Run of the Charles

Boston and New England's Biggest Canoe and Kayak Race

Charles River Esplanade view of women's crew team from MIT training on Charles River

Enjoy a Saturday on the river at the Run of the Charles Canoe and Kayak Race, held in Boston every April.  Whether you're a spectator or one of the 1,500 paddlers, you'll find plenty of excitement at New England's largest canoe and kayak race event.

The Run of the Charles Canoe and Kayak races provide a wonderful way to enjoy a day on the river while celebrating the arrival of spring. 

Sponsored by the Charles River Watershed Association, the races to the Charles River,

If you're visiting Boston, you'll get the best Run of the Charles views from bridges spanning the Charles River. 

Any of the bridges between the Eliot Bridge, near Buckingham, Brown, and Nichols Upper Campus in Cambridge and the Boston University (BU) Bridge, where many of the canoe and kayak race courses turn and go back up the river, should provide terrific views. 


Run of the Charles Race Course

Races begin in a variety of locations in Newton, Dedham, and Brighton, depending on their length, and all of them finish next to the Artesani Playground in Brighton. 

If you're considering participating, you can choose from 7 entry categories based on age and gender.  All skill levels, from beginner to expert, are welcome.

Kayak races include 6, 9, and 19 mile options, and canoe races include a professional 26-mile marathon with monetary prizes, and a couple of 24-mile canoe relay races for recreational canoes.

Because Run of the Charles takes place in April, all paddlers must wear life jackets, which are required by Massachusetts law until May 15 when water temperatures finally begin to warm up.

Insider Tips

April weather in Boston can be unpredictable and changes quickly.  If you are planning to watch the race because someone you know is in it, you may not want to dash into the nearest coffee shop for refuge if the weather turns cold or wet, so dress accordingly and bring rain gear if the forecast looks at all iffy.  More about April weather here

If, however, you're just watching for fun from the BU Bridge, you'll find a number of small cafes and coffee bars along nearby Commonwealth Ave (go right off the bridge, away from the city) if you need a break from the weather.  Head up Comm Ave toward the city for something more substantial at Petit Robert Bistro (468 Comm Ave; French bistro classics, nice wine list) or Eastern Standard (528 Comm Ave; cool brasserie, excellent seafood). 

If you're watching from the JFK Bridge, head back toward Harvard Square.

Although Run of the Charles provides a lot of fun, it also highlights how water quality improvements and clean-up efforts during the past few decades have transformed the formerly-filthy Charles into a gorgeous city recreation area.  Run of the Charles is sponsored by the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA), a driving force behind the transformation effort, along with thousands of volunteers and advocacy groups.

Looking at the Charles River now, it's hard to realize this is the same place memorialized in The Standells' 1966 hit, "Dirty Water."  But just change "dirty" to "sparkling" in the refrain, and the words still ring true: 

      "Well I love that sparkling water . . . Oh, oh, Boston, you're my home!"

Thank you, CRWA and volunteers!

Essentials:  Run of the Charles Canoe and Kayak Races
  • When:  Usually the last Saturday or Sunday afternoon in April (check the Boston Event Calendar for April for exact dates/times)
  • Best viewing spots:  Anywhere between the BU Bridge (near Boston University) and the Eliot Bridge (near Buckingham, Brown, and Nichols Upper School campus).  The Boston side of the river borders BU and Allston/Brighton along the race course
  • Race Finish Line Festival:  Artesani Park, in Brighton.  If you're searching for this on Google Maps, look for the Christian A Herter Park (which is actually Artesani Park) between Soldiers Field Road and the river. 
  • Closest T stations:   On the Boston side of the river, Green Line B/BU West is about a block from the BU Bridge.  On the Cambridge side, Red Line/Harvard Square works well - just a short walk to the JFK Bridge.
  • Run of the Charles Hotels in Boston and Cambridge: 
    - Best views:  Doubletree Guest Suites, Courtyard Cambridge Marriott
    - Close to the Run of the Charles course: Harvard Square Hotel, Charles Hotel, Hyatt Regency Cambridge (all in Cambridge)
    - Easily accessible to T/Green Line: Boston Buckminster Hotel, Hotel Commonwealth, Eliot Hotel (all in Boston)
  • Cost:   Free (for spectators)
  • For more information:   Charles River Watershed Association website

Charles River Esplanade view of women's crew team from MIT training on Charles River
Volunteer taking part in Charles River clean-up

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