Fort Delaware State Park Notes
This is a kayak/SUP trip I looked into in 2017 but never got around to. So it is top priority for 2018. The plan is to paddle to various forts.
On the south end of town is Fort DuPont, a Union fortress from Civil War time (1859), built to protect Wilmington and Philadelphia. On the north end of the nearly abandoned grounds is a three ramp launch facility with a very large parking lot.
- from Sea Kayak Chesapeake Bay: DE - Three Forts - 2009/06/27 - 7.5 miles
Fort Delaware State Park resides at Pea Patch Island.
Delaware State Parks - Fort Delaware State Park
Wikipedia - Fort Delaware State Park
1 hour and 45 minutes from Savage at 45 Clinton Street, Delaware City, DE 19706
Where can one launch?
Launch ramp at Fort DuPont on Delaware City Branch Canal. This is the Delaware City Boat Launch at the end of Officers Row, Middletown, Delaware 19709
Fort DuPont State Park: See Fort DuPont Boat Ramp.
Google Maps - Delaware City Boat Launch: Consider paddling to Dragon Creek which is the next creek to the northeast.
Can one land on Pea Patch Island?
Access to the island is by ferry only. Private boats are not permitted to dock on the island.
- from Delaware State Parks - Fort Delware Ferry
...an employee returned in a golf cart and told me I was not allowed on the island, only passengers of the ferry who had paid an entrance fee.
- from Sea Kayak Chesapeake Bay: DE - Three Forts - 2009/06/27 - 7.5 miles
Best place to go ashore (but not legally) and get a quick photo of the fort might be in the break in rip rap on the southeast side.
No one is allowed to land at the nature preserve side of Pea Patch Island. Can one paddle up the creeks that cut through?
Tidal change here is much greater than the Chesapeake Bay. 5-6 feet difference between high and low tide is common so be sure to plan your trip with the tide in mind. On a SUP at high tide, I might be able to get good photos of the fort. But with such a strong tide, it might be best to stick with a sea kayak.
Only 7.5 miles via kayak to see Fort Mott, Fort Delaware, and Fort DuPont.
New Jersey Pine Barrens Notes
This is a trip I wanted to do earlier this year. We'll see if I get around to it in the spring of 2018. In the meantime, this is the information I've aquired.
See New Jersey Delorme map 56 M3. All Delorme map references below are for the New Jersey map.
In Edward Gertler's "Garden State Canoeing," page 111 describes the Mullica River which he indiates has excellent scenery. In this area are also the following which also have an excellent rating.
Mullica River, page 111
Nescochague Creek, page 114
Batsto River, page 115
Wading River, page 117
Oswego River, page 120
Cedar Creek, page 124
Micks Pine Barrens Canoe and Kayak Rental
3107 County Rd 563, Chatsworth, NJ 08019
Location: Delorme map page 65 B15
Wharton State Forest
Camping at Delorme page 64 E8. This would make a good base camp.
Hike on the Batona Trail, Delorme map 65 F20.
Atison Village and Recreation Center on Delorme map 56 M4. Consider kayaking Atison Lake to Batsto.
Batsto Village - Atison
Division of Parks and Forestry - Wharton State Forest - Atison Mansion
Atison Tour Map
Atison Lake put-in launch: 714 US-206, Shamong, NJ 08088
Batsto take-out launch: 4168 Pleasant Mills Road, Hammonton, NJ 08037
Visitor Center: 31 Batsto Road, Hammonton, NJ 08037
Crowley Landing: 1102 County Road 542, Egg Harbor City, NJ 08215
Consider kayaking Crowley Landing to Batsto.
Harrisville Pond take-out launch: Chatsworth Road, Chatsworth, NJ 08019
Just past Old Evans Bridge-Harrisville Road and dam spillway at 39.665116, -74.524305
Beaver Bridge Landing
Bodine Field Road, Chatsworth, NJ 08019 at 39.654258, -74.524313
or Beaver Bridge Road, Chatsworth, NJ 08019 at 39.650584, -74.519025
Out and back kayak routes.
Batsto pond/creek paddle.
Crowley Landing up to the junction of the Batsto and Mullica Rivers. This is tidal.
Special thanks to Ralph H. for providing me with so much information about this area.
Tall Ships in Chestertown
Brad Paisley says there's a last time for everything. October 28, 2017 is my last day on the water this year. The days are short, the water is chilly, and the air is often cold. After today's trip, I'll clean my boats and paddling gear and do maintenance on them before I start my autumn honey-do list. I also plan to get back into swimming regularly though whether or not I actually do is a different story.
My goal for the day was to enjoy the Chestertown Downrigging Weekend. This is an annual tall ship and wooden boat festival. Norma and I last attended this on November 1, 2014. Seeing the tall ships up close is quite a treat. But being able to take good pictures is a bit of a challenge. A few people with really good cameras and big lenses take shots from the route 213 bridge. But for me, showing up early on SUP is the best answer.
At 0825, I launched from Wilmer Park. See first photo, first column. The air temperature was in the low 50s so it was definitely wetsuit weather. I brought a long sleeve neoprene top just in case I might still be cold.
By showing up early, I took advantage of the clear, morning light. I also beat the wind which would pick up later that morning. Lastly, I got to see all the boats while they were still tied up. After 1000, many would take off with pasengers for a short cruise.
A list of all the ships can be found at Downrigging Weekend 2017 - Participating Tall Ships.
The first tall ships I encountered were the Pride of Baltimore II (left) and the Lynx (right) in the second photo, first column. Also see third and fourth photo, first column.
The next boat was the Sultana. This is what the British call "raisins." Sara taught me this. This raisin ship appears on the left in the fifth photo, first column. Also see sixth photo, first column.
Perhaps the most beautiful ship present is the Kalmar Nyckel in the seventh photo, first column.
Eighth photo, first column: Notice the cannon.
Ninth photo, first column: Profile.
Tenth photo, first column: Aft view.
First photo, second column: Old Glory in the morning sun.
I paddled out to a schooner in the Chester River and asked one of the people on it to take my picture. See second photo, second column.
Not all the boats were big or tall. One was a miniature replica of a PT-109 boat, like the one on which President John F. Kennedy served. It was about as long as my SUP. See third photo, second column.
Next, I paddled south and then up Radcliffe Creek. I was able to go up 1.4 miles without having to portage...and that's around low tide! I had not been there before and was not expecting it to be as scenic or peaceful as it was. See fourth photo, second column. I saw an eagle (fifth photo, second column) and lot of phragmites (sixth photo, second column).
By the time I got back to the Chester River, the tall ships were heading downstream with their passengers. In the seventh photo, second column is the Pride of Baltimore II.
I saw several kayakers, including Sue B. You can see the back of her head in the eighth photo, second column flanked by the Kalmar Nyckel and the Sultana.
Back near the launch site, I saw Lisa (ninth photo, second column).
After loading up, I walked around Chestertown, my favorite city in the whole world. I checked out their farmer's market. There were several vendors selling fresh farm produce grown locally. I bought some bread, a scone, and dog treats for Cassie and Bailey, Sara's dogs. In addition to the tall ships and the farmer's market, there was also a quilt show, art show, and a car show taking place. In the nearby town of Centreville, there was also a festival taking place.
I really enjoyed the day though I would have enjoyed it more if there weren't racing powerboats. They were annoyingly loud.
When I got home, I found out Stacy was also there but we missed each other.
I spent the rest of the day cleaning boats.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Cassi in Canton
On September 29, 2017, Sara and I took her puppy, Cassi, out on the water. That was Cassi's first time. Today, October 14, 2017, would be her second.
Sara and I drove out to Canton Waterfront Park in Baltimore. Around 0800, I launched my SUP and she launched her kayak with Cassi on her lap.
It was a very dark day. Lots of clouds. The temperature was in the low 60s but it didn't feel all that cold. Still, I was glad to be wearing my wetsuit.
The air was calm. It was a great day for paddleboarding.
Sara and I paddled east on the Northwest Harbor to the Lazaretto Lighthouse. See first photo. In the second photo, Sara is dwarfed by a ship moored next to the lighthouse.
The three of us crossed the harbor and made our way to Whetstone Point at the tip of the peninsula where Fort McHenry lies. Then we paddled west.
Cassie was much more calm than the last time we took her out. In the third photo, she rests her head on the deck of Sara's Necky Chatham 16 kayak.
At Locust Point, we saw the SS Antares and SS Denebola cargo ships. These even dwarfed Sara more than the first ship. See fourth photo.
Sara and I transferred Cassie to my SUP. She was clearly not as comfortable on the SUP. As she moved about, things were a little unstable at times. I'm glad the water was so calm.
We saw a few other big boats, including the Rosina Topic, a ship from Liberia. See fifth and sixth photos.
Cassie went for a swim. I don't know if she jumped off intentionally or fell off. She spent a lot of time behind me so I couldn't always see what she was doing. But I got her back on the SUP quickly. She shook off but then was cold. So we put her back in Sara's boat. In the seventh photo, Cassie and Sara are seen in front the Domino Sugar factory, a famous landmark in Baltimore.
In the Inner Harbor, we saw one of the boats that pick up trash. See eighth photo. It uses a conveyor belt that can be lowered down into the water.
Sara and I paddled past all the usual sights, including the Maryland Science Center and the USS Constellation. We saw the floating wetlands. I remember back when these were first created. My how they have grown. They have turned into their own little ecosystem. Quite a few birds frequent these floating wetlands.
There are several old ships in the Inner Harbor including the US lightship Chesapeake, commissioned in 1930. See ninth photo. A lightship is a ship which acts as a lighthouse.
By now, Cassie had warmed up a bit sitting on Sara's lap. So we put her back on my SUP. She did much better this time though I sensed she much preferred being with Sara. In the tenth photo, she stands with me in front of the USS Torsk submarine which was commissioned in 1945. It is famous for sinking the last enemy ship by the United States Navy in World War II.
We paddled up the various "water fingers" as I call them. These are areas which I assume were once big ship docks and have since been turned into touristy areas. See eleventh and twelfth photos.
There were quite a few people out enjoying the Inner Harbor though Sara and I appeared to be the only kayakers or paddleboarders out. Kayakers and paddleboarders tend to draw attention out here but today, with Cassie on my SUP, many eyes (and cameras) were on us. Normally, I prefer seclusion. But today, people's faces lit up and smiles emerged when they saw Cassie with me. Kate J. was one such person. She was out running and stopped to take our picture (thirteenth photo) which she then e-mailed to me.
Sara and I pulled into Canton at 1110, having paddled 8 miles. There were a lot of people out at the Walk Like MADD event near where we launched. Because of this event, the city opened its restrooms at the park. In all my years of kayaking, this is the first time I've ever seen these restrooms open.
Baltimore isn't a great place to see wildlife. Sara and I saw a few great blue herons on a rooftop at Locust Terminal. We also saw cormorants resting on piles and the ship lines along with ducks and seagulls scattered about. In the water, we saw nothing except trash. Then as we prepared to drive off, one last piece of wildlife showed itself. It was a rat that ran in front of the boat ramp. This is one animal that is thriving in the area.
The rodents can reproduce after only five weeks. Each litter adds eight to 12 offspring to the population.
- from The Baltimore Sun - City to double its rat-control patrols
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
On September 30, 2017, I paddled on the Shenandoah River with Norma, Joyce and Jimmy and their kids. It was more like tubing than kayaking but our tubes were somewhat kayak-shaped and we had paddles.
Earlier in the day on September 29, 2017, I did some kayaking up north. See Fishing Battery Lighthouse. But my time on the water wasn't done.
Sara followed me to Southwest Area Park. I launched my SUP and she launched her kayak. But it wasn't just the two of us. She brought her puppy, Cassi. This was Cassi's first time on a kayak or SUP. She is part Labrador so we thought she might like the water.
I picked this area (the "Little" Patapsco River) because it is very sheltered and quiet. It is a great place to introduce a dog to kayaking.
Cassi didn't much care for being on the SUP. I don't know if it was the SUP or the fact that she was away from Sara. See first photo. She wouldn't sit still and whined a lot. So I gave her back to Sara.
Cassi sat in the cockpit with Sara. Sara modified her paddling stroke, keeping her paddle between her and Cassi.
We explored the open areas upstream and on the Anne Arundel County side of the river. See second and third photos. Then we crossed over to the Baltimore County side and tried to paddle up a tributary until we came to a fallen log that I couldn't get past without portage.
There were quite a few deer running amok.
Cassi eventually got used to being out on the water. She didn't bark, even when geese got close. Twice she took a nap on Sara's lap. At that point, Sara could use her normal paddling stroke. She's pretty fast with a wing paddle.
Sara and I paddled downstream for two bridges past the launch site before we returned. The three of us got in 5.6 miles.
I am honored that I had the opportunity to help introduce Cassi to the world of kayaking.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Fishing Battery Lighthouse
I took the day off on Friday, September 29, 2017. The wind was low and it seemed like a good day to follow up on an article that was posted in my kayak club: Cecil Whig - The lost Donahoo lighthouse is local secret. Since I hadn't been here or even heard of it, I put it on my bucket list.
This trip is a little more complicated that one might think.
In the latter part of the summer, the bay grasses are so thick, it makes it difficult to paddle except in the dredged sections. So boats with a non-retractable rudder or a fin (i.e. my surf ski or SUP) are not a great choice. My Prijon Catalina is better.
Since paddling in the dredged sections out here is easier, kayaking during the week is better to avoid heavy powerboat traffic that also want to stay in the deeper water.
Low tide should be avoided because it makes the problem with vegetation all the worse. On this day, I was up at 0530 so I could be off the water before low tide.
I launched from Jean S. Roberts Memorial Park at 0730. This put me on the Susquehanna River near the mouth. I kayaked next to downtown Havre de Grace and soon ended up on the Chesapeake Bay. Along the way, I passed Concord Point Lighthouse. See first photo.
The Concord Point Lighthouse was built in 1827...It is one of the oldest lighthouses in continuous operation on the East Coast.
- from Friends of Concord Point Lighthouse
I saw a big stone building that I figured must have historical significance. It resides at 300 Commerce Street in Havre de Grace. See second photo. I didn't find anything interesting about it but when I got home, I looked at the picture I took and noticed that in the tree next to the building, there is a white dot at the top. It turns out I inadvertently photographed a bald eagle!
I circumnavigated Tydings Island (third photo). This is right next to a marina so there is little there that would be of interest to someone like me who likes to explore things few others have seen. Near the island, the bay vegetation was at its thickest. See fourth photo. It looks messy but it actually helps keep the water clean and provides food and shelter for a lot of critters.
I started making my way south, staying just west of the channel. This kept me in deep water but not where powerboat traffic would travel.
My boating chartbook showed an "exposed wreck." I saw it in the distance so I paddled closer to get a better look. At first I thought it was a concrete boat shipwreck but it ended up being styrofoam with a metal frame. I'm guessing it is part of a boat. See fifth photo. In the background of this photo is the next island I paddled to. This island is unnamed.
After a little more than two miles from the southernmost point of Tydings Island, I made it to this unnamed island. See sixth photo. I was surprised it doesn't have a name. It is pretty significant and doesn't look like it will be eroding away anytime soon.
Next, I paddled a little less than a half mile south to Sand Island (seventh photo). As I got closer, I realized how the island got its name. It is extremely sandy. I landed and spent some time there exploring on foot. Despite the sandy soil, many of the trees looked healthy. I saw several monarch butterflies. See eighth and ninth photos. The latter photo is a male. This is indicated by the small black spot on each hindwing.
Again, I kayaked a little less than a half mile but this time east to Fishing Battery. See tenth photo.
Fishing Battery is an artificial island created by Robert Gale and John Donahoo off Havre de Grace in the early 1800s to profit from the shad runs near the mouth of the Susquehanna River.
- from Lighthouse Friends - Fishing Battery Lighthouse
This island is also known as Susquehanna National Wildlife Refuge. Unlike Sand Island which is open for exploration, Fishing Battery is not.
No public use facilities are located on the refuge, and the island is closed to the public to help protect these habitats and provide a protected place for wildlife.
- from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The primary purpose for this trip was to see the Fishing Battery Lighthouse which was built in 1851. I saw it from a few different angles but the best view is from the cove on the southwest side of the island. See eleventh and twelfth photos.
Fishing Battery Light was the last lighthouse constructed in Maryland by John Donahoo (1786-1858). Donahoo was a lighthouse builder active in Maryland for much of the first half of the nineteenth century. Little is known of Donahoo's life, but he appears to have been an active citizen in Havre de Grace, Maryland.
- from Wikipedia sites Fishing Battery Light and John Donahoo
I spent awhile near Fishing Battery Island. I landed at the edge. According to the sign, that is o.k. as long as you don't venture beyond the signs. There were a lot of shells on the beach. See thirteenth photo.
Several eagles were out. I spotted one on the ground. It didn't seem to mind when a tug boat pushing a barge passed by. See fourteenth photo. But as I got closer, it flew away (fifteenth photo).
Besides eagles, I also saw several killdeers (sixteenth photo). I had been calling them sandpipers but Stacy corrected me on this. She steers me right on a lot of things.
Having my fill of the islands, I kayaked west to an area just north of the mouth of Swan Creek. Then I followed the shoreline heading north, back to Tydings Island. Much of the water's edge was thick with vegetation but there was a dredged area a little further out that made it easy to paddle. Most of the area was undeveloped.
