5 Top Fireworks Floats for the 4th
A list of the best cities to celebrate Independence Day from your kayak
By Eugene Buchanan
“Oh say can you see, from the seat of your kayak…”
You’ll be singing that tune if you view a 4th of July fireworks celebration from your canoe or kayak.
Whether you have your own boat or need to rent, opportunities to float under this year’s fireworks display take place from coast to coast, letting you regale in the rockets’ red glare as you paddle beneath the pyrotechnics. Bonus: You get twice the show of land-lubbers as you get to follow their trails in both the sky and in their reflection in the water around you. Following is a snapshot of a few places to stroke under this year’s show:
Charles River, Boston, MA
A canoe or kayak on the Charles River is by far the best seat in the house for Boston’s 4th of July fireworks show. “I’ve paddled from our Allston/Brighton location to the fireworks for the past eight years, and it’s an amazing experience every time,” says Paddle Boston general manager Daniel Smith. “The fireworks explode directly overhead, filling the entire sky, and the festive atmosphere among the paddlers is great. Bring a radio to hear the concert, some food or snacks, and plenty of water, and you’ll have the best seat in the house for Boston’s Fourth of July.” Paddle Boston organizes a fireworks-watching paddle every year for newcomers and veterans alike, whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic get-away or a family nurturing some bonding time beneath the booms. The Charles River Canoe & Kayak store offers single or double kayaks, as well as canoes that seat up to five adults and a guided 10-person canoe tour. Guided tours start around 7:30 p.m. when the concert begins and return back to the dock after the fireworks end at 10 p.m. For rentals, you can launch from and return to the store’s Boston location on Soldier’s Field Road in Allston/Brighton. You’ll paddle about four miles (one and half hours) to the fireworks (boats must be returned by 11:30 p.m.). You can also launch from and return to its Cambridge location in Kendall Square for a five-minute paddle to the fireworks (boats must be returned by 10:30 p.m.); or transport the boat by car from its Newton location, launch wherever you want and return the boat to Newton on July 5 by noon.
Chicago River, Chicago, IL
The Windy City is also a great place to catch the fireworks show from the seat of a kayak. Kayak Chicago offers an annual Fireworks Paddle that leads kayakers through the city at night and down the Chicago River to watch the city’s famed fireworks show. In all, the tour takes paddlers about six miles along the river, heading out from the storefront along North Avenue through downtown to enjoy the fireworks at Navy Pier. Those interested should call beforehand to make a reservation, and arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the tour’s start time at 7:15 p.m. The tour ends at about 10:45 pm.
Aquatics Park/San Francisco Bay, San Francisco, CA
Hopefully you’ll leave your heart, and not your hearing, in San Francisco with a paddling tour under its magnificentfireworks show. The Aquatic Park amphitheater is the setting for annual Independence Day fireworks. San Francisco’s City Kayak offers a tour that takes paddlers along the San Francisco waterfront for views of Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, San Fancisco Bay and more before landing at the sandy beach of Aquatic Park. There, it lets customers have the rest of the afternoon free to watch the opening day celebration of the America’s Cup race before getting back on the water at 8 p.m. for a fireworks paddle. The trip starts with a noon launch and returns to South Beach Harbor at about 10:15 p.m.
Allegheny River, Pittsburgh, PA
Venture Outdoors and Kayak Pittsburgh offer an adventure you won’t soon forget with a 4th of July fireworks paddle along the Allegheny River. The tour starts at 7 p.m. with a leisurely paddle upstream on the Allegheny River towards Washington’s Landing before floating back down to the Point at Point State Park for the best seats in the city for the show. The trip is offered through Kayak Pittsburgh out of its North Shore facility, located under the 6th Street Bridge on the North Shore next to PNC Park. The location affords a spectacular view of the Pittsburgh skyline. The store’s newest location, Kayak Pittsburgh Millvale, also provides river access along the Allegheny, and offers half-price kayak rentals July 2-4.
Lake Union, Seattle, WA
Seattle’s venerable Northwest Outdoor Center has stopped renting sea kayaks on the afternoon of the 4th for people to take out onto Lake Union to enjoy the show, citing too much congestion and motorboat traffic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it on your own. Just be prepared and take the proper precautions. Check with local clubs (try the Seattle Area Sea kayaking Meet Up Group) to hook up with other like-minded pyro paddlers. A couple of hints: Since it tends to get crowded out on the lake, start heading back a few minutes before the end, then pause to watch the last shots (this gets you past the power boat traffic before it converges under the University bridge); and bring a flashlight or a headlamp for safety – more so so others can see you than you them (the Harbor Patrol is diligent about enforcing its lighting rules).