Kayakers on Broad Creek, just west of Laurel River Park on May 22, 2011


Trap Pond 2011

Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) trip

Last updated May 31, 2011



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three

In 2008 and 2009, I explored and paddled the Trap Pond area of Delaware. I found it to be a beautiful place and I thought it would be nice to share it with others. So on April 16-17, 2011, Suzanne and I scouted the area for a Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) trip.

I decided to make Trap Pond State Park our base of operations. It is a scenic, well-maintained park that features the northernmost natural stand of baldcypress trees in the United States.

Initially, I planned the feature act of our trip to be the James Branch Canoe Trail. We paddled this on April 16...or at least we tried. The creek was too narrow and overgrown with lots of downfalls. There was no way we would get a large group of sea kayakers down this water trail in a reasonable amount of time. So we scrapped that idea. The next day, we scouted the upper part of the Nanticoke River. That was a go. But we still needed another big event for our CPA weekend. I consulted my notes from previous trips to come up with something suitable.

Suzanne and I reserved several campsites at the popular state park. She handled the screening of participants, campsite arrangements, and potluck organization. I mapped out the routes. But as with our Prime Hook kayak car camping event at Cape Henlopen State Park in 2010, there was a good bit of overlap in our responsibilities. That was a good thing as having a sane second opinion is something I can use. Otherwise, we might have been taking a plethora of sea kayakers down the James Branch armed with saws, loppers, and Ivy Block.

A day prior to our trip, Suzanne called the park to confirm that everything was in order. She learned that a new well was recently put in place and faucet water was deemed non-potable due to the high chlorine content. But at least the bathrooms were open. Suzanne was also told that there was an outside pump at the campground office that works on a different well whose water was declared safe to drink.

Day One, Friday, May 20, 2011

After a great deal of planning and preparation, our event began on the afternoon of Friday, May 20, 2011. We launched from the shore near our campsites (on the south side of the C loop). I took five paddlers on the Trap Pond Water Trail, heading east. Cypress trees were scattered throughout the shallow area (first and second photos) with spatterdock filling in many of the gaps. Eventually, we came to the creek that feeds into the pond. Now we were under a dense tree canopy, kayaking through an area about 30 feet wide. Except for the yellow signs with black arrows that told us where to go (third photo), I thought things looks amazingly similar to the upper part of the Pocomoke River (fourth photo). Though we hadnít paddled far, it seemed like we were deep in nature (fifth photo).

A wooden foot bridge marked our turn around point. Venturing further would have been difficult for a sea kayak since the width of the creek was now only about 20 feet. Heading back downstream, some of us planned to explore the tributary that leads to Raccoon Pond. This side stream, marked with an easy to miss blue sign and white arrow, took us maybe an eighth of a mile before we had to turn around.

Back in the main part of the pond, we hugged the south side of the shore (sixth photo), passing the Baldcypress Nature Center and canoe rental area on the southwest side of the pond. During the last half mile of our 4.2 mile journey, it started to sprinkle. The rain was light and of short duration. Upon reaching the west side of the pond, we looked back and saw a rainbow (seventh photo). From certain angles, it looked like it started (or ended) at our campsite. Paddling back (eighth photo), we hoped to find our pot-of-gold.

While the five of us paddled, some folks relaxed out on the pier. Others were still arriving and setting up their tents. About fourteen of us carpooled out to Station 7 for dinner that night then returned to enjoy the company of the others who stayed behind or showed up later.

Day Two, Saturday, May 21, 2011

On Saturday, I was up at 0500. I walked the 4.5 mile Loblolly Trail that circumnavigates the pond. Numerous deer were out feeding. I found an interesting mushroom (first photo). Some of the morning views of the pond at dusk were lovely (second photo). I crossed over the wooden foot bridge where we turned around yesterday.

Upon returning to my tent and new Coleman sun shade (third photo), Steven told me that water (and we weren't sure exactly what else) was leaking out of the manhole cover in the road (fourth photo) and from an unoccupied campground host site. This liquid was then draining into the pond. I called the ranger station (the park office was not yet open) and reported the problem. After about and hour and a half, a volunteer plumber showed up to turn off the water to the bathrooms. He said sand in the new well was backing up the system. Would we be able to use the bathrooms after kayaking today? We knew not and neither did the plumber.

Our kayak convoy drove out to the Nanticoke River Marine Park in Blades, Delaware. In attendance were Jennifer Bine, Brian Blankinship, Kristina McCoy, Bela Mariassy, Marla Aron, Marilyn Fisher, Sue Stevens, Rich Stevens, Yvonne Thayer, Tom Heneghan, Dorothy Guy, Jim Allen, Steven Jahncke, Emily Bailey, Aht Viravaidya, Amy Friedheim, Dave Gillispie, Suzanne Farace, and me shown in the first photo in no particular order. At 0945, we launched, did a radio check, then paddled upstream on the upper part of the Nanticoke River. Many of the spring flowers were in bloom (second photo). With such a large group, we naturally split up into a "fast" group of 7 (third photo) led by me and a "scenic group" of 12 led by Suzanne. At each bridge, the groups did a head count (fourth photo). Actually, we were counting kayaks and assuming the people we started with were attached to the boats we counted. I saw a bald eagle and a snake which was swimming about a foot below my boat after my approach scared it. At the split after Sussex Highway (route 20), we took the north branch (fifth photo) which eventually led us to our lunch spot in Old Furnace Wildlife Area (sixth photo). Interestingly, both the fast and scenic groups arrived at about the same time after I led my team down a wrong turn.