I kept an eye out for paw paw trees. I saw none.
Back in the Susquehanna River, I stopped to look at the southernmost bridge. This is an old railroad bridge that is still used by Amtrak (maybe other trains too). See seventeenth photo. It has a rotating bridge (eighteenth photo).
After 4.5 hours, I got in 14 miles. But my day on the water wasn't done. I had one more mission...to help get Cassi on the water.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Upper Patuxent River revisited
On September 24, 2017, Norma and I got an early start, launching at Patuxent Wetlands Park around 0800.
I chose this route because on June 13, 2017, when I paddled here, I saw many paw paw trees. I wanted to return when they were ripe. After tasting them at the Paw Paw Festival yesterday, I was inspired to pick this fruit via SUP. I also knew that Norma would love the beautiful scenery out here.
It was almost high tide which is good for this area because there are a lot of interesting creeks to explore and it is easier to do so with more water than less. We started by paddling east from the launch site. It doesn't allow one to go far but it is pretty.
Norma likes to take pictures of me on the SUP, especially in the early morning light. Rather than argue, I just give her the camera. See first, second, and third photos.
On the way back downstream to the launch site, I saw movement in the plants. I figured it was a muskrat. I paddled closer. Then it dove under. A few seconds later, it popped up about four feet from the front of my SUP...but only for a split second. Then it went back under. I could hardly believe my eyes. It wasn't a muskrat...it was a river otter! I only see river otters about once every four years in Maryland and almost always on the eastern shore. I have never photographed a Maryland river otter.
Norma had the camera. I told her what I saw. Then it appeared again (fourth photo) but further away. It popped its head high out of the water (fifth photo) to get a look at us as it swam. Then it dove back under. A couple of seconds later, it reappeared and continued this pattern. While doing so, it breathed heavily. Norma thought it might be trying to smell us. We saw it for what seemed like a long time but it was probably less than a half minute. Still, based on my few previous sightings of river otters, anything longer than four seconds is a long time.
As we made our way past the launch site, we entered the Patuxent River. I was greeted by a large turtle on the west side. See sixth photo.
The two of us paddled upstream until we came to Back Channel. This was Norma's first time on this creek which she really loved. There were a lot of red-winged blackbirds eating seeds. I don't know what was producing the seeds but they were all over the place and many floated on top of the water. Norma really likes this bird and took a lot of photos of them. See seventh, eighth, and ninth photos.
We could have spend a very long time on Back Channel. It really goes for quite a ways. Some sections have a nice mix of grasses and trees. See tenth photo. But the thing that really stood out were the Ozark tickseed sunflowers. See eleventh and twelfth photos. These flowers were looking extra healthy. There was a lot of buzzing from all the bees they attracted. There were other pollinators too (thirteenth photo).
Norma and I paddled back to the Patuxent River and then headed upstream. Seeing the river otter, red-winged blackbirds, and Ozark ticked sunflowers was great but what we really wanted to do was pick paw paws. Once we got to the more wooded section of the river, we saw several dozen paw paw trees...but almost no fruit. Norma found a cluster of three on one tree when she went further inland on foot. I picked one from my SUP that hung over the water. But overall, it was bad picking. The guy yesterday said that after the tree gets established, they like full sun. None of the ones along the river got full sun. Maybe that was part of the problem.
We paddled up Wilson Owens Branch which is very easy to miss. I don't think I've ever paddled on it before. We couldn't go very far but it was definitely worth it.
Back near the launch site, we looked for the otter again. We didn't see him.
It is autumn but it still feels like summer. It was sunny and about 87 degrees. Fortunately, it wasn't too humid. Usually in another week or two, I start wearing the wetsuit but with the weather being what it is, that is far from my thoughts.
The water was lower now and more spatterdock was exposed. See fourteenth photo. I picked some seed pods near the surface to make into popcorn...or at least try to. I haven't been successful in the past.
The seeds were gathered by Native Americans and either ground into flour or popped like popcorn.
Spatterdock - A Plant With Many Uses
We were off the water around 1230. I think we put in about 7.5 miles. My new GPS was working fine but the batteries went dead so my distance is just a guesstimate. It isn't really new. It is used but I just bought it to replace the one that was water damaged last month. I could have bought an upgrade but the accessories I have don't work for the new ones and I hate having to learn how to use new technology.
The paw paws and spatterdock seed pods we picked appear in the fifteenth photo.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Baltimore Harbor and Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouses
After work on September 21, 2017, I launched my SUP at Spriggs Farm Park at 1550. Today was the last day of summer and what better way to celebrate its end than being on the water?
The days are getting short so I had to keep a pretty good pace to meet my ambitious paddling agenda if I wanted to finish before dark. My goal was to see the Baltimore Harbor Light and the Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse.
I paddled downstream (east) on the Magothy River to Mountain Point. This is the southernmost point on the peninsula of Gibson Island and at the end of Broadwater Way.
Next, I made my way east to the 52 foot tall Baltimore Harbor Light. Construction began 1904. It was first lit 1908. It sits 1.73 miles off the shore of Gibson Island. The black thing that looks like a phone booth in the first photo is the restroom.
In May 1964, the Baltimore Light became the first and only American lighthouse powered by nuclear power, as a test of the SNAP-7B 60 Watt radioisotope thermoelectric generator. One year later the RTG was removed and a conventional electric generator was installed. Currently the lighthouse is solar-powered.
- from Wikipedia - Baltimore Harbor Light
For more information about this lighthouse, see Chesapeake Chapter U.S. Lighthouse Society - Baltimore Harbor Lighthouse and Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Project - Baltimore Light.
Next, I paddled southeast to my next destination. Along the way, I saw hundreds of fish but no rays. I saw someone catch a three foot long fish, probably a rockfish.
After SUPing from the first lighthouse for 3.22 miles, I reached the second one, the Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse (second photo). It stands at 53 feet tall. It was built in 1883. It sits 0.6 mile from Sandy Point. Like many lighthouses, it is no longer owned by the government.
After no non-profit groups expressed interested in the lighthouse when it was offered under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2005, it was auctioned off on the internet where the winning bid, submitted on June 28, 2006, was $250,000.
- from Lighthouse Friends - Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse
Perhaps private ownership is good. At least someone is fixing it up. Notice all the scaffolding.
In the third photo, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge stands behind it.
Heading back, I saw a large luxury cruise ship (fourth photo) making its way down the Bay. Notice the small powerboat following behind.
There was a lot of debris in the water. I suspect it is because there is a coastal flood warning in effect. The water seemed exceptionally high. But all this debris meant I could find some really interesting pieces of driftwood to take home to decorate our yard. See fifth photo.
As the sun got low, it illuminated the clouds with various shades of red and orange. See sixth photo.
I saw one eagle.
I finished at 1920, having put in around 12.5 miles.
Getting out wasn't easy. I had to unlock a combination gate but with my new contact lense prescription and the fact that my eyes are getting old, it was hard to read the digits. Just a matter of time before I need reading glasses.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
Bloody Point Bar Light
Late summer isn't the best time to see wildlife. But it is always a good time to see lighthouses if the weather cooperates. On September 16, 2017, the wind was low, though not as low as yesterday.
After volunteering in the morning to help out with my Marine Corps League detachment fundraiser, I drove out to Romancoke Pier and launched my surf ski around 1300.
I paddled south. My goal was to get to the Bloody Point Bar Lighthouse. It is one mile west by southwest of Kent Point, the southernmost point of Kent Island. I figure I'd be able to see it once I rounded the point but if there was any doubt, I had my compass, which I mounted on my boat. But something wasn't right. It kept saying I was paddling northeast when I knew I was kayaking south. Eventually, I figured out that the magnet in the speaker of my boom box was affecting the compass. Even when my stereo was off, the compass would not give me an accurate reading. On my SUP, this wasn't an issue because the compass was mounted sufficiently far from where I carry my boom box.
I explored every nook and cranny south of Romancoke on the west side of the island. I entered North Pond, Tanners Creek, Cove Creek, Hidden Creek, Scaffold Creek, and Holligans Snooze Inlet.
On one of these creeks (I forget which), I saw a green heron that was willing to pose for a picture (first photo).
On another creek, I saw wild persimmons hanging over the water along with trees holding many osage oranges (second photo).
The seeds are edible by people, but one must do like the squirrels and pick them out of the pulpy matrix and remove the slimy husk. This is the only part of the fruit that people can eat.
- from Great Plains Nature Center - Osage Orange
Some entrances to the creeks were very small and you won't know they are there unless you paddle real close. Some of these go for quite a ways and open up to much wider bodies of water. In the third photo is a view from one creek looking out into the Bay.
There was one unnamed creek in particular that was a spectacular find. It was extremely hidden. About a half mile west of the entrance to Hidden Creek, look for a sign on a beach that reads Tracy Starr Point (fourth photo). The entrance to the creek is just to the left, behind some rip rap. See 38.857460, -76.350735 (fifth photo). It is about 10 feet wide but you can go up about a third of a mile. Some sections are about 75 feet across. It is very scenic. See sixth photo.
I was out near high tide and that helped me get further up some of the creeks which were shallow at times. In one, I saw some deer. See seventh photo.
I watched some eagles fight over a fish while in flight.
I only saw one ray all day. In contrast, I saw 60+ the day prior.
As I rounded Kent Point, the lighthouse was as clear as the nose on Norma's face. I paddled to it. This lighthouse (eighth photo) is
...close to one of the Bay's deepest shipping channels at 174 feet.
- from Lighthouse Friends - Bloody Point Bar Lighthouse
How did it get its name?
...the nearby point according to legends has been the scene of a number of violent events throughout history. In the early days of the nation, a group of Indians was reportedly enticed to the area by English colonists, who then butchered the trusting natives. It is also rumored that a villainous French pirate was hung at Bloody Point.
- from Lighthouse Friends - Bloody Point Bar Lighthouse
I noticed that a piece of the steel wall had fallen. I could see the stairwell inside. See ninth photo. The shape of the lighthouse reminded me of something, but what?
This lighthouse is what's known as a "spark plug" type lighthouse. Its gets this name by its shape. The basic buildup of this type of lighthouse is a tower placed on top of a caisson. This particular lighthouse was finished in 1882, and stands 37' tall.
U.S. Lighthouses - Bloody Point Bar Lighthouse
I made my way back to the island and then returned back to the launch site. An osprey flew overhead, carrying a fish. Then it looked like it went into an epileptic seizure for a second or two. But it was just shaking off water.
Ospreys usually fly low over the water after they catch their prey, in order to avoid crosswinds or heavy gusts. They also shiver off excess water while en route to the nest or perch.
- from Dennis Puleston Osprey Cam Message Board
I finished my adventure at 1740, having paddled 18 miles.
What next? If I have really good weather, I might check out Lighthouse Friends - Fishing Battery Lighthouse which I learned about after reading Cecil Whig - The lost Donahoo lighthouse is local secret. It is located at 39.4944, -76.0836029.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
After leaving work early on September 15, 2017, I drove out to Dogwood Harbor on Tilghman Island. I really like Tilghman Island. There are a few luxury homes but what I like is that it is still home to many real watermen that go out and put in a hard day's work, getting their hands dirty. Sometimes I envy their deep connection to the water.
I launched my SUP at 1440, paddling south on the east side of the island.
I had an ambitious goal for the day...to paddle out to Sharps Light.
The Sharps Island lighthouse is a cast iron caisson filled with concrete with a brick lined cast iron tower built on top. The tower is 37 feet tall which sets the light 54 feet above the mean water level. This structure was constructed in 1881-2 and first lit on February 1, 1882.
- from Unites States Lighthouse Society - Chesapeake Chapter - Sharps Island Lighthouse
This lighthouse is three miles south by southwest of the southernmost tip of Tilghman Island, Blackwalnut Point. So getting to it isn't easy since it is about three miles just to get to Blackwalnut Point. This isn't a trip I would do except under ideal conditions...exactly what I had today. The wind was between two and four miles per hour. The Chesapeake Bay was unusually calm. It was very unlikely that I would have any problems and if I did, I had my VHF radio with me to call for help.
I saw a few cownose rays in Dogwood Harbor (the body of water, not the launch site) and in the Choptank River. They were full grown...about three feet from wingtip to wingtip.
When is the best time to see rays? Late May or early June is best but they can be seen through October.
[Cownose rays] Visit the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay from May to October, traveling as far north as Kent Island. Males leave the Bay in June-July for offshore waters. Females remain in the Bay until autumn, when they leave the estuary and migrate together with males to southern coastal waters. Mating takes place in June or July each summer. After mating, male cownose rays leave the Bay while females stay until October.
- from Chesapeake Bay Program - Cownose Ray
After I got west of Blackwalnut Point, I was in the Chesapeake Bay. As I got further from land, I started seeing more rays. But these were smaller, about 18-24 inches wide.
First photo: Two cownose rays.
Second photo: Some broke the surface of the water.
Third photo: Nine rays. This is perhaps my favorite photo of the year...tied with me in Fort Carroll. I haven't yet decided which photo I like better. Both were not easy to take. In December 2017, I submitted this photo to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It was selected as their December 27, 2017 photo of the week.
Fourth photo: When you see rays swim, it looks like they are flying through the water effortlessly and gracefully.
Throughout the day, I saw at least 60 rays, which is the most I've ever seen in a single day. About 85% were within one mile of the lighthouse. My guess is they had to swim closer to the surface because the water was shallow around the lighthouse. I'm so glad I was on my SUP rather than a kayak. I would not have been able to see them nearly as well on a kayak.
Eventually, I made my way to the lighthouse. See fifth and sixth photos. Why is it tilted?
The tilt of this light is unique although not unexpected considering it's exposed location. During the winter of 1976-7 large ice flows, some piling up on the flats to heights of 40 feet, pushed against the tower and tipped it to the south at about a 15 degree angle.
- from Unites States Lighthouse Society - Chesapeake Chapter - Sharps Island Lighthouse
This lighthouse was built near Sharps Island but there was no island to be found. Like many islands in the Chesapeake Bay, it is no more.
Around the beginning of the 19th century, Sharps Island was a roughly 600-acre (240-hectare) farming and fishing community at the mouth of Maryland's Choptank River. At one time it boasted schools, a post office and a popular resort hotel, where vacationers from Baltimore and other locations would arrive by boat to while away the lazy summer days. But between 1850 and 1900, the island lost 80 percent of its land mass, and by 1960 it had been reduced to a shoal. Today it is entirely underwater, marked only by a partly submerged lighthouse.
"A lot of history has been lost," said Kearney. "Some of these islands were plantations. We tried to find an old graveyard that was marked on survey maps of James Island as late as the 1930s. Apparently it's gone in the drink."
Other islands that either have been deserted or have disappeared altogether are Poplar, Barren, Hambleton, Royston, Cows, Punch, Herring, Powell, Swan, and Turtle Egg.
Scientists attribute these losses to a combination of factors, including global warming-possibly accelerated by human activity. Another well-documented cause is the withdrawal of groundwater for agricultural and other uses, resulting in the land essentially falling in on itself.
Additional sinking could be caused by the sheer volume of sediments being dumped into the bay by runoff from farmland and housing developments throughout the watershed. This load may be weighing down the earth's mantle, allowing more water to come in.
- from National Geographic News - The Case of the Vanishing Islands
The only sign that there was ever an island here was a lone log sticking out of the water. See seventh photo. It probably won't be long before even that is gone.
As I started making my way back to Tilghman Island, a large fishing boat slowly pulled up alongside me, making sure not to create any wake. The captain took a group of about ten fishermen and one woman out to fish. He wanted to make sure I was o.k. I'm guessing he's never seen a paddleboarder three miles out in the Chesapeake Bay. He offered me food and Gatorade which I politely declined. I had everything I needed.
I saw four eagles, some needlefish, a couple of crabs, a green heron, a few snowy egrets, dozens of sea nettles, and maybe a hundred comb jellies (eighth, ninth, and tenth photos). The comb jellies are about as big as an apple.
I read that comb jellies do not sting. I know from experience that sea nettles do. Today, I decided to test out this claim about comb jellies. So I picked up a small one near the surface (eleventh photo). It did not sting me.
Back at the island, I rounded the northwestern part of the island, where I saw a statue of a giant turtle and a cannon. See twelfth photo.
I paddled under the bridge that provides the only land access to Tilghman Island. See thirteenth photo. This looks very much like the drawbridge at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which interestingly, once connected to Tilghman Island.
At the west end of Kent Narrows, I saw a fishing boat with a lot of machinery (fourteenth photo). I don't know what it was for.
I finished at 1900, having paddled 15 miles.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
I spent most of September 9, 2017 doing yardwork. So the next day was play day. Norma, her colleague Verena, and I went paddling.
I planned a car shuttle trip. It was extremely successful and very close to being on schedule. So I'll share my plans with you all.
0625: Leave house. Norma carries my SUP, I carry two kayaks.
0700: Meet Verena at Naval Bagels in Annapolis. Get breakfast and lunch to go.
Drive 54 minutes to launch site at Greensboro. Drop off boats. Leave Verena as gear guard.
Drive to take out at G. Daniel Crouse Memorial Park in Denton. Leave Norma's car there and then drive back to Greensboro.
0930: Be on the water.
Paddle upstream as far as we can. Then paddle downstream. Total route will be about 11 miles.
1330: Off water.
Leave Verena as gear guard while I drive with Norma to retrieve my car.
