The Niantic River Estuary Canoe/Kayak Trail is a wonderful way to enjoy the Niantic River while learning about its human and natural history. From the Head of the River, where the Golden Spur Amusement Park (complete with the World Famous Diving Horses) operated at the beginning of the 20th century, past the Revolutionary War location of Beckwith Shipyard, and on down to Cini Park, you can see many interesting sights.
Evidence of human life along the Niantic River dates back at least 12,000 years. Long before European settlers arrived, Western Nehantics (from whom the river and village names are derived) lived along the shores of the river, subsisting on the bounty of shellfish, fish, and other marine life the river and ocean provided. Centuries later, the river became well known for its scallops, which are now, unfortunately, in decline.
Paddling up or down the river, one is sure to encounter a variety of birds. Among the coastal fishing birds known to frequent the river are bald eagles, osprey, egrets, herons, and cormorants. Seals are seen here from time to time, as well. Canoes and kayaks can be launched from the car-top launch at Cini Park. Off Route 156, below the bridge across the Niantic River, and just steps away from the Village of Niantic, this launch is easy to get to and easy to use.