue Riverhead NY
"In Business Since 1966"
The Peconic River is Long Island's largest river and is also one of its most historic and ecologically diverse. Originating in swamps, ponds and bogs at mid-island, the river flows eastward through forests, past farms, over dams and under roads and past historic sites until, fifteen miles from the source, it empties into the bay. A canoe trip down this shallow, slow-moving river is both an education and an adventure. Peconic Paddlers of Riverhead offers a relaxing eight mile, three-hour tour that is simple, fun and healthy.
Your journey begins near the Navy/Grumman airfield amidst willows and red maples. Wetlands, with their dense growth of shrubs and trees, extend outward from the channel that meanders around islands of vegetation. Turtles, muskrats and birds abound in this area.
The river continues past swamps of water willow which are adorned in summer with tiny pink blossoms. Gradually the river bends south, resuming its eastward path just beyond where the hills rise abruptly. These hills are part of the Ronkonkoma Moraine laid down by glaciers along the entire length of the island.
As you paddle eastward, the river broadens. This section of the river was dammed at three locations many years ago to permit cultivation of cranberries. A historic marker on the dam announces that this is the site of the former Brown Cranberry Bog. Beyond this dam is another large impoundment. Mute swans often nest and feed in this area. Phragmites, the Common Reed, is abundant along the shores and well out into the water. During late summer, algae, duckweed and other aquatic vegetation coat the pond. The vegetation thrives on the nutrients entering the river from nearby farms and homes.
Swans, geese and ducks can be seen as you maneuver your canoe around the bends and turns of the channel. Gradually you enter another lake, the largest on the Peconic, called in past years Forge Pond but now known as Peconic Lake. It's a long row-over a mile - to the dam at the eastern end. The Pine Barrens forest stretches southward from along the shoreline. Swans, geese and ducks may be seen in many places along the lake. Finally, you reach Forge Road. It was on this site about 200 years ago that Solomon Townsend operated a large iron forge which turned out bar iron and anchors for the Navy. The river's bogs and swamps were the source of the ore - called bog iron - and the surrounding forests fueled the hearths.
Beyond the dam, the river is again a shallow, narrow stream hemmed in by woods and wetlands. Gradually the channel opens into yet another pond created by a dam about a mile down stream. This site was called Upper Mills in bygone days. Here, about 75 years ago, stood a large water-powered woolen mill and a small power plant for generating electricity. Tons of ice were also harvested from the mill pond in the days before mechanical refrigeration.
About a mile downstream, the river courses beneath the Nugent Drive bridge with the Suffolk County Center at the south end and the Riverhead Free Library and Suffolk County Historical Society museum at the northern terminus. Once beyond the bridge, it's only a short distance to the final dam at Grangabel Park. Here the water tumbles over a spillway and around the small island park. Named many years ago for Grace, Angeline and Mabel Griffing, the park today is owned by the Town of Riverhead. To the south, the Little River joins the Peconic just above the spillway. This tributary drains Wildwood Lake and the former Woodhull Cranberry Bog (now the County Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve) to the south. The dam not only marks the end of your journey but the end of the freshwater section of the river. Downstream the water is the estuary of Flanders Bay. During the spring months, local residents gather at the dam to catch the fish migrating upstream.
This relaxing exploration can be experienced four days a week from May to mid-October by visiting Peconic Paddler on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead. They offer a variety of canoe rental packages and free basic instruction. No experience is necessary. You can contact Peconic Paddler at (631) 727-9895.
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