Drive back to Denton and load up gear.
Walk 0.3 mile to Market Street Public House for a late lunch/early dinner. TripAdvisor says this is the best restaurant in town.
1730: Back in Annapolis.
The forecast said it would be 60 degrees by the time we launched so I made sure to bring proper paddling clothes so we could stay warm. The maximum wind speed would be 10 mph from the north or north by northeast around noon. So it would be to our back. High tide at Greensboro would be 1154 so it would be fairly neutral.
A very similar route was the first kayaking trip Norma ever did, back on July 1, 2006. It was shortly after we met. Norma hasn't done this route since then until now.
This was Verena's first kayaking trip. She was in my Prijon Catalina which took a little time for her to get used to but after an hour or two, she was unusually fast.
We explored the upstream section of the river. See first and second photos.
This route is very similar to the Tuckahoe River around Hillsboro though it is more developed. What they have in common is narrow fresh water paddling in the upstream sections filled with lots of trees. See third and fourth photos.
Since it is very late in the summer, wildlife wasn't too active but we did see some eastern painted turtles (fifth photo).
Downstream, the water opened up a bit. See sixth photo.
The clouds were looking unusually attractive (seventh photos).
We explored one small tributary lined with grasses (eighth photo). I saw a turtle with a 14 inch long carapace walking along the bottom.
Lush in the spring and mid-summer, now the spatterdock has seen better days. See ninth photo.
At Denton, we paddled under the rotating train bridge (tenth photo).
We finished our paddling trip, retrieved my car, and then went out to eat at Market Street Public House. I had the fish and chips. The fish was excellent. The batter was light and crispy, adding just enough flavor. But the fries weren't so good. Too skinny for my taste.
On the drive home, I saw the house of a like-minded person who loves their country and chickens. Rather than placing a bald eagle at the top of their flagpole, they put a chicken. A little patriotic humor. See eleventh photo. As I took the photo, Lisa saw me and pulled over to say hi. It turns out she did a very similar trip and went out to eat at the same place as us the day prior. Great minds think alike.
That evening, Norma and I set up and slept in our new Marmot Limelight 3 (twelfth photo) in the back yard. This is what I call "Girl Scout camping." This tent replaces my 19 year old EMS Forrester tent. While I liked the Forester, I think the Limelight will be a great substitute. Big enough for car camping. Light enough for backpacking if we spread the load amongst three people.
It was a good day.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
On the afternoon of September 8, 2017, I watched my co-worker Rod A. release three monarch butterflies that emerged from their chrysali in our office space. Then I drove out to Saint Michaels in Talbot County, Maryland.
At 1530, I launched my surf ski from the Saint Michaels City Dock.
I explored the area around the city dock. I think of this upscale developed section as the "boater's downtown." This includes the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The museum houses the Hooper Strait Lighthouse, originally built in 1879. See first photo.
I watched as the Patriot passed by with only a few passengers. See second photo.
Paddling downstream on the south side of the Miles River, I explored Long Haul Creek. I was able to access some shallow sections that I would not have been able to see on my SUP because of the big fin. In this area, there were several snowy egrets. They let me get unusually close. See third photo. Notice the bright yellow feet on this bird.
Next, I kayaked upstream. I explored Spencer Creek where I saw this weird looking chain thing on a pile near a private pier. See fourth photo. Anyone know what it is?
I love paddling in this area, partly because the water is so much cleaner than other parts of the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries. I could see horseshoe crabs walking along the bottom of the river.
Continuing onward, I checked out Little Neck Creek. Homes in Saint Michaels are some of the most beautiful in Maryland, in my opinion. The landscaping is equally as impressive. There are a lot of people out here who have a lot of money and good taste in how they spend it. But here, I saw some really outstanding structures. They looked historic, yet pristine. I thought that maybe they were new homes designed to look like old ones but after doing a little research, I found that the estate where these houses reside dates back to 1800. Further away from the main houses, I saw this interesting stone structure (fifth photo).
I certainly wouldn't mind living in Saint Michaels though I don't think Norma would much care for it.
I kayaked under the Saint Michaels Road (route 33) bridge and into Oak Creek before I started heading back. I was hoping to explore the creek but the sun was getting low and I was getting cold. Another day, I'll pick up my exploration at Oak Creek Landing (aka Newcomb).
I paddled past some crab pots. Crabbers use various things to mark their pots; basically anything buoyant and highly visible. If you're going to use an empty detergent bottle for a crab pot marker in a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, then "Tide" is a most appropriate choice. See sixth photo.
The day was a mix of bright sun and clouds. There were times when it looked like God was smiling down on Saint Michaels. See seventh photo.
The Patriot and I crossed paths again. This time it was packed full. Perhaps a wedding party?
I noticed that the light in Hooper Strait Lighthouse was on. Still working after 138 years...very impressive.
Back in "boater's downtown," diners sat out on the decks of the various waterfront seafood restaurants. It was a great evening to be outside. I overheard people comment to each other how skinny my boat is.
I was off the water by 1910, having completed 14.5 miles. I'm pretty sure the next time I'm out on the surf ski late in the day, I'll be wearing a wetsuit.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
On August 31, 2017, I got up early and launched my surf ski at Rose Haven Memorial Park at 0700. I paddled north along the shore in Herring Bay.
It was near low tide. I stopped near Fairhaven Cliffs (first photo) and looked for shark teeth on a 40 foot long beach that is probably underwater at high tide. I found one tooth and a long piece of a ray dental palate. Finding shark teeth in Calvert County is pretty common but I've never heard of anyone finding shark teeth in Anne Arundel County.
Just north of the cliffs, there is a large pond on the west side of Fairhaven Road (route 423). On satellite photos, it looks like one can paddle under the road to it but even at low tide, there is not enough clearance to get under the bridge. But here's what it looks like on the other side (second photo).
I saw three bald eagles throughout the day.
I skipped Tracys Creek and Rockhold Creek because I explored them on June 5, 2013. Instead, I continued northeast.
I explored Parker Creek where I saw several snowy egrets.
I ventured onward. At this point, I think I was no longer in Herring Bay but rather in the Chesapeake Bay though it didn't seem any different. Along the shore, I found a lone wild persimmon tree (third photo). Unlike Japanese persimmons, these are only about as big as ping pong balls and I don't know of anyone that eats them.
Next, I explored Carrs Creek where I saw more snowy egrets. I love seeing the bright yellow feet on snowy egrets. It is so cheerful, like a yellow smiley face. See fourth photo.
There is nothing particularly memorable about Parker and Carrs Creek. They are nice, but not spectacular.
I reached Broadwater Point. Here, I turned around and started making my way back.
I stopped once more at the beach near the cliffs. Now the lighting was much better and I found three more teeth. I also saw a one and a half inch long European hornet. See fifth photo.
There is a big American flag at Herrington on the Bay. The ornament at the top of a flag pole or flagstaff is called the finial. When displaying Old Glory, it is customary for the finial to be a ball or eagle. Somebody should tell that to the osprey in the sixth photo.
I was off water around 1100. I got in 16 miles.
I got home and took photos of my finds for the day. See seventh photo. Then I went to work, late.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
On August 27, 2017, Sara and I launched at Solleys Cove at 0700. My plan was to show her the shipwrecks in this area. For a description of the wrecks, see my July 4, 2012 blog.
We crossed Curtis Creek and then made our way north to the Stahl Point Wrecks. Unfortunately, the most prominent wrecks were no longer there. I had read that this cleanup was to take place soon. Obviously it has already started but is not complete. There were still boat-shaped hulls filled with scrap. Nearby, the half-sunken tugboat still remains.
Sara and I paddled alongside a cormorant-lined industrial area and then up Branch Creek where we saw about five great egrets (first photo, first column). We kayaked under Pennington Avenue (route 173) and then through a tunnel (second photo, first column) under a railroad track. After only about a fifth of a mile more, we had to turn around at a downfall.
The two of us crossed back over Curtis Creek to the east side then paddled south to the Walnut Point Wrecks. These are still intact but I don't know for how much longer. There is a lot of equipment and big pipes running all over the place...as if someone is getting ready for some big changes. So go now and see it while they are still there.
Third photo, first column: The morning sun set the wrecks aglow.
Fourth photo, first column: A concrete boat. What a crazy idea! But someone probably said the same thing about making ships out of steel.
Fifth photo, first column: Unlike Mallows Bay, these wrecks really stick out of the water so viewing them isn't so tide-dependent.
Sixth photo, first column: Trying to identify different parts of the ships isn't always easy.
Seventh photo, first column: There are lots of metal rods sticking out at various places.
First photo, second colunn: Many of the boards were attached to the frame with wooden dowels.
Second photo, second colunn: Me on the SUP.
Third photo, second colunn: Some parts of the wrecks are home to vegetation and animals. In one section, Sara found a northern water snake. It slithered into the hull before I could take its photo.
Fourth photo, second colunn: There was evidence of fire damage on some of the wrecks. Perhaps this was the same fire reported in Maryland Gazette - Abandoned boat in Curtis Creek catches fire.
Sara and I continued upstream and passed the rotating train bridge (fifth photo, second colunn). This is the same train track that we paddled under, through the tunnel.
We then checked out the ships at the Coast Guard Yard. From Arundel Cove, we saw one large ship deeply in need of some Rust-o-leum (sixth photo, second colunn).
We paddled eight miles, finishing around 1045.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
Patuxent River - Pig Point
Norma and I attended a "Standing on the side of Love" solidarity rally in Savage where our town showed its disapproval of the racist violence at the August 12, 2017 white nationalist rally. Immediately after, I drove out to Patuxent Wetlands Park and launched my SUP.
Back on June 13, 2017, I launched my SUP here and paddled north on the Patuxent River. Today (August 20, 2017), I would explore south to the Western Branch.
I launched at 1600, about 40 minutes before high tide. Five minutes later, I saw a bat flying. It was a few hours before dusk so that seemed quite unusual. Perhaps it had rabies. It got a good look at it and the way it flew. They definitely don't fly like birds.
On my last trip, I saw a lot of paw paw trees bearing fruit. They might be ripe by now. I only saw two of these trees on my route today and neither had fruit. But I did see one in the water.
I explored Old Galloway Creek where I saw plenty of dodder (first photo). This creek took me to a pier labeled as "site 45." See second photo. From here, I tied up my SUP and then walked on the Chris Swarth Boardwalk Trail. Uphill from the start of the boardwalk, I found the Cliff Trail (third photo) in the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve.
I then explored all the tributaries on the east side of the river as I made my way downstream.
I came to a place called Pig Point with some very interesting history. The place is
thought to be named for the iron bars or "pigs" made by Patuxent Iron Works and shipped downriver to merchant vessels from this point.
- from "Pig Point: A Site of the Lost Towns Project" (broken link as of late-2017)
According to a Maryland Historical Trust nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places, Bristol Landing is the historic name for a section of Pig Point. That is the signage that appears at this location today. See fourth photo.
Pig Point is the site of some several archeological finds.
Archaeology Briefs - Pig Point, Maryland (USA) Amazing Early Site: "We have the oldest structures ever found in Maryland"...
The New York Times - A Maryland Hill's Prehistoric Secret: ...ancient ceremonial sites as deep and well preserved as the one believed to be atop Pig Point are extremely unusual.
The Baltimore Sun - Pictures: Pig Point archaeological dig: Archaeologists are calling it the most important prehistoric site in Maryland.
But what makes Pig Point of particular importance to me and the people that live in or near Savage, Maryland is the history that took place there during the War of 1812.
Joshua Barney's Chesapeake Flotilla was trapped in the shallows just upriver from here. With orders to keep his boats out of enemy hands, Barney reluctantly ordered his men to destroy the flotilla when the British approached. They laid trains of gunpowder to explosives aboard each barge. As the British rounded Pig Point south of here on August 22, 1814, the Americans touched off the first fuse.
- from information sign at Patuxent Wetlands Park
Joshua Barney's home resides on the northern end of Savage Guilford Road, just outside of Savage. A more verbose account of his deeds reads
In August of 1814, British Rear Admiral George Cockburn was leading his forces up the Patuxent River and offering support to British troops on land as they marched northward to Washington. American Commodore Joshua Barney was retreating from the British fleet with his Chesapeake Flotilla. As the British entered Nottingham, a port town on the Patuxent, Barney reached Pig Point and acted quickly. He took 400 flotillamen with him farther upriver and left about 100 men, including his lieutenant Solomon Frazier, behind at Pig Point with the wounded and most of the fleet's supplies. Barney ordered Frazier to prepare explosives and deliberately sink or "scuttle" the fleet if the British tried to seize their supplies and weapons. On August 22, 1814 Admiral Cockburn approached the Chesapeake Flotilla, including Barney's famous flagship the USS Scorpion, at Pig Point. But as he neared the fleet, the abandoned vessels ignited and exploded. They were "blown to atoms" in Admiral Cockburn's words, but his forces were able to capture one barge and some merchant schooners that had been with the flotilla. Meanwhile Commodore Barney and his 400 men joined forces with militia units and US Marine reinforcements to aid in the defense of Washington on land. The flotillamen made a stand at the Battle of Bladensburg, where Commodore Barney was wounded on August 24.
- from "Pig Point: A Site of the Lost Towns Project" (a broken link as of late-2017)
Near Pig Point, I saw what I call a "spatterdock atoll." See fifth photo.
A little later, I found what I believe was an artistically vandalized wood duck box (sixth photo).
At the Western Branch, I crossed the river and then explored the west side. This includes Mondays Creek and Railroad Creek. I was able to go pretty far up the latter. I was thinking one of these creeks would connect with the Western Branch but neither did.
I saw two muskrats.
There was a good bit of low fence in the water. Not sure what it was put there for. Maybe to keep the muskrats out? See seventh photo.
Continuing north on the west side, I then crossed back over to the east side just upstream of Old Galloway Creek. Near the entrance to Galloway Creek, I saw two beavers. I am certain they were beavers because the first hit its tail on the water really hard and made a loud noise. The other looked just like it and was not far away. See eighth photo.
I explored Galloway Creek but I didn't get far. See ninth photo. I don't think I made it to Mill Creek.
The only creek I was able to go pretty far on was Railroad Creek. None of these creeks was wooded so if you go, bring plenty of sunscreen. Also bug spray as there were biting flies.
I ended up paddling about 12 miles but I'm not certain because my GPS broke recently.
I was off the water at 1945.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
One thing I love about Maryland is all the history. I've been living in this great state now since 1995 and I definitely consider myself more of a Marylander than a Californian. So on July 31, 2017, I set out to explore my Maryland roots.
I was up at 0500. I launched my SUP at 0730 from Paul Ellis Landing. See first photo. This put me on Whites Neck Creek. The plan was to get on the water before the morning rush hour traffic and be heading home before the afternoon rush hour. This would put the tide against me most of the time but I would also be out during the calmest wind...3-5 mph.
The day was incredibly sunny and clear. It isn't very often we have such great visbility in late July. The high temperature was expected to be 84.
I paddled into Saint Catherine Sound and then made my way to the mouth of the Wicomico River. As crazy as it sounds, there are two rivers by this name in Maryland. One is on the eastern shore while the other is on the western shore. I was on the latter. I proceeded to Saint Margaret Island. See second photo. This island is private property so I could not legally land. On the east side, I spotted a couple of osprey. One caught a large fish. See third photo.
As I made my way around the island, I spotted something to the west. I paddled out to investigate. I found what appeared to be a navigational or data collection device. But what caught my eye was the foundation. I believed there was once a lighthouse there. After I got home, I did a little research and confirmed this. It used to be Cobb Bar Lighthouse.
The lighthouse was commissioned on December 25, 1889.
- from Chesapeake Chapter, United States Lighthouse Society - Cobb Point Bar Lighthouse
Cobb Bar Lighthouse stood at the entrance to the Wicomico River off of the Potomac until 1938 when the old Dutchman who was the keeper and reportedly drunk, failed to shut the door on his stove and embers blew out and set the lighthouse ablaze. It was replaced with an unmanned structure. This account was related by the late Mrs. Alice Quade of the nearby Quade's store at Bushwood Wharf, who said she witnessed the fire.
- from The Chesapeake - Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Region
Next, I paddled southeast to Saint Catherine Island. See fifth photo. It is home to the Jefferson Islands Club. On the shore, I saw a very colorful green heron (sixth photo).
The final island in this area was Bullock Island, the smallest that I would see. See seventh photo. There was actually a smaller island I considered paddling to by the name of White Point Island. It appeared on my 2002 Saint Mary's County map but in a satellite photo, it was not present. Hence, I assumed it eroded away. But this same photo shows that part of the White Point peninsula has eroded away and is now underwater. So a new island has been created. Why haven't these other islands eroded away? Because someone paid a lot of money to have rip rap put in around the shore.
Near Bullock Island, I saw several cormorants. Some were airing out their armpits (eighth photo).
I paddled out into the Potomac River. Here, it is four miles across to Virginia. To my southwest, I could see Westmoreland State Park where Norma and I last visited with friends on June 17-19, 2016.
After about three miles of paddling, I reached the largest and final island on my journey, Saint Clements Island. See ninth photo. Unlike the other islands, this one is open to the public. Ferry boats take visitors there on weekends but since it was Monday, no one was there. This island has some fascinating history.
[Saint Clements Island]...is called Maryland's Plymouth Rock by some...
