Norma upstream on Wetipquin Creek


Wicomico County
May 2008

Last updated May 13, 2008



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three

On May 3, I was riding my bike to work. I pedaled hard as I rode uphill. Then I heard a SNAP. A main part of my bicycle broke and I had to drive to work that day. I took my 17 year old Yukon Giant mountain bike into the Crofton Bike Doctor. It was time to retire it.

I left that same day with a new Trek 7200 hybrid bicycle.

Having a reliable, working bicycle is important to me because I use it so often. But having one for May 9-11, 2008 was of particular importance because Norma and I would use our bikes to explore Wicomico County.

Day One: Friday, May 9, 2008

Norma and I left Hanover and drove to the eastern shore in heavy rain. The prediction was that it would stop raining late that morning. The prediction was right.

Our first stop was the town of Vienna in Dorchester County. We locked up our bikes at the Vienna boat ramp then drove to Mardela Springs in Wicomico County. See Norma at the launch site in the first photo at left. By around noon, we were paddling upstream on Barren Creek.

Like Iceland and Greenland, Barren Creek is hardly barren. It is full of vegetation. See second photo at left. In fact, I would say the upper half of the creek is as beautiful as my favorite river, the Pocomoke.

The scenery remained beautiful even as we neared some major roads. The traffic noise wasn't so nice but the dense vegetation made it quite bearable. We paddled about a mile upstream from the launch site before heading back downstream.

Around 1300, it was getting warm and sunny. See third photo at left. Unfortunately, the nice weather would not last. But during this time, we saw a good number of turtles who came out to sun themselves. Sometimes, they stay in the water and stick only their noses into the air to breathe, making them hard to spot. Then they go under once we get close. Hence, Norma said, "You don't know they're there until they're not." So true.

As we neared the Nanticoke River, Barren Creek widened and our dense tree cover turned into grasslands. A strong wind from the west picked up, slowing us down significantly. I started to shiver uncontrollably. It was time to add more layers. I know wind chill isn't something that is factored in until the temperature gets somewhat low but I'm guessing being wet changes things significantly. We were wanting to keep moving.

The forecast called for 18 mph winds. As we crossed the Nanticoke, I'm guessing we caught headwinds of at least 20 mph. Norma paddled the slow boat and carried most of the gear. Despite the wind and the cold, she kept a positive attitude the whole way. That is one of many reasons I like her.

In Vienna, we unlocked the bikes and locked up the boats. Then we rode back to Mardela Springs, mostly on highway 50...the same one that passes through Sacramento. I wore my blaze orange hunting vest to ensure drivers saw us.

The wind that was kicking our asses as we paddled west was now at our backs, ensuring an easy ride.

Back in Mardela Springs, we loaded the bikes, then drove back to Vienna to retrieve the boats. A resident near the launch site greeted us and told us to come back.

We paddled 10.75 miles and biked 6.4 miles.

On the way to the campsite, we checked out a few potential launch sites and looked at houses.

In Nanticoke, we were greeted by the manager at Roaring Point Campground...a very friendly fellow. He showed us our tent site. We were the only people with tents so we had the whole piney area to ourselves. It was a very nice campground and the folks there seemed quite friendly.

After setting up camp (see fourth photo) and washing up, we went out to dinner at Boonies Restaurant & Bar, 21438 Nanticoke Road, Tyaskin, Maryland 21865, phone: 410-548-7879. There, we split a lump crab covered chicken dinner and fresh fruit topped cheesecake. I'm not a big dessert person but believe you me, that dessert was worth every penny.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Day Two: Saturday, May 10, 2008

It rained quite a bit during the night but by morning it stopped.

One of my goals was to paddle Quantico Creek. Unfortunately, like many of the streams in Wicomico County, this creek doesn't have any public access points listed on the maps. I checked out some possible leads regarding lesser known launch sites but they all fell through. I was most disappointed with Sandy Hill Family Campground which had a launch site that we couldn't use. They claimed it was only for campers. Ironically, that was the first place I tried to book before Roaring Point but they wouldn't return my e-mails or phone calls.

Wicomico County is very wooded and rural. But with the low temperatures, most of the critters stayed hidden. At least the birds were out.

Today we did things in reverse from yesterday, hoping it would warm up if we waited a bit to launch. We locked up the boats at Wetipquin Creek and route 349. Then we drove downstream to Wetipquin Park and unloaded the bikes.

Since it was still cold, we rode while wearing our wetsuits, which was quite comfortable. It was only a 3.6 mile ride to the boats. Along the way, we stopped on Deep Branch Road to check out Tyaskin Creek. See first photo at left. Norma looked under the bridge for signs of life. See second photo at left.

At route 349, we unlocked the boats and locked up the bikes. It was a muddy launch and I fell on my ass in the process.

Our first goal was to paddle upstream. See photo at the top left corner of the page. That meant ducking low to go under route 349. See third photo at left. Though the ADC map makes the upper part of the creek look too small to paddle, we managed to go 0.8 miles upstream from the bridge. As expected, it was very scenic, green, and natural though not as green as the upper part of Barren Creek.

Wetipquin Creek is fairly narrow but it feels more open than Barren Creek because there are more grasslands and the trees are set further back.

