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Trip Report: Clark’s Island from Duxbury, MA

Posted by on January 2, 2012


Clark’s Island is privately owned and landowners will consider venturing onto the island as trespassing.  Do not venture onto the island without expressed permission from a land owner. During this trip we were lucky to meet one of the land owners on the beach and this gentleman showed us the way through his property to Pulpit Rock. Please be respectful of their land and privacy. -KD

The Trip:

The circumnavigation of Clark’s Island from Powder Point in Duxbury, MA is a classic trip ripe with adventure and history fit for a Pilgrim! Clark’s Island is a quaint, wooded island nestled within the “elbow” of Saquish and stands as the lone island of Plymouth Bay. There are many ways to paddle to Clark’s Island but the 2mile trip over the shallow flats of Duxbury Bay from Powder Point is the most direct for the general public and least exposed to current and boat traffic.

On this particular trip, my friends and I were on a mission to explore Pulpit Rock (aka the “Real Plymouth Rock” and take in an important story obscured in Plymouth’s history. This natural landmark is a massive glacial erratic located near the center of the island. It marks the place where the Pilgrim’s expeditionary party took shelter on the 20th of December in 1620 as they scouted the shores of Cape Cod Bay for a suitable settlement site. Legend has it that the party arrived in Plymouth Bay on a Sunday and took refuge on Clark’s Island to celebrate the Sabbath and protect themselves against the possibly of attack by the natives. This technically makes Clark’s Island the first landing place of the Pilgrims in Plymouth and would make Pulpit Rock the “Real Plymouth Rock” by my standard. The simple inscription on the rock marks credence to this claim. We wanted to see the legend with our own eyes!

Darren, Alex, Ryan and I arrive at the parking lot at the end of Powder Point Road in Duxbury early on a Sunday morning. The skies were fair, the wind was light out of the SW, and the tide was outgoing. We launched our kayaks from the beach and made our course directly for Clark’s Island in the distance. Along the way we played in small (2ft) windblown waves that were traveling across the bay from Plymouth. We arrived on the northern shore of the island after only 45mins on the water. Here we carried our kayaks up the rocky beach past the high-tide line and began to explore the shores of the island.

Clark’s Island is privately owned and it’s residents don’t take kindly to strangers who venture onto the interior of the island without permission.  Therefore, we decided to circle the island via the beach in hopes that we would encounter a resident who could show us the way to Pulpit Rock. We made our way around the island in a counter-clockwise fashion while skipping stones and searching for shells and sea glass amongst the rocks along the way. The western tip of the island gives way to a sandy beach and a marvelous view across Plymouth Bay. You can see many landmarks from this vantage including the shores of Saquish, the point of Plymouth Beach, Bug Light, and Plymouth Harbor in the distance. We continued along in hope of gaining permission to visit Pulpit Rock.

Our big break came about half-way along the sandy, southern shore. We encountered an older island resident relaxing in his garden chair and asked him the way to Pulpit Rock. He obliged and offered us passage through his gardens to the old carriage road that runs along the backbone of the island. Walking along the shaded carriage road was like something out of the Secret Garden. Old stone walls lined the road the ivy (some of it was definitely poison ivy) hung from the brush. The short walk delivered us to an archway that opened into a small, grassy field. Pulpit Rock dominated the center of the field and was partially shaded by an ancient tree. We took in the sight of the Pilgrim’s first landing in awe. I envisioned myself standing with the likes of Myles Standish and William Bradford as they rested after journeying across the sea.

Pulpit Rock offered an undeniable opportunity for bouldering and our inner climbing souls happily obliged. We may have been the first people to send some easy V1-V2 routes on Pulpit! Fun and games aside, we took perch atop of the rock for a quick bite to eat and final reflection on the historic site. We retraced our path back to the kayaks through the old man’s yard and along the shoreline. Thankfully, the boats were just where we left them! The return trip went fairly quickly (~30mins) with help from the building SW wind and waves. It was 11:00am when we landed after a pleasant morning paddle full of adventure and history!

Trip Details:

Launch: Powder Point Bridge, Duxbury, MA

Landing: Powder Point Bridge, Duxbury, MA

Highlights: Exploring Clark’s Island and Pulpit Rock

Duration: 2-3 hours round trip w/o stop time

Distance: ~4-5miles

Good Eats: A picnic lunch to enjoy at Pulpit Rock

Kayak Dave Rating:




Sunrise at Powder Point

Landing on Clark’s Island

Bouldering on Pulpit Rock

“The Real Plymouth Rock”

5 Responses to Trip Report: Clark’s Island from Duxbury, MA

  1. Don

    Hello Dave, first time on your site. I am Don. Have done your trip around the island from the bridge to saquish a few times and today we went from Saquish, (the end near Bug Light) to Plymouth harbor, beside the Mayflower then back. Was wondering how far do you thik the trip was, and if there is a site or any calculations I can use for future trips to estimate distances. I hope you can help me. Thankyou.

    • arrudad

      Hi Don:

      It’s great to hear that you’re new to the site and I hope you enjoy our posts! Being from Plymouth, I typically take the route to Clark’s Island from Plymouth Harbor that you describe. This is a great trip and can provide more interesting water conditions with all of the converging channels and the Cow Yard near Bug Light! I believe that the distance is about 6-7 miles total. I usually use Google Earth to calculate (estimate) trip distances if I don’t use my hand-held GPS during the actual trip.

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

    • alexrusso12

      Hello Don,

      It’s really quite coincidental that you posted this question because I actual did that same trip yesterday as well! We launched from Brewers Marine in Plymouth and ventured across Plymouth Harbor to the Saquish side of Clarke’s Island. From the docks at Brewers, the one-way distance is 3.78 miles. That brings a round-trip distance to 7.56 miles. Like Dave recommended, all of those distances were calculated through Google Earth.


  2. amy roebuck jones

    Was wondering how the beach roses are doing at the Northend of the island. We planted hundreds of plugs and erosion control fabric back in 1991, after grad school? Havent been back in years, but had the opportunity to visit many times and get to know most of the families back then.

  3. Cheryl

    Hi. Thank you for posting this. As a child my family would go over and rent a house during the summer. It was an excellent experience for us to have to live with no electricity or water. We would either have to pump our own water of go to the well, depending on which house we rented.
    I have such fond memories and I have an excellent picture of pulpit rock, yes the real Plymouth rock.

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