- from Lighthouse Friends - Blackistone Island (Replica) Lighthouse
The park preserves the site of the March 25, 1634 landing of Maryland's first colonists, who had sailed from Cowes on the Isle of Wight in England [on the Ark and Dove] four months earlier. The date is commemorated annually as Maryland Day.
They named the island in honor of Pope Saint Clement I, patron of mariners.
from Wikipedia - St. Clement's Island State Park
St. Clement's Island, or Blackistone Island, as it was called for nearly 200 years, became an important location for wartime blockades. During the Revolutionary War, the British used the island as a base of operations, supporting a blockade of the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, while looting the nearby waterfront plantations. The British again took possession of the island during the War of 1812.
- from Bay Journal - Tiny St. Clement's Island awash in Maryland history
I paddled around the east end of the island clockwise. Once I got to the south side, I saw the reconstruction of the historic Blakistone Light. See tenth photo.
On August 14, 1848, Congress appropriated $3500 for building a lighthouse on Blackistone Island and followed this up with another $1500 on September 30, 1850 to complete the structure.
Blackistone Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1932, and twenty-four years later a shell from the nearby Naval Proving Ground reportedly exploded near the abandoned lighthouse and set it afire. The Navy later razed the walls of the charred structure.
- from Lighthouse Friends - Blackistone Island (Replica) Lighthouse
A replica of the Blakistone Island Light was completed in 2008 through the efforts of the St. Clement's Hundred community organization.
- from Wikipedia - St. Clement's Island State Park
The original Blakistone Island Light can be seen at
Wikipedia - Blakistone Island Light
Wikipedia - Blakistone Island Light porch
I landed at a beach on the south side and then went ashore. I literally had the whole island to myself! I walked up to the lighthouse (eleventh photo) and the Bell Tower next to it. I rang the bell which was really loud (twelfth photo). Can you see me?
The original bell tower erected in 1888 included machinery desgined to strike every 10 seconds. It served as a vital part of the warning system for ships in inclement weather.
- from "Blackistone Lighthouse Bell Tower" sign
Another sign mentioned that the original bell weighted 1000 pounds.
Many people have been taught that Maryland was founded as a Catholic colony.
Before settlement began, George Calvert [the first Lord Baltimore] died and was succeeded by his son Cecilius, who sought to establish Maryland as a haven for Roman Catholics persecuted in England.
- from History - The Settlement of Maryland
But Maryland wasn't just for Catholics. It was for all Christians. That was a relatively progressive view back in the 1600s. This is symbolized by a 40-foot stone cross (thirteenth photo) which
was erected in 1934 in celebration of Maryland's 300th anniversary, recognizing the location as one of the foundation sites of religious toleration in the United States.
- from Wikipedia - St. Clement's Island
As I paddled away from the island, I looked east to get once last view. See fourteenth photo. I pondered just how important religious freedom is in this country where Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Atheists can all live in peace. I like to think that the people who first settled Maryland were a big part of this.
For more information, see
Find Your Chesapeake - Saint Clement's Island was Scene of Historic Landing
Visit Saint Mary's - Saint Clement's Island State park
Since three out of four of the islands I paddled to were named after saints and because I got to experience some of Maryland's Catholic roots, I call this my "Catholic Islands" paddling route.
I spent a long time on big, open water. I scanned the area, hoping to see dolphin or at least ray but I saw neither. I saw a lot of sea nettles and some needlefish.
I was off the water by 1230, having paddled 15.36 miles.
If I only wanted to paddle to St. Clement's Island, I would have launched at St. Clement's Island Museum but my route made for a much longer and more interesting trip.
I chatted with a guy at the boat ramp and then headed home. I wasn't expecting much traffic since it was the early afternoon but that was not the case. Then, at the highway 95 north turnoff, traffic came to a standstill for about a half hour. There was a bad accident and a vehicle caught on fire. The fire department came and put it out quickly. I had a nice view of things which I told my parents about as it occurred. Fortunately, it didn't look like there were any serious injuries.
For most of the rest of my drive home, a big tractor trailer had paper and plastic bags blowing out of its uncovered top. It littered the highway. Very sad.
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I love exploring interesting places that few have seen. The problem is that if a place is interesting, then it has likely attracted many people. Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Old Rag come to mind as examples. So how does one find a place that few others have seen? I spend a lot of time studying maps and satellite photos. If I find something that appears to have potential, then I read up about it. But recently, I found one place that I could find no information about, mainly because it didn't appear on maps. But it did show up in satellite photos. Sometimes maps are wrong but satellite photos don't lie.
I found an unnamed island (first photo) located at 38.625315, -76.284823. If it were on a map, it would be on the Dorchester County ADC map 3 at A6. It is located just north of Cook Point at the southern mouth of the Choptank River in Maryland. See second photo. This island is about 800 feet long in the satellite photo. Based on its shape, if I had to name it, I would call it Pork Chop Island.
Getting to this island was not so simple. There were no launch sites nearby so it would require a very long trip across unprotected water. So I studied satellite photos and found a few places that might make for a good commando launch on rip rap. I drove out there on July 27, 2017 and scouted the area. I didn't know how much rip rap I would have to cross on foot so I figured bringing a plastic boat would be better because it could handle more abuse in case I dropped it, had to drag it, or got it banged up while launching. For this job, I chose my Prijon Catalina which is easier to carry than my Cobra Expedition. I ended up launching at Hills Point Road.
Third photo: Launch site view from road.
Fourth photo: Launch site view from the water. Only about an eight foot stretch of rip rap.
It was very cloudy. No shadows. I had an 11 mph wind from the south.
I left a sheltered little cove and then found myself on Brannock Bay. Leaving this put me on Trippe Bay. Then I paddled about 3.4 miles north to my destination. I really didn't pay much attention to stuff on the shore. I was focused on the island.
The island was much smaller today than it was when the satellite photo was taken (not sure when that was). I estimate it was only about 350 feet long and that's an hour before low tide. In the fifth photo is a view of the island from the west.
On the north side of the island was a little cove that I paddled into. There were a lot of jellyfish and marsh periwinkle snails. I went ashore and looked around. I was hoping to see archaeological relics or evidence of a nesting ground but all I found were marsh grasses and some old tires. Not sure how the tires got there.
Sixth photo: This is a view from the north. The dampness of the ground and the fact that I was finding jellyfish not near the water led me to believe that at high tide, much of the area might be under water or at least very wet. The water would be about 1.5 feet higher at high tide. In the satellite photo, I could see trees, but today, I saw only fallen or nearly dead trees.
Seventh photo: This is a view from the southeast.
I got back in my boat and continued my circumnavigation. From the northeast, I saw a very lonely tree on the south side of the island. It is clinging onto its last breath of life. See eighth photo.
The boat that I brought was not a bad choice but having a rudder or a skeg would have helped. The water wasn't exactly calm and I got tossed around a bit.
I returned the way I came. Back in Brannock Bay, I saw a snowy egret. See ninth photo. Egrets are difficult for me to photograph because they are so white, they look washed out. If I was better with my camera, then that might not be such a problem but I don't like to fidget with a lot of things when I'm on the water so I just leave it in "auto" mode. But today was a great day for photographing egrets because it was so overcast.
I ended up kayaking just under seven miles. Not very far but I got in plenty of distance yesterday.
Having accomplished my goal, I did a little scouting for launch sites. I checked out both sides of the Senator Frederick C. Malkus Jr. Memorial Bridge over the Choptank River. I determined that the only suitable launch area is in the Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park.
Walking along a trail (tenth photo) in the park, I saw a trumpet vine. See eleventh photo.
Eventually, I reached a beach. See twelfth photo. This is where I would launch to access Bollingbroke Creek. But that's another day.
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Queenstown to Corsica
I worked a short day on July 26, 2017 and then launched my surf ski at the Queenstown Dock just before 1600. From there, I paddled into Little Queenstown Creek and then headed north on the Chester River.
There was a lot of fish activity and one little guy jumped into my boat. See first and second photos.
I explored Tilghman Cove, Eagle Cove, and Robin Cove. Then I turned around at the mouth of the Corsica River. But I didn't explore Grove Creek or Reed Creek. They are pretty big, I was running out of daylight, and that would have been a longer trip than I was willing to do.
Things were very undeveloped up until I got to Reed Creek. I saw a lot of bald eagles, only one jellyfish, and no people on the water. In fact, except for Queenstown and Grove Creek, I didn't see anyone. I like that.
I was looking for new launch sites but found none. Studying a satellite photo, perhaps there is one at 39.060110, -76.152841. If this isn't a launch site, then the closest one to Reed Creek, Grove Creek and the mouth of the Corsica River is likely Cliffs City.
I finished around 2030 having paddled 21.3 miles.
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Turner Creek and Tidal Pond
After having circumnavigated Pooles Island earlier in the morning on July 22, 2017, I now set out to do some scenic and easy paddling.
I launched my SUP at Turners Creek Park at 1100. There is only one reason why I launch here and that is to see lotus flowers which are best seen in late July and early August. Previous trips include August 13, 2011 and August 12, 2012. If viewing them at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, then visit a couple weeks earlier.
My plan was to paddle out to Tidal Pond in Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area and also explore Turners Creek thoroughly.
There is a lot of interesting stuff to say about lotus flowers. Where does one start? Maybe a good place to start is with the plants. These are American lotus plants.
Most established lotus plants spread by tube-like roots called rhizomes. But seeds are nature's back-up plan for this shoreline plant that is both a lovely sight and a biological wonder.
They grow in shallow water, often taking root in 6-12 inches of water and then moving out to depths of 5 or 6 feet.
Large round leaves grow on the surface, reaching the size of a pizza pan. They look a bit like lily pads, but the lily pad leaf has a slit, while the lotus leaf is a large, unbroken circle with a stem at the center.
- from Bay Journal - Seeds of Time
Before we talk about the flowers, let's learn about the leaves. See first photo.
Some plant leaves just can't get wet or dirty! Lotus plants have superhydrophobic surfaces. Water drops that fall onto them bead up and roll off. These leaves not only stay dry, but the droplets pick up small particles of dirt as they roll, so that the lotus leaves are even self-cleaning.
The lotus leaves have nanostructures on their surfaces. These nanostructures are coated with hydrophobic wax crystals approximately 1 nm in diameter. This makes the surface at the nanoscale quite rough. This rough surface is more hydrophobic than a smooth surface would be.
- from Institute for Chemical Education - the Lotus Effect
I created a slow motion video of water being splashed onto a lotus leaf. Notice how it doesn't stick. See second photo.
Moving onto the flowers, they take on several different appearances depending on their stage of life.
Third photo: Not yet open.
Fourth photo: Opening.
Fifth photo: Fully open.
Sixth photo: After losing its petals, the flower becomes a showerhead seed pod. According to Bay Journal - Seeds of Time, Most parts of the American lotus are edible, and the seeds are no exception. In Louisiana, they call them "Cajun peanuts," and they are plucked and eaten before the shell turns hard. Eventually, it will turn woody.
Paddling northwest, I reached the mouth of Tidal Pond (39.370503, -75.990538). This is my favorite place to see lotus flowers. It isn't the easiest place to get into. It is very tidal and reminds me of the reversing falls in Maine. It was ebb tide so water was gushing out of the pond. I took this as a challenge to paddle into it without falling or having to move out of the standing position. I was successful but it was by no means easy. On a kayak, it wouldn't be quite so difficult. In the worst case, one can simply land at Ponds Bar and then wade in.
Inside the the Tidal Pond, there was plenty to see.
Seventh photo: Looking north at lotus flowers in various stages of development.
Eighth photo: Reach for the sky.
Ninth photo: This shot clearly shows the shower head shape of what will become the seed pod.
Tenth photo: According to Bay Journal - Seeds of Time, Some American Lotus flowers reach 10 inches across and sport more than 20 petals.
Eleventh photo: Flowers and leaves.
Twelfth photo: Pickerelweed with an enthusiastic pollinator.
Back in Turners Creek, I saw several acres of lotuses...or is it "lotii"? I wonder which is greater, the total square footage of lotuses in the Sassafras River and its tributaries or the square footage of my town, Savage? I'm betting on the former. But maybe that will change if my town annexes part of Jessup.
What I didn't expect to find were so many ducks. Usually I just see small groups but here I was seeing groups of several dozen. See thirteenth photo. I reckon I saw well over a hundred.
I saw a few dead catfish and other fish.
I was off the water around 1330, having paddled a mere 5.2 miles for a days total of 19.2.
A small group of kayakers were launching. One woman in the group was curious about my SUP so I let her try it. I held it as she got on but she couldn't get herself to stand up, even though the water was perfectly flat. I guess it was less stable than she expected.
I was wearing a new shirt I bought yesterday at the Under Armour warehouse clearance sale in Baltimore. It is a heatgear, fitted, long sleeve shirt. It is a large size (which is what I always wear) but it fit more like an extra large. So I'll see if my brother-in-law, Jimmy, wants it. For paddling, I prefer the compression shirts.
On the drive home, I hit heavy traffic heading west at Kent Island. Why folks were heading west on a Saturday afternoon, I know not. I could see dark skies ahead. Then just as I got past Annapolis, a heavy storm hit hard. A strong wind shook my surf ski enough so I had to pull over for fear of it breaking or being ripped off the car. Rain poured for a long time and the kayak straps that I had tucked into the car drew in a lot of water. I got out and tied them outside the car. My smartphone said wind gusts were up to 57 mph! I expected the storm to pass through quickly but it stuck around for awhile. The temperature dropped 20 degrees. After the wind let up a bit, I continued driving. Heading the opposite direction, I saw emergency vehicles race by. One of them held two Zodiac boats. That can't be good. Maybe a boater wasn't practicing "risk mitigation."
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Every outdoor physical activity has some risk. That doesn't mean we should avoid the outdoors. But if engaging in such activities, we should do what we can to minimize risk. It is what we, in my line of work, call "risk mitigation."
On July 22, 2017, I set out to do a challenging trip: circumnavigation of Pooles Island. I previously set out to do this on May 16, 2017 but turned back because conditions were not favorable.
Pooles Island has some interesting history.
Poole's Island sits in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, just north of the mouth of the Gunpowder River. Mapped at more than 295 acres in the early 1800's, the island has since eroded to less than 200 acres. Poole's island was first visited by Europeans during John Smith's historic journey to explore the upper Chesapeake Bay. He named it Powel's island after Nathaniel Powell, a member of his party of explorers, and included it in his 1612 map. Over the years the name has undergone several revisions and you may find it listed as Pool Island, Pool's Island, or Pooles Island. It is speculated that the name changes may have come about as either a misunderstanding of the spoken word Powell, or perhaps intentionally to reflect the many fresh water pools the island contains. The Baltimore Sun lauded the isle around that time, noting that "numerous wells of clear sparkling water are scattered about the island." The paper further commented that the water's Ph was uniquely soft for the area and was very likely a factor in the prolific growth of crops and fruits.
The ground on the island is said to be very fertile and the water of low pH, conditions ideal from planting fruit trees. Accounts vary, but somewhere between 2700 and 7000 peach tree saplings were planted on the island's northern end in large orchards. The owner, a Mr. George Merrett, boasted that Pooles Island was a "piece of Iowa soil in Maryland." This was true, because the soil produced abundant crops without the aid of fertilizers for many years. Peaches harvested from Poole's island became their own variety and were known as Pool's Island Best.
Pooles Island was once the scene of an illegal but exciting prizefight that occurred in 1849. Maryland's governor decreed that no steamboat captain could transport spectators to the event and even called up troops to make certain that his orders were heeded. Nevertheless, pugilism fans found their way to the island on oystermen's skipjacks. The governor's troops were unable to shut down the festivities as their boat ran aground, and reportedly the spectators waved to the soldiers as they sailed back after the fight.
- from Northern Star Hunter Sailing Association - Pooles Island and Lighthouse
Maybe 15 years ago, I paddled to Pooles Island with a group from the kayak club. We launched from Dundee Creek Marina at Gunpowder Falls State Park on the western shore (Baltimore County). We didn't circumnavigate the island. Instead, we just paddled to the lighthouse and back. So that would have been about 14.5 miles. Approaching from the western shore like we did provided some advantages. Much of the route was sheltered, especially from an east wind. The biggest open water crossing was about 1.7 miles. But there were also disadvantages. One would be surrounded by Aberdeen Proving Ground. This means unexploded munitions and a strict policy of not landing or getting too close to shore. So you'd lose a lot of the benefits of a short open water crossing. Going this route would mean a round trip of about 17.5 miles if circumnavigating the island.
In contrast, doing this circumnavigation from the eastern shore would mean about 12.5 miles if launching from Fairlee. But this would mean a 2.8 mile open water crossing. This includes a shipping channel. This open water crossing is totally unsheltered, especially from the north or south.
As part of my risk mitigation strategy, I did several things.
I read about the area. I focused on what kayakers had to say. I found The Weathered Paddle - Pooles Island, the upper Chesapeake Bay particularly helpful.
I monitored weather conditions up until I left the house. I checked reports both on the western and eastern shores horitontal to the island as well as at the island itself. Morning wind conditions would be around 3 mph from the north, changing to east in the late morning. It is not often that winds are so calm during daylight hours out on the Chesapeake Bay so I have to take the opportunity when it presents itself.
I packed a submersible VHF radio so I could call the Coast Guard if needed. As always, I also had my GPS and compass.