We spotted a bald eagle (fourth photo) and its nest (fifth photo). We tried to walk on land to get a better look but the marshy soil made movement difficult. As a general rule, the best places to land are the ones near pine trees since they require more firm ground to grow.

It was only 3.8 miles from route 349 to our takeout at Wetipquin Road so we decided to paddle upstream on Tyaskin Creek.

The sun came out and Norma took advantage of our oasis of light to take lots of photos. See me on the Tyaskin in the sixth photo at left.

Soon we came to the Deep Branch Road bridge that we biked over earlier. Again, we managed to pass under it by ducking low.

We saw a few cage tubes with grass on platforms. I never found out what they were but they look like they were intended to be used as a nest for some sort of wildlife. See seventh photo at left.

The Tyaskin was a little more to our liking than the Wetipquin because the trees were set in closer. But the paddling was very slow due to the numerous sharp turns in the narrow creek. Near the head, it straightened out a bit but got extremely narrow. I had to get out and lift my 20 foot long surf ski to turn it around. In the process, I sank crotch deep into the mud. A much shorter boat would have been much better suited for this trip. We managed to get about 3.5 miles upstream.

Coming back downstream, we saw a mother goose with her two goslings. See eighth photo at left. The father eventually came out and wasn't too happy to see us. He flew between us and the babies, making all sorts of noise. He stayed just ahead of us for quite awhile, giving the mother and babies time to hide.

When it came time to paddle back under Deep Branch Road, we found the tide had gone up significantly. Norma paddled under it but I just couldn't fit. So I pushed my boat through. Norma caught it on the other side and I climbed over the bridge.

We paddled 12.4 miles that day. Very scenic and better weather than yesterday.

Back at the campsite, we found a large tick. See ninth photo at left. They seem to like Norma.

Dinner once again at Boonie's. Same delicious dessert. Our waitress taught us to pronounce Wicomico. It is Wye-coh-mick-oh.
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Day Three: Sunday, May 11, 2008

Norma and I took a morning walk around the campground. See first photo at left. Compared to what we'd paddled earlier, the Nanticoke River seemed more like an ocean. We saw some big bird footprints (second photo) and smaller birds in man-made nests (third photo). Also a male cardinal.

We loaded up our gear. I'm pretty impressed that my 10 year old Acura Integra can carry two large boats, two bicycles, and camping gear. See fourth photo at left.

After bidding farewell to our campground host, we drove to the town of Whitehaven.

Norma was a little sore from the kayaking so instead we chose to spend the day biking and exploring launch sites. We parked next to a gated cemetary along Whitehaven Road just outside of town then rode to the Wicomico River. A free ferry took us across into Somerset County.

We rode east on Polks Road then north on Reading Ferry Road where we found rocky access to Wicomico Creek at the Reading Ferry fishing area. One of the natives showed us some catfish and hardhead he caught. I never heard of hardhead fish and he never heard of steelhead (which live in California). He said that hardhead are also called croakers. Living up to the name, we heard the fish make croaking noises.

Continuing east, we stopped in the town of Allen (back in Wicomico County) and ate lunch at Allen Park. One can launch a boat here though it might be a bit muddy. The park is quite green. See fifth photo at left. I spotted some waterfowl grooming themselves. See sixth photo at left.

Norma and I rode west on Collins Wharf Road to check out Redden Ferry Road which supposedly had a launch site. It turns out it wasn't open to the public. The homes in this area were huge as well as their lots. Not quite to our liking.

Riding northeast on Cooper Road, we passed by some smaller homes on wooded lots that suited us much better. Another bicyclist zipped past us as if we were standing still.

An osprey stood on its nest built on a power line stand. See seventh photo at left.

So much of the county was full of vegetation. See eighth photo at left. It was quite a peaceful ride. Much different than our 30,000 person ride through New York City a week prior on May 4, 2008 though that had its own special appeal.

At Upper Ferry, we caught another free ferry across the Wicomico River. See ninth photo at left. Though a bridge would be easier, there is some quaint charm to a ferry...especially when it is free.

Norma and I rode west on route 349 then south on route 352 to the town of Capitola. The wind picked up and it started to rain lightly. It was getting cold. We biked south on Clara Road and found a nice little launch site at Clara Road Recreational Area. This was quite a find as it would give us access the sheltered Shiles Creek.

Just a little further and we were back in Whitehaven. We rode 39.4 miles.

I took my global positioning system (GPS) off my bike and put it on my car temporarily while I loaded my bike. Then we were off. I forgot about my GPS until it fell off my car as I drove about 35 mph. Then an oncoming car ran over it. It was all scratched up but still managed to work. While Norma looked it over, she found a tide table feature I had long forgotten about. Unfortunately, it only tells me the tide for that particular day.

We stopped where we read there would be a launch site near the mouth of Marshyhope Creek in Riverton but we never found it.

It wasn't long before it began raining heavily. It continued to rain for the rest of the drive home. Heavy winds tested how well I secured my boats and bicycles.

We stopped for dinner at Red, Hot, and Blue where I ate more than my share.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Though the weather wasn't ideal, it certainly could have been much worse. Most of the rain was during our drive up, drive back, or at night.

I managed to find 9 launch sites over the three days! We biked 49.4 miles and paddled 23.15 miles. We met some friendly people, learned some new words (like hardhead), and learned to pronounce Wicomico. Most importantly, we had a good time.