Saugatuck River Kayaking in Westport, Connecticut

The Saugatuck River is an open, winding river that is an excellent choice for both a beginner kayaker or someone looking for a quick outdoor adventure.  The Saugatuck River feeds from the Long Island Sound, travels through Westport, CT, and splits off into many smaller offshoots as it travels farther North into the state. 

The Saugatuck River is so great because it is easy to reach, park, and launch from and the river will take you through downtown Westport before reaching a beautiful, serene, and quiet natural area. You’ll also get to see plenty of beautiful houses, which is always a nice escape. 

Seriously, it’s a lovely spot and great to see a different side of Westport from the water. 

Kayaking in Downtown Westport past the shops

Overview

  • Difficulty: 3.5/10
  • Time: 45min-1 hour to downtown Westport. 1.5 hours until the end of the river
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Parking: Plenty
  • Bathrooms: Porta-potty, and only available in warmer months
  • Location: Underneath I-95 underpass. Off of Compo Road, Westport

Getting to the Westport CT Boat Launch

One of the easiest kayaking launch sites around, the Saugatuck River gets an A+ for accessibility. Located immediately under the I-95 underpass, with plenty of parking, and a large launch area makes this one of the fastest and easiest kayaking spots to visit after work or for a quick weekend paddle.

To get here you’ll travel to Compo Road, and turn onto Elaine Road. It’s an immediate right if you’re coming from Bridge Street – so be prepared for Elaine Road to come up quickly. 

One you get on Elaine Road, you’ll follow it all the way to the underpass. You’ll turn left into the parking area and there’s typically plenty of parking available. 

If there’s one area this spot lacks it’s bathroom access. There’s only porta-pottys available and only during the warmer months. Plan accordingly. 

Turning onto Elaine Road will take you to the Saugatuck Kayak Launch Point

Turning onto Elaine Rd.

Be prepared to turn quickly – or else you’ll miss the entrance

The kayak launch site is underneath the I-95 underpass

Parking Area

Plenty of open space with large parking spots for any type of boat

Launching the Kayak from the Westport Boat Launch

The wide boat launch extends from the parking lot and there is plenty of room for kayakers and larger boats. The launch extends directly into the water with two gravel areas on either side of the main, concrete launch. 

When you enter the Saugatuck River you’ll have the option to kayak left or right. If you go left you’ll head out into the Long Island Sound. If you go right you’ll head to downtown Westport. The rest of this post describes turning right and heading into downtown Westport – but paddling left is also a fun adventure.

You may also want to consider the tides, as kayaking in the direction of the tide will be easier. High tide means the water is heading into Westport, while low tide means the water is heading back into the Sound. It’s always easier to paddle in the direction the water is heading, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. 

Upon going left you’ll go immediately under the I-95 underpass and kayak out into more open river area. You’ll see another smaller, bridge (the one from Bridge Street) up ahead.

Sights you'll see while kayaking on the Saugatuck River

Out on the Saugatuck River

Your first sights after launching the kayak into the water

Kayaking Feature 1: Pond Near Levitt Pavilion

After 20-30 minutes of kayaking on the Saugatuck River, you’ll arrive at a large white pavilion on the right side of the river. This is the Levitt Pavilion. A great performance venue, the Levitt Pavilion’s white towering structure is very distinguishable from the water. 

When approaching the Pavilion, bear to the immediate right. You’ll be taken into a much smaller offshoot of the river where a small walking bridge carries passerby over the river. Often there are people on the bridge taking photos of how pretty the area is – so be sure to smile!

After going under the bridge you’ll be taken to a small pond. This area is very peaceful and full of wildlife, especially birds. You’re almost guaranteed to see a White Egret. 

The water here is very still, but that makes it stagnant, and stagnant water so close to a city isn’t the cleanest. Despite that, the area is still worth a visit. 

Heading under the bridge to get to the pond next to the Levitt Pavilion

The Bridge Over the Water

People love taking photos here, just like this man

Seeing a white egret while kayaking on the Saugatuck River

A White Egret Hanging Out

There’s always wildlife, especially birds, in this area of the river. .

Kayaking Feature 2: Downtown Westport

Just a few minutes after you come back to the main river, you’ll enter downtown Westport. It’s always fun to kayak through downtown and see it with an entirely different view. I personally love to see people walking next to the river, going in and out of the shops, and eating at the restaurants near the water.

Another neat feature while kayaking in downtown Westport is looking at the stone that builds the paths around the road. It’s something you won’t notice easily from land, but can clearly see the detail and structure when you’re at water level. There are also some cool steps that I’m not sure of their function. But they’re definitely cool to see. 

Kayaking in Downtown Westport past the shops

View of Downtown Westport

I love watching the people and looking closely at the stone that builds the paths

Kayaking Feature 3: Natural Ending, with Small Dam

If the tide is low enough you’ll be able to continue down the river past downtown Westport. At high tide, the water is too high to get underneath the bridge you have to pass under to make it to the next part of the river. But, during low tide, or at least lower tide, you should be able to squeeze under the bridge. Although sometimes I have had to lay down a bit in my kayak to get underneath. 

Once on the other side you’ll notice that the landscape changes. Quickly you’ll transition from downtown Westport into what feels like a more secluded, idyllic river surrounded by trees and wildlife. 

If you keep going you’ll continue in this setting for about 15-20 minutes, until eventually you reach the small dam, blocking your way further. It’s at this point, I turn around. Even though this dam is small and probably isn’t dangerous, it’s important for kayakers to avoid dams due to the currents caused from the water flow. So, I use this area to  enjoy a bit of rest and take in the scenery before heading back to the launch site. 

End of the river for Kayaking as you approach this small dam

View of Downtown Westport

I love watching the people and looking closely at the stone that builds the paths

Other Tips to Remember

Kayaking the Saugatuck River can be a blast and an easy, quick way to get on the water for the first time, or have a quick adventure close to home. But, don’t forget, wear your PFD, sunscreen, and/or sun protective clothing. And always tell someone where you’re going! 

If you’ve already kayaked here and are looking for somewhere close by, check out the Westport Long Island Sound launch from Longshore. It’s right down the road, and has rental options if you don’t have your own kayak. 

Coming back to the kayak launch site

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