Norma was away on a trip so I left a float plan with Rey.
I packed plenty of food and water...enough for a much longer trip. In particular, I brought lots of salty snacks to avoid cramping. It would be hot and humid so I expected to sweat a lot.
I interpolated high tide at the island to be around 0700.
I awoke at 0330 and then drove an hour and 45 minutes to Fairlee. I launched just before 0600. I was surprised how many people (fishermen) had already launched before me. It was warm and humid. I saw a nice red sunrise as I left Fairlee Creek.
The previous night, I loaded by my SUP and surf ski. I would decide at the launch area which one I wanted to bring. I chose the SUP. Out on the bay, I am glad I did. Despite such low wind speed, it was unobstructed from the north, so waves were being kicked up. The waves were not big but they were big enough to make me want a more stable craft than my S1A.
I saw about five dead rockfish. Some were quite large, about 2.5 feet long.
I find big open water crossings to be more of a mental test than a physical one.
As I rounded the north end of the island and then passed onto the west side, I saw the Pooles Island Lighhouse. See first photo.
The oldest Maryland Lighthouse marks the the Northwestern Point of Pooles Island. Build in 1825...
The lighthouse on Pooles Island lie dormant for some 50 years. In 1994 the US Army requested that it be entered into the National Register of Historic Places. This was done, and in 1997 work was begun to recondition the old lighthouse.
In 2010, the Army carried out a more complete restoration including repairs to the masonry and lantern and installation of new, historically accurate windows. A solar-powered light was installed and the lighthouse was reactivated in September 2011 in time for the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.
- from Northern Star Hunter Sailing Association - Pooles Island and Lighthouse
As I made my way around the island, I saw a few big steel structures. Not sure what they were. See second photo. I would have loved to go ashore to explore and find the clear water springs but the unesxploded munitions are a big deterrent. Supposedly, the area is also patrolled by the police but I did not see any police boats. But if they were there, I'm sure they saw me. I stayed at least 70 meters from the shore which means I didn't see much.
Completing my circumnavigation, I started heading back. I was cognizant of the shipping channel but did not see any ships. Maybe it was still too early in the day for that.
By 0900, the weather was feeling sauna-like. I was sweating profusely and it wasn't evaporating because the air was saturated with moisture.
Around 0950, I was done, having paddled about 14 miles.
I brought my first aid kit for this trip. It would have nothing I would need but I figured that if I was stopped by the police, it would help make me look more prepared. I carry it in a Sea to Summit Dry Sack. This is much lighter and thinner than the kind of dry bags kayakers use. I've said it is good for keeping things dry from a light rain but that is about all. I never tested this. Today I confirmed this. I had it bungeed to the bow. As waves crashed on my SUP, it got soaked. Fortunately, it contained nothing important that could be water damaged.
Having accomplished my goal, I set out to do a little scouting. I wanted to find a launch site on the waterway to my north, Worton Creek. I found it at Green Point Public Landing. See third photo.
It was a little after 1000 and I still had plenty of time before the weather turned bad. So I headed out for my next adventure.
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Youghiogheny River Lake
On July 15, 2017, I took the SUP out on Youghiogheny River Lake.
Still Pond Creek and Churn Creek
After doing a lot of yard work the day prior, I rewarded myself on July 9, 2017 by going kayaking. I was up at 0500 and launched my surf ski around 0730 at Still Pond Landing. It was sunny, dry, with clear skies and a very comfortable high temperature. Very likely, it might be the nicest day for the whole month.
I started on the east (upstream) side of Still Pond Creek. From here, I paddled downstream on the north side. The area was nice but not spectacular. I explored Jacks Cove and Codjus Cove.
I made my way into Still Pond and then stopped briefly at Still Pond Beach.
I kayaked out to Meeks Point and then cut southwest to Rocky Point. Then I stayed along the shore as I paddled west and then south into the Chesapeake Bay. The northwest wind was only about 7 mph but it was enough to kick up waves since it covered such a long distance across open water.
I saw a lot of cliffs. Some eroded away, leaving interesting textures. If I were in Calvert County, I would expect to find fossils here but I saw no signs of ancient marine life in these walls.
I turned around in Worton Creek and returned the way I came.
As I tried to let the waves give me a little push, I lost control and my surf ski turned parallel to the waves. I fell out. That only happens once a year or every other year. It was a good day to fall out. The water was comfortably warm.
There were more bald eagles out than I could count. They are so plentiful now, it is hard to believe they were considered endangered ten years ago. See first photo.
In 1967, the secretary of the interior listed bald eagles south of the 40th parallel as endangered under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966.
- from National Wildlife Federation - The Bald Eagle in America
Bald Eagles were removed from the endangered species list in August 2007 because their populations recovered sufficiently.
- from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Bald & Golden Eagle Information
I made my way back to Still Pond and then headed south. Between Rocky Point and Kinnaird Point, there were a lot of yachts out with people enjoying the water. This area is a great place for that but I was preferring solitude.
I paddled south to Churn Creek which was very quiet. I pulled ashore for a short rest. I saw what I believe to be deer and raccoon footprints (second photo) in the sand.
Just over two miles from where I entered Churn Creek, I was stopped by a beaver dam. See third photo. I've encountered many old, unmaintained beaver dams but this one was pristine. It held back about 18 inches of water. I climbed up on top to look around. When I got home, I found it on a satellite photo. See the right side of the fourth photo.
I headed back upstream on Still Pond Creek along the south side. I saw a family of osprey. See fifth photo. The two juveniles are almost as big as the adults. Their nest was looking a little small. It reminded me of the Brady Bunch episode where Greg and Marcia complained that their house was too small.
I ventured past where I launched and then paddled under Still Pond Creek Road. I couldn't go much further before I was stopped by downfalls and it got narrow, although satellite photos made it look like it widened out quite a bit a little further upstream. My map did not indicate this.
I saw two green herons and a few turtles but not much else in terms of wildlife. I saw no jellyfish or rays but I think this area has too little salinity for that. In general, the further north you go on the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries, the less salt in the water.
Back at the launch site, I met an older couple launching an Ocean Kayak Cabo, similar to the one I have except theirs was green with a rudder. As they paddled off, I noticed that they kept up a pretty good pace. Perhaps that will be Norma and me someday.
I finished up a little before 1500, having paddled just over 30 miles. I'm guessing my technique on the flat water was pretty good because I felt like I was moving pretty fast without much effort and had energy to spare when I finished.
One thing I learned about the area that I kayaked is that there are no lotus plants. If they were there, I would have seen them because I generally stayed along the shore where it wasn't very deep. I thought this was a little unusual because I know there are lots of lotuses in the Sassafras River just to the north. There are also some lotuses in Fairlee Creek to the south (see my May 16, 2017 blog). I don't know if there are any in Worton Creek which is between Churn Creek and Fairlee Creek. That is another adventure.
I hurried home, got washed up, and then enjoyed a nice dinner with our neighbors, Steve and Blakely.
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Fossil Hunting South of Plum Point
Norma wanted to do something on Independence Day. So I put together a trip I thought she'd enjoy. I know she doesn't like hot weather so I suggested we go kayaking at dawn so we could enjoy the cool morning temperature.
We awoke at 0400. My plan was to go look for shark teeth and other fossils. To be effective, we need to look at or near low tide. At Plum Point, that would be around 0730.
The two of us arrived up the road from Breezy Point Marina at 0545. Unfortunately, there was a 0.7 mile backup because people wanted to get into Breezy Point Beach and Campground next to it which opens at 0600. I walked ahead while Norma stayed in the car. I then spoke to the police at the entrance and asked if we could drive to the front since we wanted to go to Breezy Point Marina. He said no, not until we got close enough to see him from the car because there is residential traffic that leaves the neighborhood that we would be in conflict with.
As I walked back to the car, I noticed that everyone in line was Hispanic. I also saw a lot of paw paw trees along the side of the road. We abided by he policeman's order until we saw a big pickup truck pulling a boat on a trailer that drove to the front. We quickly followed it and got to the front but that still put us an hour and 15 minutes behind schedule. So we didn't end up launching until 0720.
We saw hundreds of sea nettles...some with bells as big as a small cantaloupe. We also saw green herons and a bald eagle. But by far the most impressive thing we saw was a group of at least three dolphin. See first photo. This is the first time I'd seen dolphin in Maryland or the Chesapeake Bay though I'd read that sometimes they go as far north as Annapolis. I'm glad Norma was with me to see this. She doesn't much care for open water paddling but I think this was cause for an exception.
The morning was overcast. See second photo.
We reached our destination, which was an unnamed cliff about a mile to a mile and a half south of Plum Point. It was steep and not easily accessible by foot...two traits I look for when searching for a place to find shark teeth. See third photo.
I brought along a couple of sifters I made and we began looking for fossils. See fourth photo. Not everything interesting we found was a fossil. I caught a small fish (fifth photo). I don't know what kind it is but it looks like a bottom feeder. It was about two inches long.
That area is a mediocre place to find fossils. Roosevelt Cliffs is much better.
After searching for about an hour and a half, we started heading back. See sixth and seventh photos.
The water was very calm and if something broke the water (like a dolphin or ray fin) we would see it. I saw about a dozen rays. The main thing to look for are two fins that are synchronized to flap in and out of the water. See eighth photo. When I see this, I follow the ray. It often travels in a small group. If they are near the surface and the conditions are right, I can get a snapshot. Today, I did just that. See ninth photo. This works best on a SUP.
I saw four other kayakers and nobody else on a SUP. Too bad. It was great SUP weather.
Norma and I arrived back at the marina but instead of heading to the ramp, we explored Breezy Point Creek, which flows into it. I reckon we got up about 0.7 mile from the bay.
Tenth photo: Near where the creek meets the marina.
Eleventh photo: Dragonfly.
Twelfth photo: My lovely wife.
Thirteenth photo: We paddled up the creek as far as we could without having to portage. A SUP is not the best choice for this task.
Fourteenth photo: Norma paddling along the grasses.
This trip had a lot: dolphin, rays, shark teeth, big open water, a narrow creek, sea nettles, and eagle and a green heron. Norma doesn't go kayaking with me too often but today, she got a taste of a little of most everything. I've been trying to get her out on the water more in preparation for a big kayak trip we're planning to the Apostle Islands.
We spent four hours our and got in 6.8 miles. On the way back, we stopped at Breezy Point Market for snacks and to buy fresh produce at a farm stand.
Arriving home, I checked out what we found near the cliffs. We found 23 shark teeth (19 for me, 4 for her), a few pieces of ray dental palate, some petrified wood, and two pieces of coral. See fifteenth photo.
Getting out early was a great idea though next Independence Day, I'll be sure to stay away from beaches. On the drive home, we saw a sign that said Sandy Point State Park was filled to capacity. Spending time out exploring remote places via kayak and SUP is much more to my liking than being in a crowd during the hottest part of the day.
That evening, thunderstorms rolled in and it rained really hard. I was glad to not be on the water at that time.
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Madison Bay and Fishing Creek
It was the early afternoon of July 2, 2017 and I had just finished a relatively short surf ski trip that morning. I had some time so I drove to Madison where I launched my SUP on Madison Bay. About a dozen kayakers had just launched before me. I'm guessing they were part of a meetup group.
I raced out to McKeil Point where I'd photographed cownose ray in the past. Taking pictures of rays and skates is a real art. The lighting needs to be good and the water must be calm. Clear, shallow waters are ideal because then the rays/skates can't stay so far below the surface that you can't see them. The challenge is knowing where the rays/skates will be. On February 12, 2017, I saw and photographed a map that shows cownose ray hot spots. Unfortunately, the best places to see them are not close to where I live. I really don't know much about the habits of rays. For me, seeing them is random a hit or miss. When I don't expect to see them, I do...and vice versa. Unfortunately, today I saw no rays in this area.
They say that when God gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. While there were no rays, I saw hundreds of sea nettles and one comb jelly. I also saw a few needlefish. So I took pictures of sea nettles. See first, second, third, and fourth photo. Yes, these photos were processed to enhance them.
I paddled into Fishing Creek to Cherry Point then cut across to the opposite side and then paddled to Town Point. I saw a bald eagle that didn't mind posing for me. See fifth photo.
Then I paddled back to McKeil Point and stayed along the east side of Madison Bay back to where I launched. I saw a lot of dead trees near the water as I did at James Island. See sixth photo. It is hard to say how much of this is due to sinking land, sea level rise, and just natural erosion. I'm no expert so I won't even try and speculate.
I ended up paddling 9.2 miles for a days total of 18.4 miles.
After paddling the surf ski in the morning and the SUP in the afternoon for equal distances, which do I prefer? I hate the SUP in the wind and I hate the surf ski in the chop. If the water is perfectly calm, then I love the surf ski because I can just fly through the water with little effort but my balance isn't as good as I'd like and my kayaking form suffers signficantly with even a little turbulence on the surf ski. A sea kayak is better if the conditions are less than ideal. I prefer the SUP for exploring unless there are downfalls just below the surface or if it is extremely shallow because it has a long, non-retractable fin. And the SUP is definitely best if I am taking photos, which is on most days.
I did some scouting. Looking into the water from land, I saw a crab (seventh photo) and a jellyfish which passed by the crab. See eighth photo.
I found a good commando launch site that provides access to the southeast side of Church Creek. See ninth photo and Church Creek launch. On other side of the road where I found this launch site, I saw two snakes. One was in the mud and about 2.5 feet long. I couldn't see the face of the other but it was small and rattled its tail, mimicking a rattlesnake but I was not fooled.
Heading home, I stopped in at the Under Armor outlet store and bought large black compression heatgear long sleeve shirt for only $15. I'll see how this works for paddling.
Late Sunday afternoon traffic on the way home from the eastern shore is usually pretty bad but not today. Independence Day is Tuesday and I expect most people on the eastern shore are staying through then.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
On Sunday, July 2, 2017, I paddled out to James Island. This is actually comprised of three sets of islands. See first photo, first column. I've been wanting to paddle here all year after reading about the place.
English colonists named the island for St. James in the 17th century. The island went from more than 1300 acres in the mid-18th century to about 550 acres by the late 1990s. Indeed, Mountford concluded, there were times when erosion and migrating sands affected James Island so much that there were periods when it was firmly connected, then not, to Taylors Island.
There isn't much there now. In fact, James Island looks like three islands because large slices of it have sunk into the Chesapeake, in part because of sea-level rise. The vegetation on one of the pieces was apparently decimated by last winter's wind and ice.
James Island is one of several in the bay that has eroded with time. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says an estimated 10,500 acres have been lost over the last 150 years in the mid-Chesapeake.
- from The Baltimore Sun - James Island losing ground in the Chesapeake
For more information on James Island, see
A disappearing island shows what rising sea levels mean for the Chesapeake Bay
A Maryland Island Is Sinking Into the Chesapeake Bay
Just after 0900, I launched my surf ski at Taylors Island Family Campground. There wasn't much wind so either the surf ski or the SUP would have worked. Actually, I brought both thinking that I would decide which to use when I arrived. I chose the surf ski because I figured the open water section in the Chesapeake Bay between Taylors Island and the southernmost section of James Island would be uninteresting so I wanted to get it over with fast. This turned out to not be a good choice. I saw six rays: a group of two, then a group of three, then a singleton. Near the second island is where I saw the three and I got to paddle alongside them about seven feet away for awhile. Then one swam under my kayak. On the surf ski, I could not easily get a photo of the rays but if I was on the SUP, I could have done so. It has been awhile since I photographed rays and I miss that.
I rode the flood tide to the southernmost of the three islands that comprise James Island. See second, third, and fourth photos, first column. While I call this the South Island, the truth of the matter is it is actually a group of islands that are very close to each other. I don't know if one can even paddle between the islands that make up this group without portaging. But probably in a few years, this will be possible. On the South Island, I found a heron rookery containing about a dozen nests. See fifth and sixth photos, first column. I'm guessing the young have all moved on now.
Next, I paddled to the second of the three islands. It is what I call the Middle Island (seventh photo, first column). Not much to say about this island except for a weird plant I found. See eighth photo, first column. This island isn't as big as the group that comprises the South Island.
One thing I noticed were all the dead trees, especially near the shore. This makes sense because the island is suppoosedly sinking. I expect other sinking islands will also have a lot of dead trees near the waterline.
My final stop on James Island was what I call the North Island. See ninth photo, first column. This is by far the smallest island. It only has one tree and that tree is dead. But to call my quest complete, I had to explore it. As I approached, I saw a lot of white birds. I thought they were common terns but after showing photos to a birder, I was told they were Forster's terns.
Tenth photo, first column: Terns coming in for a landing.
Eleventh photo, first column: Numerous terns in flight. I reckon the island had over a hundred.
First photo, second column: I was surprised to find nests with eggs in them so late in the year.
Second photo, second column: Once I saw juveniles, I cut my visit short and kept a greater distance between me and the nesting area.
Third photo, second column: Can you find the baby in this picture?
Fourth photo, second column: I like the way their tail forks.
Fifth photo, second column: Resting on a toppled stump.
Sixth photo, second column: Profile shot.
Seventh photo, second column: American Oystercatcher. I saw two of them. I think this is the first one I've seen in Maryland.
It was about 4 miles to the North Island. Now it was 1100 and near high tide. So I started heading back, riding the ebb tide.
