When I think of the times I've kayaked and waded in the Taunton River without knowing what lurked beneath the dark and murky surface, I am probably better off for my ignorance.

In researching a recent story on the 10 largest animals in Massachusetts, I came upon the Atlantic sturgeon. Little did I know the Atlantic sturgeon and I had been swimming in the same circles.

The Taunton River, also known as the Taunton Great River, arises from the confluence of the Town River and Matfield River in Bridgewater. It flows through Halifax, Middleboro, Raynham, Taunton, Berkley, Dighton, Somerset, Assonet and Fall River, where it joins Mount Hope Bay.

The total length of the Taunton River is 37 miles.

This 800 Pound Creature Lurks Beneath The Taunton River
Google Maps

Over 154 bird species have been documented along the Taunton River, in addition to some 28 species of reptiles and amphibians and 29 species of fish, including native brook trout and the Atlantic sturgeon.

The Atlantic sturgeon can reach up to 13 to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 800 pounds. Imagine thumping one of those on the head with a kayak paddle.

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A-ZAnimals.com describes the Atlantic sturgeon as "olive green or bluish-black on their dorsal side and white on their underside." They have "long snouts with varbels on them." The site says these giant fish have "rows of boney plates down their back" called "scutes."

This 800 Pound Creature Lurks Beneath The Taunton River
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

While most adult Atlantic sturgeon live out at sea, "the females travel upstream into fresh or brackish water to lay their eggs." Once hatched, "Atlantic sturgeon remain in the waters they were born in until they reach six years of age, after which they travel out into the ocean."

They love to lay eggs in the Taunton and Merrimack Rivers.

Since Atlantic sturgeon are not known to eat people – they feast on crustaceans, worms, mollusks and bottom-dwelling fish – I think it's safe to paddle the Taunton River.

Sturgeon are known to leap entirely out of the water, so don't be shocked to see one airborne on your next river adventure.

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