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Carmans River Canoe Route
Most people are surprised that Long Island possesses two State Wild and Scenic Rivers. They are the Carmans River on the south shore, and the north shore’s Nissequogue River. The Carmans River, Long Island’s third largest river, offers a peaceful, scenic and often wild canoe experience totaling 7.6 miles one-way.
Canoeing this river is an excellent way to see “wild Long Island,” since it is the least developed river on Long Island. Paddling it gives you the opportunity to see a river from its upper reaches, passing both developed and natural areas, and its transformation into a wide tidal estuary. You are guaranteed to be treated with abundant wildlife sightings here.
The route starts in the village of Yaphank. It proceeds for 1.25 miles through private lands to Lower Lake. It continues 3.2 miles through South Haven County Park (see previous description), surrounded by scenic pine-oak woods. Below Sunrise Highway, the canoe route passes through Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge (see previous description) for another 3.25 miles. It ends where the Carmans River widens and enters Great South Bay.
From April to December, you can rent canoes from Glacier Bay Sports (631) 286-0567, located at 2979 Montauk Highway just west of where it crosses over Carmans River. If you bring your own canoe, South Haven Park charges a $2 fee. For South Haven County Park information, call (631) 854-1414. For Wertheim Refuge information, call (631) 286-0485.
How to Get There: The Carmans River can be canoed in several shorter sections, or for the ambitious, you can canoe its entire 7.6-mile route. If you rent a canoe, the canoe company will drop you off at the “put-in” site so that you only need one car. If you bring your own canoe or choose a route for which the canoe company does not provide pick-up service, you must bring two cars, one for each end of the route.
There are five canoe access sites, so you can custom design your own paddle trip.
Village of Yaphank Put-In Site You must use the two-car logistics for this put-in site because the canoe rental company does not provide transport service to this spot. Take Long Island Expressway (Route 495) to exit 67, Yaphank – Middle Island Road. Head north on Route 21. In 1.5 miles, you are in the village of Yaphank. A riverside park is located where Route 21 (Main Street) meets Mill Road. Parking lot is located behind the Sweezy Avey house. Look for the put-in site just south of the road, below Upper Lake.
It is 1.2 miles to the Yaphank Avenue canoe access site. The first half of your route is along the river, which starts off very narrow with overhanging vegetation. Navigating this stretch is difficult until you reach Lower Lake after a half-mile. After Lower Lake, you must portage your canoe over Route 21 (Yaphank Avenue) to take out here or to re-enter the river.
Yaphank Avenue Canoe Access Most of the river’s canoe trips start here because it is used by the canoe rental company’s transport service. It is the north end of South Haven County Park. Take Long Island Expressway to exit 67. Head north on Route 21 and immediately watch on your right for the canoe access site as you cross over Carmans River. Park here along side the road, and enter the canoe access area through a gate. Canoe access is closed during hunting season. Canoe access is open 8:00 am – 3:30 pm: weekends only, January 27th – March 18th, and Thursday through Sunday, May 17th – October 21st. Obtain permit at South Haven County Park office.
It is 3.2 miles to the next canoe access site in the south end of the park. In a quarter-mile, you pass under Long Island Expressway, and in another quarter-mile, you paddle under the Long Island Railroad. For the next 2.7 miles, your route is through natural Pine Barrens landscape. About 2.2 miles from Yaphank Avenue, you reach a cement dam, which you must portage around. On the west shore of this dam is the Nature Trail through South Haven Park.
A mile downstream from the dam, you can take out at Hards Lake boat ramp. If you wish to continue, portage around the dam with the stair access. Back on your canoe, you pass under Sunrise Highway, and then under Montauk Highway. On the downstream side of Montauk Highway is the third canoe access site.
Montauk Highway Canoe Access People who canoe only the route through Wertheim Wildlife Refuge use this site to put-in. The canoe rental company is a short distance to the west on Montauk Highway. To get here from Sunrise Highway, take exit 58. Head south on William Floyd Parkway and immediately turn right on Montauk Highway. Travel west on Montauk Highway for 0.7 miles. You soon cross Carmans River (where the canoe access site is). Shortly after, the canoe rental company is ahead on your right. If you are not using a canoe rented from the canoe company, you must put in on the east side of the river. The access is located in the state fishing access area located at the traffic light just before the river on the right hand side.
The route downstream from here is 3.25 miles through Wertheim Wildlife Refuge to the river’s mouth and Great South Bay. After the first 0.2-miles, you pass under the second Long Island Railroad overpass. This stretch is a good place to look for wood ducks, mallards, and black-crowned night herons. Shortly after you cross under the Long Island Railroad Bridge, watch on your left for the Wyandot Waterway channel. On your right, you will see the Refuge headquarters.
As you pass through Wertheim Wildlife Refuge, you may notice the tidal influence. If you are at low tide, the seven tributaries that join with the Carmans River will be drained and inaccessible. If you come at high tide, they will be filled and you can paddle into each of them to explore at your whim.
A half-mile downstream from the Refuge headquarters, you pass the other end of Wyandot Waterway. This is a good place to spy osprey, herons, egrets and kingfisher. After about five river curves (0.8 miles), you pass Yaphank Creek on your right. At the next river curve (0.3 miles), watch carefully on your left for the Indian Landing Nature Trail. This one-mile trail is only reached by canoe. In this area, listen for the “conk-a-reeee” call of the redwing blackbirds, or the melodic warble of the marsh wren. In another 0.2 miles on your right is Little Neck Run Creek. Around the next curve (0.25 miles) on your right, you arrive at the last canoe access site at the end of Beaver Dam Road.
If you wish to canoe further, remember that the river widens greatly and winds and currents can make your paddling more strenuous. Just south of the Beaver Dam Road, you pass a marina on your right. This is a good spot to see cormorants and great black-backed gulls. Continuing ahead, stay on the left side of the river so you won’t miss Big Farm Creek, about 0.6 mile past Beaver Dams Road. If you paddle up this creek, you may reach an impoundment or large pond to explore. After this, the river widens even more. Staying on the left side, in a quarter-mile, watch for another channel to explore, Little Fish Creek. After this point, you enter Bellport Bay, a portion of Great South Bay.
On your return trip, cross the river and follow up the west shore (keeping it on your left) until you return to the Beaver Dam Road take-out site.
Beaver Dam Road Canoe Landing (Squassux
Landing) To get to this canoe access site, follow the directions for
Montauk Highway canoe access. Drive west past the Montauk Highway canoe
access for 1.7 miles and turn left on Old Stump Road. When you reach
Beaver Dam Road, turn left and drive to the canoe ramp.