I explored Oyster Cove. Here, I found the hexagonal foundation of something, but what? See eighth photo, second column. I thought it might be a small lighthouse but I could find nothing on-line to confirm this.
Also in Oyster Cove, I saw a bald eagle. See ninth photo, second column.
I headed south, back to my destination along the northwest side of Taylors Island. I pulled ashore to look around and found the beach full of oyster shells. See tenth photo, second column.
I finished my 9.2 mile trip back at the campground ramp around 1230. See eleventh photo, second column.
I didn't paddle far but I saw a lot. I still had time and wasn't ready to head back. I'd driven too far to leave now. The forecast said I'd have very calm wind for awhile. So I did a second trip.
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After work on June 28, 2017, I headed out to launch my SUP at Solleys Cove.
I've been on the water a lot more than normal lately. This is because the weather has been so nice. Maryland summers are typically hot and humid but over the last two weeks, the temperature has been more spring-like. This would change in a couple of days. Until then, I'll get out as much as I can.
The area around the American Legion at the launch site and the road into it is changing. The dirt road is much nicer than it used to be. I remember about 12 year ago helping a van that got stuck in the mud. Now, that would not happen. Today I saw a cement truck backing out on the road. There is a lot of residential construction taking place nearby. Closer to the Legion, there was a lot of dirt piled up. Not sure what they plan to do with it.
There are other changes taking place. Last year, I remember reading about how someone (company, government, or developer) would be cleaning up the area where the shipwrecks reside. Driving on highway 695 looking south on Curtis Creek, I didn't see the biggest shipwreck. Perhaps I just missed it. I'll have to verify this some other time.
My original plan was to paddle north to the industrial area. But the wind was picking up and would made a return trip somewhat challenging. So instead, I went west.
I paddled across Marley Creek to Furnace Creek and explored every nook and cranny, starting on the north side. I made my way up Back Creek (on some maps, this is called Buck Creek). Here I saw a little blue heron. A year ago, I never even knew such a bird existed. But being connected with the MD Birding Facebook page has really increased my awareness of local birds. This little blue heron wouldn't let me get very close. Eventually, it flew to a location that I could not access via SUP. I pulled ashore and walked through the mud to get closer and snap a picture. See first photo. Eventually, I would like to get a photo of a tricolored heron.
I saw a great egret. See second photo. As I mentioned on June 26, 2017, my camera doesn't photograph egrets well. Actually, I'm quite sure it can...just not using the default settings.
I paddled under the Arundel Expressway (route 10) but didn't go too much further. It was near low tide and I didn't want to get stuck. I saw a fellow catching things with a net under the bridge. He put things he caught in a five gallon bucket. Maybe he was catching minnows for bait.
Movement in a tree caught my eye. It turned out to be a groundhog. It was about 12 feet up. See third photo and fourth photos.
I saw several least terns flying around and then hitting the water hard to catch fish. They were too fast for me to photograph but the ones on the piles were easy to shoot.
Fifth photo: Least tern with a fish.
Sixth photo: Same least tern after it ate the fish.
Seventh photo: Least terns look like a smaller version of royal terns.
I came across a boat ramp on 7th Street. Not much information about it on-line. One source says it is a community boat ramp but it doesn't look like one. See eighth photo. I didn't go ashore to investigate it further.
I paddled back across Marley Creek to Tanyard Creek. Here, I found a boat wreck (ninth photo).
I got in 8.6 miles.
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After work on June 26, 2017, I launched my surf ski at Galesville. This put me on the West River.
I kayaked north where I explored Cox Creek and Popham Creek. It was in one these creeks that I saw the first of four green herons. See first photo.
In this same area, I pulled over at a sandy area. I saw something interesting. See second photo. This is the moult of something but what? It is about two inches long and I saw nothing to indicate it had legs or wings except for those two flappy things in the back. It was on the shore, about two feet from the waterline. High tide was about 3 hours later and I expect by then, it might have been underwater or nearly so. I contacted various people, asking what it might be. The best answer I received was from Dr. Michael J. Raupp, Professor of Entomology and Extension Specialist at The University of Maryland. He thinks it is the shed skin of a aquatic fly larva. Based on his input, I'm leaning towards it being from an aquatic snipe fly larva.
Next, I saw a snowy egret. I know it was a snowy egret (and not a great egret) because of its bright yellow feet. I have a hard time photographing these birds. Not because I can't get close enough...but rather because my camera keeps washing out photos of them because they are so white.
I explored Scaffold Creek and Cheston Creek. I found that the further I got from Galesville and the closer to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), thing became more natural.
I rounded Cheston Point and then paddled into the mouth of the Rhode River. Here, I pulled over at the Cheston Point Living Shoreline Project.
The purpose of this shoreline, as is with many others, is to stabilize the shoreline while providing native habitat for animals.
The south wind was picking up and making things a little choppy so I paddled across the West River to Shady Side where things were calmer. Then I made my way into South Creek.
I saw another green heron. See third photo.
There was no shortage of ospreys or osprey platforms. Some had perches on the side. But there was one platform that was clearly the Cadillac platform. It had a lattice border. One might think it would attract a very dominant osprey. But no, instead a goose occupied it. See fourth photo.
One might also think that with so many osprey platforms, there would be no need for osprey to build a nest elsewhere. Yet this osprey (fifth photo) preferred a rooftop to a platform.
I stayed out pretty late so I could watch the lovely sunset over Galesville. See sixth photo.
I got in a little over 18 miles.
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Lyons Creek and House Creek
On June 24, 2017, Norma and I did some yardwork. She found a turtle. In Maryland, Eastern Painted Turtles and Box Turtles are very common. Every summer, we find at least one box turtle in our yard. But this day, we found a painted Box Turtle in our front flower garden. No, this isn't a hybrid, but rather a Box Turtle that someone had painted. See first photo, first column. Not sure what the numbers that were painted on indicate.
After doing our chores, we drove out to Selby's Landing for some water time. We paddled on the Patuxent River.
Second photo, first column: Me on the SUP.
Third photo, first column: Turning to face Norma.
The two of us paddled about 0.8 mile to Lyons Creek. This is a great creek because it starts out fairly narrow and stays narrow and deep. From the launch site, it is about 2.5 miles to where one has to portage so it is a great beginner trip. This is the first time I've paddled here on the SUP.
Fourth photo, first column: SUPping by the grasses.
Fifth photo, first column: Norma kayaking.
Sixth photo, first column: Very flat water.
Seventh photo, first column: In the upstream sections of Lyons Creek, it got shady. There were a few paw paw trees. We munched on ripe wild berries growing on the shore.
Eighth photo, first column: Paddling downstream. A little later, Norma spotted an eagle.
Ninth photo, first column: Shark boat on the move.
Back on the Patuxent River, the clouds and low sun made for some dramatic pictures. See tenth photo, first column.
We saw an osprey nest which we investigated.
Eleventh photo, first column: Norma wonders if there is anything in the nest.
First photo, second column: Being on a SUP, I had a view that kayakers could only dream of. Two juvenile osprey laying low in the nest!
I paddled against a light headwind (second photo, second column).
The spatterdock created a labyrinth which we cut through. Since it was near high tide, minimal damage was done to these aquatic plants. See third photo, second column.
Norma and I paddled back to the launch site but we didn't stop there. There was still time before the park closed so we headed out to House Creek. I had just been here two days prior on June 22, 2017. That was my first time on this creek and I knew Norma would love it. Indeed she did.
Fourth photo, second column: Paddling up House Creek.
Fifth photo, second column: Red-winged blackbird. Norma took this photo.
Sixth photo, second column: One of several muskrats we saw.
Seventh photo, second column: Time to turn around. We got about 0.7 mile up House Creek.
Eighth photo, second column: One reason I love Maryland is because it is so green.
Ninth photo, second column: I saw a fish jump onto this leaf. It stayed there a few seconds before it flopped itself off.
Tenth photo, second column: I heard noises coming from inside a beaver lodge. It sounded like a mix between gnawing and gurgling. Unfortunately, by the time Norma caught up, the sounds were no more. I can paddle very quietly on a SUP and sometimes animals don't know I'm around.
Eleventh photo, second column: Paddling amongst the spatterdock.
Twelfth photo, second column: Profile shot.
Norma and I put in an easy 6.7 miles and made it out of the park just a couple of minutes before they closed at 1930.
We ended the day at a nice Mexican restaurant in Gambrills with outdoor seating, listening to a good rock band called "Foreplay." It was a very nice day.
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I worked a half day on June 22, 2017 and then got out on the water to enjoy the good weather. Actually, the wind was light (good) but it was overcast (bad). I launched my SUP at Selby's Landing. I've paddled this area numerous times and know it pretty well. But there are certain parts that I've just glossed over without really exploring in detail. Today I would leave no stone unturned. My goal was to explore every inch of shoreline in and around Jug Bay, a section of the Patuxent River.
I started by paddling up House Creek. This is a very scenic little tributary which I was able to paddle up 0.7 mile. Here, I saw a one foot long snake swimming and a couple of beaver lodges.
Next, I made my way over to Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. I found a shady area, pushed my fin into the dirt to keep from floating away, and then took a 15 minute power nap on the SUP.
I paddled over to the River Farm area and meandered through the maze of spatterdock. I ended up near an observation area (first photo, first column). Here, I saw a muskrat swimming away. It was near its house (second photo, first column). I quietly pulled up alongside it and then listened. I heard a noise that sounded like someone gently stroking a washboard. I reckon there were babies inside gnawing on something. That is the first time I've heard sounds from inside a muskrat mound. That was my high point of the day.
I passed Jackson's Landing. It was now around high tide.
I saw three eagles and got a descent photo of a great blue heron. See third photo, first column.
I turned around at River Pier at the end of the Railroad Bed Trail at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. After crossing the river, I stopped at a beaver lodge (fourth photo, first column) before making my way back.
I spent much of the day taking photos of osprey. Since the water was calm and I was on my SUP, it was pretty easy to take photos. I was working on action shots which I find much more interesting than stationary ones.
Fifth photo, first column: Ready to take flight.
Sixth photo, first column: Different angle.
First photo, second column: This one is carrying a small fish.
Second photo, second column: Spread eagle, but not an eagle.
Third photo, second column: Looks like it is hovering but it is not.
Fourth photo, second column: One osprey flew away. This one remained. I assume those two are the parents and the one laying low on the right is the offspring. I didn't even see the offspring until I downloaded the photos.
Along the shoreline of Patuxent River Park, I saw another muskrat (fifth photo, second column).
Just before landing, a biplane flew overhead. See sixth photo, second column.
I got in a very easy 10.2 miles.
Before leaving the area, I noticed that there is a lot of relatively new stuff along Critical Area Driving Tour. I'll have to return with Norma and check this out.
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(Little) Patapsco River
To celebrate the Summer Solstice (our longest day of the year) on June 21, 2017, I worked a long day at work. But then I went kayaking, launching my surf ski at Broening Park in Baltimore. I chose this spot because I didn't have a lot of time to drive and it was rush hour so I didn't want to venture far. Spending more time on the road than in the boat is a sin, according to Saki's rules of kayaking.
Launching at Broening Park put me on what I call the (Big) Patapsco River. Paddling south, I came to the (Little) Patapsco River. The two are the same river and the little section is just the upstream part of the big section. But there is no gradual increase/decrease in size. It is quite sudden, which makes me think the two should not have the same name...but they do.
I paddled upstream until I had to portage, making it up about 3.6 miles to Hammonds Ferry Road. See first photo. Someday I hope to start much further upstream and do a one way downstream trip after a heavy rain.
My trip started out windy and sunny. Then it got cloudy and rained. Then the wind died and I enjoyed a nice sunset. The temperature was perfect...in the low 80s and high 70s. It made me think about how my relatives in Sacramento have been complaining about the consecutive 100+ degree days out there. We don't get a lot of great weather here in the Baltimore area as compared some some places along the west coast but we do have variety and if you have flexible work hours like me, you can often get out when it is nice.
I saw a fallen tree about 18 inches in diameter. There was a tire around it. See second photo. I'm guessing someone must have put it on when the tree was still a sapling.
I saw something I could not identify. See third photo. I posted it on Facebook and nobody could tell me what it is. It is about 14 feet tall. I found it on the Anne Arundel County side about a mile or so downstream from highway 695. There were some piles and other unidentified metallic debris around.
I explored the various ponds about a mile and a half upstream from the mouth of the Little Patapsco. Here, I found a sumac tree in bloom. See fourth photo.
After a light rain, a rainbow came out (fifth photo).
Much of this area is a narrow section of park land surrounded by development. Baltimore City is very close. Yet there is plenty of wildlife. I saw two muskrats, a bald eagle, a few turtles, several geese (sixth photo), a fox that engaged me in a staring contest, and two black-crowned night-herons (seventh photo). I don't often see the latter. I hope someday to get a good photo of a yellow-crowned night-heron, which I consider even more beautiful.
I got in 12.7 miles and was feeling very zen.
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June 18, 2017 was a mediocre day to get out on the water. It was hot, humid, hazy, and the wind would pick up later in the afternoon.
I launched my surf ski from Homeport Farm Park. See first photo. I've known about this place for awhile now but had never been there. A few years ago, the Chesapeake Paddlers Assocation (CPA) Pier 7 group launched here weekly during paddling season. But once the marina that controls this area underwent significant changes (around July 16, 2014), the kayak club lost their privilege and then quit meeting here. Since I had launched here so much, I was pretty much burnt out with this area, which is mostly expensive, developed waterfront property. Not a great deal of nature.
After almost three years, I figured it was time to return and paddle on the South River. Launching put me on Church Creek (a tributary of the South River) which is fairly quiet. I paddled downstream to the South River and then upstream where I explored the various sections on the north side.
After paddling under the South River Bridge, I explored Gingerville Creek. I was hoping to see interesting wildlife but I saw very little. However, I did spot a muskrat and a colorful pelican. See second photo.
Next, I went under the Riva Bridge and went up Broad Creek as far as I could. See third photo. I noticed that the North and South Basins flow into this creek but I never even got close to them.
I'm always on the watch for shipwrecks. I saw one (fourth photo) but I much prefer those of a more historic nature.
I continued heading west (upstream). I kayaked under highway 50 and then under Defense Highway (route 450). I made my way up Bacon Ridge Branch as far as I could. I was stopped at a fallen log a third of a mile upstream from route 450. See fifth photo. At that point, the creek was too narrow to turn around easily. I saw several berry bushes with unripe fruit (sixth photo).
On the return trip, I found a wayward and water filled tandem kayak on the shore. It looked like it might have been improperly secured and got away during a storm. I reported this to a couple of kayak clubs and a nearby marina and posted photos. See orange Old Town tandem kayak and serial number. I don't know if it was ever claimed.
On such a hot day, there were a lot of people out on the water including a few kayakers and one woman on a SUP wearing the expected attire which she wore very well.
Numerous powerboats created a significant number of boat wakes. That, combined with 20 mph gusts made for occasional rough water. Near Poplar Point, I found it extremely difficult to paddle through the "washing machine" effect. Fortunately, I was almost back.
I got in just over 20 miles.
I came home and found a praying mantis egg case (seventh photo) attached to the clematis vine at the side of our house.
I helepd Norma prepare for a party to thank the volunteers who helped out at Savage Fest.
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Upper Patuxent River
After work, I launched my SUP at Patuxent Wetlands Park on June 13, 2017. I paddled upstream on the Patuxent River, exploring every tributary along the way. While I've kayaked on this section of the river numerous times, I had never taken the time to really explore it. Instead, I was just doing a one way trip. As I've grown older, I've realized that I'm more more into exploration rather than expedition.
It didn't take long before I saw my first muskrat, not far from the launch site. See first photo, first column.
I made my way up Back Channel on the west side. This waterway is very scenic and natural. It offers at least two miles of good exploration...more if you're willing to portage. On Back Channel, the second muskrat of the day dove under as my SUP approached. But as my SUP continued moving forward, it came up only about a foot away from it. Startled, it fearfully dove under again. I followed the third muskrat to his house. See second photo, first column.
Spatterdock and other vegetation created a narrow path for me to navigate. See third photo, first column.
Back on the main part of the river, I saw a lot of paw paw trees bearing unripe fruit. See fourth photo, first column. I plan to return in the early autumn to harvest it.
The water was extremely calm and peaceful. The whole time I was out, I never saw another person on the water. See fifth photo, first column.
At my turn around point (likely just south of Snake/Spyglass Island), I saw the empty shell case are from a dragonfly nymph. It was about two inches long.
First photo, second column: You can see the hole from where the mature insect emerged.
Second photo, second column: Side view.
My GPS showed a pond on the east side of the river. I went ashore and found it. It was mostly dry. See third photo, second column. Here, I found several lizard's tail plants (fourth photo, second column).
I saw two snakes swimming. One was the fastest underwater swimmer I'd ever seen. This (fifth photo, second column) is the other.
By the time I was done, I saw a total of five muskrats. Also one eagle. I got in 9.8 miles. This was a great de-stressing trip.
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Tuckahoe State Park camping weekend
On June 10, 2017, Norma and I led a group of our friends kayaking on Tuckahoe Creek.
Upper Tuckahoe Creek
After spending a little time exploring West Annapolis on May 30, 2017, I drove out to Tuckahoe Lake where I launched my surf ski. This is a terrible place to paddle a surf ski because of all the narrow turns and shallow areas when paddling upstream on the upper part of Tuckahoe Creek. So why did I bring it? Because today would be a double header for me. That is, I would kayak here and then someplace else. Most of my time would be spent at that someplace else (right after) where a surf ski was a better choice.
