BOSTON (CBS) – From its source in Hopkinton, the 80-mile long Charles River meanders through 23 cities and towns until reaching the Atlantic Ocean in Boston. One of the most scenic sections of urban river in the country is on the Charles from Newton to Boston.

Read: WBZ-TV Adventure Week Stories

I have had the pleasure of driving along the Charles for more than 37 years on my way into work at WBZ-TV. Over that long period of time, I’ve done a ton of running, biking and rollerblading along its scenic banks. However, other than taking an enjoyable Boston Duck Tour many years ago, I have never ventured out on the Charles. So the WBZ Weather Team Adventure Week changed that for me.


The excitement of watching the great Head Of The Charles Regatta is what actually motivated me to finally try kayaking a couple of years ago but my experience so far had been on other lakes and rivers, until now.

I connected with Charles River Canoe and Kayak and hooked up with my guide, Ed Cardinali. He is a retired Fed-Ex pilot who has been providing instruction and guided tours for the past 6 years. And he is the consummate Boston historian, so I learned a vast amount about Boston’s past as we kayaked the river basin.

What should you know about kayaking?

“You’re required to have a life jacket, basic instruction, how to hold the paddle, the 3 basic strokes and watch out for the boat traffic,” Cardinali told WBZ.

Barry Burbank kayaking on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

Barry Burbank kayaking on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

We launched from the very popular Kendall Square Station and paddled out the channel underneath the low-hanging Memorial Drive bridg, which was very cool! We emerged near the Longfellow Bridge capturing the majestic Boston skyline. The “wow” factor is crazy here seeing the great city of Boston from a whole different perspective!

“Kayaking is a great way to get out on your own to see the sights, it’s really good exercise and it’s not nearly as boring as going to the gym and working on the treadmill,” quipped Cardinali.

The Charles is well known for its rowing, sculling, dragonboating, sailing and recreational boating so there is much traffic on it at times.

“So what we like to do is stay on the margins of the river leaving the center for the faster boats that need it,” he told me as we crossed over the river closer to the beautiful Esplanade and we gracefully paddled up through the several lagoons.

Barry Burbank kayaking on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

Barry Burbank kayaking on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

There are several kayak tours that you can take on the river.

“Another route that’s really interesting, but is a little more challenging, is the river route to Boston Harbor where you go through the old dam at the Museum of Science, under the railroad bridge, under the Zakim Bridge, through the locks where they raise and lower you to sea level and then out into the harbor over to the Charlestown side by the old Navy Yard to look at the (U.S.S.) Constitution,” Cardinali said.

“If you are thinking about going out into more demanding situations like this, it’s very important to take lessons, we offer lessons at Charles River Canoe and Kayak, know your strokes, how to self-rescue, if capsized, to be able to get back in and pump the boat out.”

After almost two hours of touring the basin, we returned to our base at the busy Kendall Station but we could have paddled about 5 miles up to the Allston-Brighton Station to the next stop of my adventure.


It is here that my instructor, Pete Nelson, was ready to teach me the basics on a SUP – stand up paddle board.

This is going to be my first time on a board – my first lesson and I am anxious to learn. I love water skiing so I am not at all apprehensive of this outing but I am intrigued with this new sport. Pete says that SUPs are the new craze in water sports because you can do it anywhere on rivers, lakes, ponds and the ocean.

“It’s a great body workout using core muscles- it’s a freeing experience,” Nelson told WBZ.

Exercise is what I prefer rather than going out on a motorized boat.

A SUP looks similar to a surf board and is relatively lightweight. First, as required, I put on the life jacket and attached the knee leash from the board which ensures the board will not sail away IF I fall. I had no intention of falling but these are safety measures.

Barry Burbank stand up paddling on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

Barry Burbank stand up paddling on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

Pete shows me how to get on the board, not by stepping on but by kneeling in the center of it. The next step is to push away from the dock and paddle around kneeling. Once comfortable with that, stand up one leg at a time and maintain balance.

“It’s good balance training, the boards are more stable than they look and it’s a good sport to learn on a flat body of water like the Charles River,” Nelson said.

After some easy paddling, I started to loosen up and he continued the instruction of the basic strokes you must know to maneuver the board according to the direction and speed desired.

As in kayaking, there are various levels of experience and finesse and instruction is key. It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to become more skilled at this sport. I think I passed my first test and I didn’t fall!

I thank all of the folks at Charles River Canoe and Kayak including general manager Mark Jacobson, kayak instructor and guide Ed Cardinali, SUP instructor Pete Nelson and tour guide Michele Beagan.

For much more information on lessons, rentals, guided tours and equipment sales, contact Charles River Canoe and Kayak at

Barry Burbank


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