After lunch, we continued upstream for probably not more than another mile until downfalls prevented us from venturing further. Then we turned around.
  • Seventh photo: The fleet moves
  • Eighth photo: Sue takes photos
  • Ninth photo: Amy on the move
  • Tenth photo: Duck your head Brian!
  • Eleventh photo: A very small turtle

  • Kayaking back downstream, we eventually split up again. This time my fast group was down to five. A 3.5 foot long dead gar fish was seen floating in the water. See twelfth and thirteenth photos. We also saw a few beaver lodges. Having gotten quite a bit ahead of the rest, the fast team paddled up Deep Creek heading towards Concord Pond until the others got further downstream. Suzanne called me on her very high frequency (VHF) radio to let me know when they got back to the route 20 bridge. Then my group turned around and we all finished around the same time. People paddled somewhere between 12 and 14 miles, depending on which group they paddled with.

    Back at the campsite, I spoke to staff in the park office. The bathrooms were all working. We still couldnít drink the water but we could use the flush toilets and showers. Hooray!!!

    Suzanne took several people on the hike I did in the morning. I asked anyone if they wanted to paddle with me at Trussum Pond. I had no takers so I went alone. Trussum Pond has been described by Ed Gertler as "the closest thing to a bayou in Delaware."

    I launched on the north end of the pond on a section totally covered by duckweed (first photo). Within seconds, I knew exactly what Gertler was writing about. Cypress trees were abundant along with other vegetation that I would expect to find in a bayou (second, third, and fourth photos). I paddled at a snailís pace so I could take in all the scenery. It was almost visually overwhelming. Turtles were willing to sit and pose for me as I took their photo (fifth and sixth photos). Scores of yellow spatterdock flowers dotted the shallowest areas (seventh and eighth photos). Even though this was the shortest of my kayak trips this weekend, it was here that I took the most photos. With both hands on my camera, I used my rudder to direct my slow drift.

    I meandered between the Cypress until I reached the south end of the pond. Then I tried to paddle up the James Branch (ninth photo)...the same one that later forms the lower part of the James Branch Canoe Trail. I saw a raccoon swimming through the water, then walking on land. But I didnít get far on the creek. Turning around was difficult. Not only was the James Branch narrow, it was also shallow. Thinking I was only in mud, I used a good bit of force to turn my boat around. Then I heard a loud pop. I pulled up my rudder only to find that about 8 inches of it broke off. Lesson learned: retract your rudder before turning around in a shallow or narrow creek.

    Back at the campsite, we prepared for our potluck. Not only do we have some fine kayakers in our club, but we also have some talented chefs. As usual, there was plenty of fine food to go around. After dinner, we reminisced about our first concerts. Some of the answers were quite impressive. Suzanne saw Journey, Bela saw the Grateful Dead, and Rich was at Woodstock. All I could claim was Adam Ant.

    Day Three, Sunday, May 22, 2011

    One thing I love about the CPA is how prompt everyone is. On Sunday, we asked people to be ready to roll at 0900 and everyone (yes, everyone) was ready at 0850. Is that awesome or what? We drove out to Phillips Landing (first photo) near the mouth of Broad Creek in the Nanticoke Wildlife Area. From here, 15 of us paddled upstream against a weak ebb tide, launching at 1000 (second photo). About midway through, some of us stopped at the Edward R. Koch Fishing Area (third photo). Then we continued onward, passing by the town of Bethel. After another mile or so, the creek narrowed and became more scenic as taller trees lined the shore (fourth photo).

    In the town of Laurel, we stopped for lunch at Laurel River Park (fifth photo). Rich continued upstream for not more than a half mile, passing under several bridges until he came to one he could not fit under. Then he paddled back downstream, joining the rest of us. After lunch, we paddled with the tide and current behind us. Of course we also saw numerous turtles (sixth photo). I looked for more snakes and eagles but found none.

    On top of a wooden structure below the route 20 bridge, I had a nice view of the group and was able to take a head count. Uno, dos, tres, catorce,..., yes, they're all there.
  • Seventh photo: Yvonne and Rich
  • Eighth photo: Here they come
  • Ninth photo: Jenn in cruising mode
  • Tenth photo: Tall Tom with a long Greenland paddle

  • Near the take out, an 18 foot long beaver lodge was spotted (eleventh photo). We finished our 14.5 mile trip at 1500, making very good time.

    We couldn't have asked for better weather. High temperatures were in the 80s with light wind. It only rained for a few minutes on FridayÖjust enough to create the rainbow. Plumbing at the campground was a minor setback but it all worked out in the end. Everyone got in a good bit of paddling, a few people did some trail walking, and folks got to sample some fine cuisine prepared by their fellow kayakers.