On June 10, 2017, I plan to lead a group of mostly beginners who will rent and launch at the boat house and then paddle up to campground loop. This is about 2 miles, one way. It had been raining a lot over the last few days and there was a noticeable current. At times it might be a little challenging for a beginner but doable.
This section is best paddled in a short plastic kayak without a rudder/skeg or with a rudder/skeg retracted. Definitely not suitable for a SUP. I might want to bring loppers to cut hanging vegetation. There are multiple ways to get to the destination. Best to follow a strong current on a wide path. Going upstream one way and comming back down another is certainly a suitable option.
Just upstream of the turnaround (the campground loop), a fallen tree made further progress very difficult. I did not proceed. But I'm glad I looked because I found a three foot long northern water snake nearby. See first and second photos.
One of the sights on this section of the creek is a big tree that has partially fallen due to beaver activity. See third photo.
A lot of turtles were out. I don't think you will find a better place in Maryland to kayak if you want to see a lot of turtles.
I got in 4.9 miles and then headed to my next adventure.
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Queenstown to Winchester Creek
I had just finished a scouting trip less than an hour prior. Now I was in for the main feature.
I checked out a place I found in satellite photos called Skipjack Cove. See first photo. It would be a great place to launch if there wasn't a big sign that says "Ramp Closed." So instead, I did a semi-commando launch at Queenstown Dock. This put me on Little Queenstown Creek whcih I fully explored.
I made my way out onto the Chester River than paddled downstream (southwest).
It was approaching high tide so I was able to explore some shallow areas that flowed into the Chester. One of these was Walsey Creek. Near the entrance, I saw a green heron. See second and third photos. If you can get about an eighth of a mile into the creek, it gets deeper and you can go pretty far upstream.
The day was cold, dark, and wet. I got drizzled on. Visibility was bad. I was dressed like it was early April. But the wind was calm (fourth photo) and I saw more eagles than people when I was out on the water. That's always a good thing. It was a great time to be alone with my thoughts and surf ski.
I pulled ashore near the mouth of Walsey Creek (fifth photo) and looked around on the beach. I spotted a footprint from a great blue heron. See sixth photo. It looks like we both wear the same size shoes.
A little further downstream on the Chester River, I saw several horseshoe crabs. See seventh and eighth photos. This is the time of year when they come ashore to mate. Some get stuck on land and die.
Continuing downstream, I saw several huge retaining wall blocks. Each was probably the weight of a small car. In the ninth photo, notice how the bumps on top of one fits into the groves of the bottom of the one above.
Eventually, I made it to my destination, Winchester Creek. This is where I explored on May 10, 2017. I expect soon I will continue my explorations further upstream on the Chester River, launching from Queenstown and paddling north. Unfortunately, public launch sites or marinas with ramps are not always where I'd like so it might be hard to fully explore Reed Creek and Grove Creek unless I am feeling very ambitious or I find an unpublished launch area or marina with a ramp. After studying satellite photos, it appears there might (but will unlikely) be access to Grove Creek just off Tower Point Road at 39.060108, -76.152852. Such areas I call a launch site desert because there are so few launch sites that many areas cannot be accessed in what an experienced sea kayaker can paddle in a day. In contrast, a launch site oasis would be a place like Rock Hall where, according to the Kent County ADC map, there are a large number of places to launch in a small area. But since I haven't actually launched at Rock Hall, I'm not totally certain about this. These ADC maps sometimes show ramps that are at private community beaches.
I kayaked back towards Queenstown but instead of heading directly to Little Queenstown Creek, I explored Queenstown Creek and its tributaries: Ditchers Cove and Salthouse Cove. This whole area was very natural. By now it was high tide and I was able to get pretty far upstream and see some pristine areas. But there were many fallen trees and limbs just below the surface that caught on my non-retractable rudder. I was glad I was not on my SUP though if I was, it probably would have been fine as long as I stayed further from the shore in the deeper sections.
I saw three muskrats.
I finished my exploration a little after dusk, getting in exactly 16 miles for a days total of just under 21 miles.
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Return to Upper Magothy River
After my trip on May 19, 2017 where I didn't get to do much exploring, I returned to the same area. But this time, I kayaked on much more of the Magothy River area, including Cattail Creek and Cockey Creek. There was no thunder but there was 27 mph gusts. I was mostly sheltered but occasionally, I caught the full force of the wind.
I launched my surf ski at Beachwood Park after work. As I paddled, I concentrated on good form. I remembered what my shooting instructors taught us at Marine Corps Security Forces School:
Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
I really made a conscious effort to employ good body rotation and to pump my legs. This is easy when the water is flat but only the best (not me) can keep this up on rough water.
As far as I can tell, most people in this part of Pasadena who have waterfront property also have power boats. But I was surprised to see how many of these boats were not even in the water. See first photo. Here it is the first day of the Memorial Day weekend and they are not prepared to get out and enjoy the water. If I spent that much money on a power boat, I'd surely be wanting to get my moneys worth.
Kayaking along, I saw many of the common birds: osprey and blue herons. But then something unusual caught my eye. See second and third photos. It wasn't until I got home that I found out what it was. It is a Mandarin duck. They don't live out here naturally so it is likely an escapee from someone's ornamental collection.
Mandarin Ducks (Aix galericulata) are widely reared as ornamental birds in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and elsewhere in North America. Escaped birds are occasionally seen, but we have only one record of the birds breeding on Chesapeake Bay (D'Anna 2012).
- from National Exotic Marine and Estuarine Species Information System - Chesapeake Bay Introduced Species Database
I put in 16.66 miles.
Once I got home, I posted the Mandarin duck photo on the MD Birding Facebook page. Folks really liked it. Quite a find for a half ass birdwatcher like me!
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Kings Creek Water Trail
On May 20, 2017, my lovely wife, Norma, and I went kayaking on the Kings Creek Water Trail. We there there just last year on April 17, 2016 but this time we would do the route that we hadn't done since the first year we met in July 2, 2006.
We launched from Kingston Landing.
...back when the tobacco industry was big, this here landing was a major port. In the late 1600s, Lord Baltimore passed an act saying that all imports and exports needed to pass through one of 31 designated ports. Kingston Landing was the only approved port on the upper Choptank, making it a critical stop.
- from "(wixstatic) Kings Creek Water Trail"
It was overcast. I estimated wind gusts to be around 20 mph out on the Choptank River. But we would only be on this for 0.2 mile before we reached the mouth of Kings Creek.
Kayaking up Kings Creek, we still caught a good bit of wind at times. But eventually, bay grasses gave way to trees which provided more shelter. After awhile, the sun came out too.
Norma was enjoying taking lots of photos of me. Since I usually paddle alone, I wasn't minding too much. See first and second photos, first column.
We explored some of the small tributaries which meandered through arrow arum. See third and fourth photos, first column.
Spatterdock plants were looking lush (fifth photo, first column) and their flowers were in bloom. See sixth photo, first column.
Eventually, we paddled under Kingston Road Bridge (seventh photo, first column). Be sure to watch out for fishing lines here.
Now the creek was more shaded with lots of trees hugging the shoreline, providing shade. See eighth photo, first column.
Soon, we came to the Kings Creek and Beaverdam Branch confluence. Last year, we headed left on Kings Creek while in 2006, we went up Beaverdam Branch. Today, we would do the latter. Marking the split was a beaver lodge (first photo, second column). We saw five throughout the day but no beavers. We also tried quietly paddling up close to listen for small beavers inside but heard none. Yes, I have heard them before on previous trips but not in this area.
It didn't take long before we were stopped at a fallen log which we portaged over. See second photo, second column. This enabled us to get significantly further upstream.
It was now around 1500 and near high tide.
Laurel flowers hung over the water. See third photo, second column.
A small beaver dam stopped us but only temporarily. We were able to get over it with a little speed. See fourth photo, second column.
Heading back downstream, the water was sometimes quite calm. See fifth photo, second column.
Norma and I stopped for a walk at Kings Creek Preserve, part of a larger tract known as the Choptank Wetlands Preserve. See sixth photo, second column. This was acquired by the Nature Conservancy. We had a snack and stretched our legs a bit here.
I had read about a trail and boardwalk close by in Kings Creek Preserve - Stories and Kings Creek Preserve - Trips. Looking at a satellite photo, the boardwalk appeared to be about 0.4 mile long! It took awhile for us to find it and what we found was very disappointing. There was a small, overgrown opening in the vines and grass where we could barely see an information sign. This was the start of the boardwalk. There was a fallen barricade that said "keep out." Beyond this was the boardwalk which was in shambles. The wood was rotting to the point where we had little confidence that it would sustain our weight. See seventh photo, second column. Had the Nature Conservancy maintained this, I'm sure it would have been a great place to visit.
We didn't see much wildlife that day. A few turtles and a few eagles but not many of either. But the scenery was fabulous. In my opinion, this is one of the most scenic creeks/rivers for kayaking in Maryland.
We paddled 9.5 miles.
On the way back, we stopped in at Tuckahoe State Park to scout things out for a camping trip that Norma will be leading in June.
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Upper Magothy River
May 19, 2017 was an "iffy" kayaking day. The weather forecast after work was not good but not terrible. I think they were calling for 60% chance of thunderstorms starting around 1900 in northern Anne Arundel County. Only 30% chance further south in the county but it would have taken twice as long to get there. I wasn't planning to be out long and I didn't have a lot of time so I decided to stay in the northern part of the county, take my chances, and launch at Beachwood Park. Here, at least, I would be sheltered from high winds that might arise during a storm.
I was on the upper section of the Magothy River by 1640. I paddled upstream, north of Magothy Bridge Road. Here, I saw a cormorant with a catfish. See first photo.
Immediately after launching, I saw a muskrat swimming.
Kayaking downstream, I saw a Canadian goose family. See second photo.
Next, I explored Old Man Creek where I saw two men in a tandem kayak and two women on SUPs wearing the traditional SUP uniform...bikinis.
It started raining and then I heard thunder. I raced back (6+ mph) to the launch site and then pulled over. It rained pretty hard for awhile. See third photo. Eventually, I figured at least one storm had passed though it was still raining lightly. So I launched again. The sun came out but I knew the bad weather wasn't over so I stayed within two miles of the launch area. On my surf ski, I could make it back quicky if conditions got dangerous. I could still hear thunder but it was pretty far away.
A rainbow emerged to my east. See fourth photo. I thought about what Poison said back in 1986:
Sometimes the rainbow baby is better than the pot of gold.
My goal was to get in a fast 10 miles. Of course, all the photos I was taking wasn't helping with my speed. My last photo was of ducklings and their mother. See fifth photo.
I finished the day with 10.3 miles and a moving average of 5.1 mph. I was really focusing more on form than speed. Good form enables me to go fast without upsetting my shoulder.
During the first part of the drive home, it rained so hard, I had to pull over because visibility was bad. It was what I called a "North Carolina rain." Then it started to hail. A neighbor wrote on his Facebook page that he was seeing dime-sized hail. I was concerned that the hail might damage my boat so I pulled under a tree and waited until the worst of the storm passed. Then, resuming my trek home, I encountered some pretty heavy traffic. No hail damage.
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May 16, 2017 was a very challenging day at work. But once my main obstacle was complete, I rewarded myself by leaving early to go paddleboarding. The wind was supposed to be fairly calm but as I drove over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, I looked down and saw whitecaps.
I drove out to Fairlee Creek (first photo), where I had never been before. I launched at 1410.
Following the shoreline, I started by exploring every part of this creek where it wasn't too shallow as long as I didn't have to portage. This led me up Orchards Branch until I came to a beaver dam. See second photo. It was pretty high and looked very solid. Later, I studied satellite photos and am pretty certain it was build on top of a boardwalk or the remnants of one. Maybe next time I will portage over and explore what's on the other side.
Orchards Branch and the whole southwest side of the creek was natural and scenic. Surprisingly, I saw few turtles. No snakes either. It was such a nice sunny day, I was certain I'd see some.
I felt something at my heel. Looking down, I saw a fish flopping about. Behind that, was another. They both jumped onto my SUP. I put them back in the water although the larger one appeared to be dead. I don't know how long they were on my SUP. See third photo.
My map showed islands at the mouth of the creek near an area called Shell Point. But there were no such islands. Normally, when I say that, it is because the islands have eroded away but in this case, the land between them was build up. I'm guessing dredged material was put there. That doesn't typically occur naturally.
Out in the Chesapeake Bay, I contemplated crossing over to Pooles Island. This would have been very ambitious but the wind was too strong. It would have been far too exhausting to cover such a long distance under those conditions. I did have my VHF radio with me to contact the Coast Guard if I was in trouble but I decided I was better off staying close to shore.
I saw two pelicans. I'd never seen pelicans this far north before.
I paddled south. My GPS showed Mendinhall Lake separated by a narrow spit of land. I portaged across about 22 feet of land and then explored the lake. It was very peaceful. I saw a snapping turtle.
Returning north, I stopped to explore the base of the cliffs. Unlike Calvert Cliffs, this area is not very old, geologically. Still, I wondered what I might find. I know that further north, people find things left behind by Native Americans. Would I find arrow heads? I've never found one of these before. Some parts of the cliffs had broken away (fourth photo), leaving gray dirt that reminded me of Jurassic Beach in England where we found ammonites on July 27, 2016. But looking at the broken parts of the cliffs, I saw no sign of any animal remains. On the ground, I found a few shells and bricks from where a structure might have once stood. From a distance, this place looked a little like Calvert Cliffs but up close, it was much different. Even the rocks were totally different. They were much larger and rounded here.
I saw a net with a lot of herons perched atop. The sun was in a good position to get photos of me approaching from the south. The wind was to my back which allowed me to stop from a distance, take photos, and then drift closer. As I got closer, the birds flew away. This enabled me to get some action photos...my new goal in bird photography. See fifth and sixth photos.
Back in Fairlee Creek, I saw more bald eagles than I had seen all year previously. None were willing to sit and pose for me. I tried to take action photos but none came out good. However, the vultures did not mind posing. See seventh photo.
As I made my way up one branch of the creek towards Fairlee Lake, I saw several acres of lotus plants. I know this is what they were because of the leaves sticking above the surface where water beaded up.. See eighth photo. In a couple of months, this place will be covered in giant leaves and huge flowers. This was the only part of the creek where I saw these plants.
The upstream sections of the creek were very scenic (ninth photo) but also quite shallow. If I return, I'll be sure to do so at high tide.
I finished at 1920, having put in 15 miles. It took awhile to get home but it was at least late enough so I wasn't driving into the setting sun as I crossed the Bay Bridge. I often try to plan my trips on the eastern shore to avoid this. Of course if I lived on the Eastern Shore, that wouldn't be an issue but so far, I haven't been able to convince Norma to make the move.
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Chesapeake Beach to Roosevelt Cliffs
On May 14, 2017, I launched my kayak from Chesapeake Beach. This put me on Fishing Creek. I then paddled out into the Chesapeake Bay.
Along the breakwater, I saw several birds.
First photo: Royal terns.
Second photo: An action photo. I think I'm going to start taking more photos like this.
Third photo: Bufflehead duck.
My goal was to find shark teeth and other fossils. We had some big storms over the last couple weeks so I figured it would be a good time to look after the cliffs might have eroded a bit. I launched about an hour and 45 minutes before low tide and didn't return until almost 3 hours after. I used tide info for Plum Point which is just a little south of where I'd be.
Kayaking south with the ebb tide, I saw many people at Bayfront Park. Some were looking for teeth but most were just enjoying the beach. As I continued south, I only saw fossil hunters. After I got to the point where I no longer saw people, I pulled ashore and looked for shark teeth. I found many.
I was looking at Randle Cliffs. See fourth photo. After searching for about a half hour, I continued kayaking.
I paddled south of the Naval Research Lab. This is federal government property and you can't land here. No reason to do so...it is all rip rap.
I made a few stops along the beach south of the Lab. Here I found big chunks of dirt containing shells. See fifth and sixth photos.
I did my final search (seventh photo) at Roosevelt Cliffs which is a very good place to find teeth.
Returning back to Chesapeake Beach, the wind picked up. There were 30 mph gusts but it was mostly from the west so the cliffs sheltered me a bit. I was expecting high winds which is why I didn't bring my SUP.
At Bayfront Park, I paddled up Brownies Creek (eighth photo). I saw a snapping turtle. It was floating with its carapace sticking out of the water and its head bent into the water so at first I thought it was a dead horseshoe crab. I plowed over a low beaver dam but that didn't get me much further. I could only go 0.15 mile to Bayside Road (route 261).
Back at the breakwater, I saw two young male kayakers and a female paddleboarder. I knew this was not good. They were ill prepared. They wore swimsuits with no PFDs. The water wasn't terribly cold but it was cold enough so that if they spent much time in the water, they might start to lose some coordination. She was on her knees fighting the wind. At first I thought she was a kayaker because she had a double bladed paddle. They went just past the breakwater until they realized the wind was too much. But returning to shore was a challenge for her. The men couldn't do anything to help her. She made it to the breakwater and climbed on top. She was walking back, carrying her SUP. I paddled out to her and offered to tow her back but she declined. Since she wasn't in any danger from drowning or hypothermia, I wasn't going to argue. I knew the men with her would come out to help her as soon as they could. As I headed back, I saw a different fellow run out on the breakwater to help her. It wasn't smart of her to go out on a SUP in such high winds but at least she turned around while she was still able to make it back to land. Being a young, fit woman, wearing a bikini, she was assured that some man would help her if she got in trouble. It worked!
