As the tide crept up the boat launch, we grabbed paddles, donned lifejackets, and made our way into the warm bay water with our kayaks. 

Often summer nights on Great Bay bring two types of weather: calm and beautiful, or windy with potential thunderstorms. Luckily, tonight’s weather was the former. 

Fifteen of us, all with varying levels of ability and comfort in kayaks made our way past the tall marsh grasses, and gazed up at the Osprey pair who reside on the edge of the marsh at Sandy Point. As we paddled, a slight breeze picked up and the smell of ocean water, brought into the bay by the Piscataqua River, wafted through the air. This was one of those nights you wish you could capture and remember forever. 

Our kayaks glided smoothly through the water, leaving little ripples behind us. We made our way to the old railroad trestle on the Squamscott River just as a railroad cart was passing by. We paddled under the trestle and up the river, where we spotted another Osprey on her nest, stretching her wings and calling her mate. Moments later, the male appeared and soared over our heads and out to the bay to fulfill his obligation of providing fish for his young. 

As we turned back to the boat launch, a brilliant yellow biplane cut through the air and glided toward the mouth of the river, climbing and diving and circling: putting on a show! It circled us a few more times before heading north and out of view. 

As the sun set to the west, fish started jumping out of the water, only a few yards in front of our boats and all around us.  This is an exciting phenomenon to witness; striped bass, or “stripers” migrate into the coastal waters of New Hampshire and into the bay in June and July, following schools of mackerel and herring. As they encircle a school of prey, the small fish jump out of the water to try to escape. Fish jumping in the water are a good sign that these popular sport fish are nearby!

As if these experiences weren’t enough, one paddler in the group spotted a small figure swimming through the water, a few hundred yards away from us. He paddled quickly and quietly over, just as the animal dashed under water. Based on size, we figured it was likely a river otter; a very elusive, but playful creature sometimes found in Great Bay and its surrounding rivers. We paddled back to our put-in area as the sun cast radiant pinks, purples, and oranges over the still, brackish water.  Mother Nature sure gave us everything we asked for, and more, during this first, of several, public kayak trips. Here’s to hoping the rest are just as captivating!     

—Collen McClare