I ended up paddling 10.75 miles. About 3 hours of this was spent kayaking while 90 minutes was spent looking for shark teeth.
On my way home, I stopped in Hanover to do some chores and came across this little guy (ninth photo).
Once I got home, I rinsed off the fossils and then counted them. See tenth photo. This is comprised of
157 shark teeth. The big tooth is hiding one of the smaller ones.
10 ray dental palate fragments
One piece of petrified wood
My finds include teeth from a sand shark, cow shark, snaggletooth shark, and extinct tiger shark. All these are not uncommon finds in this area. The areas I searched are known to geologists as the Calvert Formation. It contains fossils dating back over 20 million years. My information is based on "Fossils of Calvert Cliffs" by Wallace L. Ashby.
While I really like the big shark tooth, the ones with multiple points (at 4 and 5 o'clock if you look at the photo like a clock) are the most exotic. These are from a cow shark. Here are my notes on cow sharks.
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Southern Mouth of Chester River
On May 10, 2017, I got into work a little early and left early. Then I launched my stand up paddleboard (SUP) at Jackson Creek Public Landing. This was my first SUP trip of the year and my first time launching from this site. It has a nice beach for launching. See first photo, first column.
The day was a mix of sun and clouds. The water was not too cold and I thought about just bringing but not wearing the wetsuit. But I knew that in a couple of hours, it would be colder and I would definitely want it so I decided to wear it for the whole trip.
The last several days and the next few days were going to be cold, cloudy, and wet so I really needed to take advantage of the good weather today. I launched around 1530. I was hoping to get on the water much earlier but work took priority.
The water was extremely calm, all the way from the shore of Jackson Creek out to Eastern Neck Island, three miles away. See second photo, first column. It would have been a good day for a serious open water crossing.
I was on the south side of the mouth of the Chester River paddling west along the shoreline. After rounding Long Point, I explored Muddy Creek where I stopped to look at oyster shells (third photo, first column) near a small island (fourth photo, first column). Here, I found a big, rusty metal thing (fifth photo, first column). Not sure what it was.
Exploring the upper sections of Muddy Creek, I saw a muskrat...my first of the year. See first photo, second column. I was right up against highway 50...the same one that goes all the way to Sacramento.
I saw one eagle.
A little further west, I explored some of the natural areas along the east side of Narrows Pointe Drive. See second photo, second column. I'm pretty sure this peninsula was an island in the not-so-distant past.
I followed a green heron (third photo, second column).
Eventually, I reached my westward destination, Kent Narrows. See fourth photo, second column.
I started making my way east, past Jackson Creek and continuing onto Winchester Creek, which I explored fully. The eastern side is shallow and very natural. It looks like the area is much less developed east of here.
I returned to Jackson Creek and explored the eastern side of it. Much to my surprise, it was very interesting. In particuclar, Beach Harbor has some narrow, scenic waterways. See fifth photo, second column. Just south of the mobile home park along the road, there is s shallow pond (go at high tide) where I saw a snapping turtle and another muskrat as it got dark.
A little after dusk, I finished my trip, getting in 15 miles. I ended up circumnavigating four small islands throughout the day.
Upon arriving at home, I learned that Norma had caught her first groundhog of the year. See sixth photo, second column. Hopefully this won't be like last year where we caught ten!
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Deep Creek and Little Magothy River
After driving quite a bit two days ago to go play, I figured I'd stick closer to home today, April 30, 2017. There aren't many places I haven't seen or launched from in the area but there are a few. One such place is Spriggs Farm Park which hasn't been around for very long. It was opened largely due to the work of Lisa A.
First photo, first column: You'll need to carry your boat down this path to the beach...
Second photo, first column: ...and here's the beach.
Launching put me on the south side of the Magothy River. I followed the shoreline heading east, exploring everything along the way. I first came to Lake Placid. The sky was fairly clear and low enough to get good photos looking east.
I made my way to Deep Creek.
Third photo, first column: Great blue heron.
First photo, second column: Neil on his new Infinity SUP. If I get another non-inflatable SUP, it will probably be an Infinity. The last time I saw him was August 2, 2014 when we both raced in the Stand Up Paddle Annnapolis & Kent Island Outrigger Canoe Club Holo Niu Race.
Second photo, second column: Egret. As I watched it walk, I confirmed it had yellow feet so I guess it is a snowy egret.
I ventured out into the Chesapeake Bay and then into the Little Magothy River where I saw several osprey nests (third photo, second column).
I returned back to the launch site and took this selfie. See fourth photo, second column. I'm still trying to figure out my camera settings. I guess it is time to read the manual.
I got in 11.5 miles of kayaking.
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Islands in the Susquehanna River
On Arbor Day, April 28, 2017, I took the day off from work and went kayaking. I did the route I originally planned to do on April 9, 2017 but aborted due to a large amount of water being released from the Conowingo Dam.
I arrived at the Rock Run Grist Mill Launch Site around 1030. A lot of fishermen were out, either on the shore or in power boats.
I launched on the Susquehanna River which was moving at 2-4 mph. When the water is moving this fast, it isn't suitable for beginners.
I paddled to the nearest island, Wood Island. This is directly across from the launch site. I proceeded to paddle downstream and then to Spencer Island. I was looking for heron rookeries but did not see any all day. I was not surprised. Satellite photos of this area did not show them.
The south end of Spencer Island had a house that isn't falling apart but it also doesn't look like anyone lives there on a regular basis. There were "No Trespassing" signs posted but only on the south side of the island.
I made my way upstream on the east side of Spencer Island. Near the north end, I saw an eagle nest. See first photo, first column.
I continued paddling upstream on the east side of Robert Island (the big island). On the northeast section, some folks were camping. I did not see "No Trespassing" signs on Robert or Wood Island so I have no reason to believe camping is prohibited. If I were to camp on any of these islands or just pick a section to explore for the day, this is where I would land. It is easy to find. Just look for the beach bounded by a stone structure on the north side.
I kayaked to the north end of Robert Island and pulled ashore. I contemplated making my way further east to Steel Island and/or Sterret Island but the current was strong and it would have been more work than I was willing to do.
Looking around on Robert Island, I found a few things.
Second photo, first column: Several clam shells.
Third photo, first column: Bones. From what I don't know. Based on the size, I'm guessing a fox.
Fourth photo, first column: Mystery Snail. This is invasive.
Fifth photo, first column: The remnants of a turtle egg shell.
Sixth photo, first column: A bamboo grove.
I kayaked between Wood Island and Robert Island. This section was fairly calm and home to many turtles. In the first photo, second column, there are at least 14! And in the second photo, second column, one is diving into the water.
I went ashore on Wood Island. A goose and I startled each other. It fled, leaving a nest full of large eggs. I took a photo (third photo, second column) and then quickly left the area.
On the east side of Wood Island, I saw a stone structure that looked like it might have once supported a bridge. See fourth photo, second column. Directly across on Robert Island (fifth photo, second column), I saw a similar structure. It is hard to imagine anything but a bridge between the two.
Making my way back to shore, I paddled up Rock Run (sixth photo, second column) for less than a tenth of a mile before it got too narrow to continue.
At the launch area (seventh photo, second column), I saw a two foot long northern water snake sunning itself on the rocks. It slid into the water before I could get a photo. Too bad. The lighting was perfect!
I ended up paddling a strenuous 5.9 miles. Then I was onto my next adventure.
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I had just finished kayaking in the Susquehanna River downstream of the Conowingo Dam. See previous adventure.
I drove north of the dam to Broad Creek and launched there. See first photo, first column. This creek flows into a section of the Susquehanna River made into the Conwingo Reservoir because it is upstream of the dam.
I heard American Toads near the launch area. After some snooping around, I found one. See second photo, first column.
This year, it seems there are an unusually large number of turtles. See third photo, first column. In Broad Creek, I saw a snapping turtle but I was too slow with my camera to capture it.
I paddled downstream, 0.78 mile to the mouth. Looking across the reservoir, I could see large rock formations. See fourth photo, first column.
Kayaking upstream, I saw a green heron (fifth photo, first column).
One thing I love about this creek is how the steep sides make it feel like I am in a canyon. See first photo, second column. Notice the kayakers on the left side of the photo. It was a quiet day except for one of the women paddlers who was talking very loudly.
There were lots of homes along the creek. Some had rather quirky and individualistic piers (second photo, second column).
Two miles from the mouth, the creek got shallow. See third photo, second column. I would have had to portage to continue. Instead, I turned around.
I found the scenery very peaceful but I could imagine it would be much different on the weekend. See fourth photo, second column.
An 18 inch long northern watersnake swam across the creek. See fifth and sixth photos, second column.
Back at the launch site, I noticed that the Mason Dixon Trail passes through. Looking around, I saw some stone ruins.
It was a long drive back home. I managed to hit rush hour traffic in the Baltimore/Fort Meade area. Not a good thing.
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I spent Saturday working several hours in the yard. So I figured I'd reward myself today (April 9, 2017) by going kayaking. A few days ago, on April 5, 2017, I saw lots of toads spawning. It is the right time of year to see that. But it is also a good time to see heron rookeries. There is one really big one in Cecil County on the downstream side of the Conowingo Dam that I've known about for a few years but had never seen up close. I'd only seen it from across the Susquehanna River on the Harford County side. My goal today was to see it much closer on the Cecil County side.
I wasn't expecting to get a lot of kayaking in near the rookery. So I decided to make today a double header by launching first on the Harford County (west) side of the Susquehanna River and then on the Cecil County (east) side.
It had rained quite a bit three days ago and I was concerned about the status of the dam. So I called the Conowingo generation hotline at 1-888-457-4076. They reported
Today we are operating under spill conditions and the boat launch at Fisherman's Park is closed.
They also gave me another number, the spill conditions hotline: 1-877-457-2525. I wasn't planning to launch from Fisherman's Park which is right below the dam. But if that was closed, then I knew to be cautious further downstream.
I drove out to the Lapidum Boat Launch Facility. Even though this location is five miles downstream from the dam, the water was moving pretty fast. I was wanting to explore the numerous islands that start just a half mile upstream from this location but I knew I'd have to work pretty hard to make progress against the current. I saw a sign that showed a launch site just across from the islands and figured I'd be better off there.
I drove to Rock Run Mill (first photo) where I found the Rock Run Grist Mill Launch Site behind it. See second photo.
John Stump III "of Stafford" built and operated the Rock Run Grist Mill along with several other mills in Harford, Cecil, and Baltimore Counties. Stump managed the Mill from 1800 until his death in 1816...The Mill's wheel was originally installed in 1900, but was replaced in 1964 and then again in 2007. Fitted with 84 buckets and weighing nearly 12 tons, the Mill's wheel rotates by means of belts, pulleys, gears, and buckets of water in order to gring grain.
- from sign in Susquehanna State Park
Checking the Susquehanna River out from the mill area, it appeared to be moving faster than I could handle so I decided to leave the island exploration for another day. My plan B was to paddle up Deer Creek. Along much of Stafford Road, there are many places where one can drop in a kayak and many places to park along side the road. These aren't actual launch sites but rather fishing spots. The best place to launch is near where the creek drains into the Susquehanna River at the Trestle Canoe Launch. See third photo. I actually launched a little upstream but then saw this much better location later.
The lower part of Deer Creek is quite scenic although you'll see a few fishermen, hikers, bicyclists, and cars. The north side of the creek was more serene. I saw the remnants of an old railroad. Exploring a bit on foot, I found a pond but no toads or frogs. Lots of wildflowers were in bloom with Virginia bluebells being what I saw the most.
With all the rain, the water was pretty deep. Unfortunately, it wasn't deep enough. By the time I got to the Stafford Bridge, just a mile upstream from the mouth, I was hitting shallow areas and lot of riffles. See fourth photo. I had to portage. On the right is the Stafford Flint Furnace.
Conditions just got rougher. My 16 foot long Prijon Catalina was a little too long to handle the whitewater conditions well though I usually managed o.k. I made it up about 1.5 miles from the mouth before I turned around. See fifth photo.
The area where Deer Creek drains into the Susquehanna River, or equivalently, the north end of Robert Island, is the head-of-tide.
Head-of-tide on the Susquehanna River is about three miles below the Conowingo Dam and six miles upstream from the mouth of the river and the Chesapeake Bay.
Head-of-tide: Farthest upstream point where a river is affected by tidal fluctuations.
- from Susquehanna River Basin, Ecological Flow Management Study Phase I, Section 729 Watershed Assessment
My adventure continues on Octoraro Creek.
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After kayaking on Deer Creek a little earlier in the day on April 9, 2017, I drove over the Conowingo Dam to cross the Susquehanna River and into Cecil County. On the left, I could see that the reservoir was very high. On the right, I couldn't see the water being released but the spray from the water that was released created a mist much higher than the dam.
My plan was to explore Octoraro Creek. I had scouted this area awhile back and found that I could do a muddy launch from Conowingo Community Park. But today, I found a much better launch area on Moore Road.
Like the place I launched on Deer Creek, the water here was calm and deep. But that would soon change as I paddled upstream. Knowing this, I savored the moment. Making my way upstream, I came to a beautiful and modern train bridge. See first photo, first column. After this bridge was a much older and delapidated train bridge (second photo, first column). Around here were quite a few riffles.
After paddling a mere 0.8 mile upstream from Susquehanna River Road (route 222), I threw in the towel. If I was paddling downstream, it would have been fine but I couldn't dig the blade of my paddle into deep enough water to generate sufficient power. If I were to return, launch further upstream, and do a one way trip downstream, I should note that in "Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails," Edward Gertler suggests paddling Octoraro Creek when USGS 01481000 Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, PA reads at least 450 cubic feet per second (2.4 fee), providing that the lake is full.
I observed several dozen conical snail shells in the water near the shore where I pulled over. See third photo, first column.
There were some large stone foundations on the northwest side of the creek that looked historic.
I made my way downstream past where I launched. At Google Maps coordinate 39°39'31.9"N 76°09'33.3"W, I found the opening to a small, unnamed creek. See fourth photo, first column. I paddled upstream as far as I could. I was hoping to see the heron rookery I described in my Deer Creek blog. Sadly, I did not. But making my way downstream, I came to a long clearing where (I assume) a gas line is buried. On the northeast side of this is, the creek branches off though you probably won't notice until you stand up. I portaged to the other side and managed to paddle further northwest than I could on the other side. Along the way, I saw some turtles. See fifth and sixth photos, first column.
The creek ended at some power lines at Google Maps coordinate 39°39'41.1"N 76°09'41.5"W. Running out of creek, I ventured onto land. Now I was trespassing on undeveloped private property so I didn't want to go far or spend much time in the area. Thankfully, I was in a position where I could see the coveted rookery! I walked maybe 40 meters to the edge of a pond. On the other side was the rookery. It was huge but I could only see one side of it.
Seventh photo, first column: I reckon there are about fifty nests in this view.
First photo, second column: I see about five herons.
Second photo, second column: Since I don't see many herons sitting on the nests, I'm guessing not many eggs have been laid yet.
You can see the rookery in satellite photos at Google Maps coordinate 39.662774, -76.165209. See third photo, second column. I would have loved to venture further and see more.
After saying goodbye to the rookery, I got back in my boat (fourth photo, second column) and kayaked downstream. I saw more turtles (fifth photo, second column). I think all that day were eastern painted turtles. I paddled down the remainder of the swampish creek (sixth photo, second column) back to the Octoraro. Then I continued kayaking downstream to the mouth. At Conowingo Community Park, I saw numerous fishermen.
I ventured into the swiftly moving Susquehanna River briefly. It took quite a bit of work to go upstream against the fast current. I grabbed onto a low tree branch, put my paddle across the cockpit, got out my camera, and took photos of the dam. See seventh photo, second column. My boat would start to turn and I used all my core strength to keep it facing upstream. Once I was done taking pictures, I released the branch and started drifting downstream. I paddled back into the Octoraro and then back to my car. I kayaked 3.24 miles in this area.
On a day when water isn't being released from the dam, I plan to return to see the rookery from the Susquehanna River. But I'll have to do this soon or wait until next year because in the coming weeks, the trees will be sprouting leaves that will eventually hide the rookery.
Before leaving the area, I climbed up on the old train bridge. See eighth photo, second column.
My adventure continues on scouting along the Susquehanna River.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
Scouting along the Susquehanna River
April 9, 2017 was a long day but in a good way. I had just finished paddling on Octoraro Creek (see my blog) and was done kayaking for the day. But I still had daylight so I figured I'd do some scouting.
I drove north to Conowingo Creek in Cecil County. Turning from Susquehanna River Road (route 222) onto Conowingo Road (route 1) is a bitch. Expect to wait a long time. But after making that turn, it didn't take long to get to my destination. Here, I found Conowingo Creek Landing. I also found a cat colony. One of these furry felines jumped onto the hood of my car to get a better look at me. See first photo.
At this location, Conowingo Creek looks like a deep, slow, scenic creek. But don't let looks deceive you. I read that just a short distance upstream, you'll encounter class five whitewater! If that's not what you want, paddle downstream and into the Conowingo Reservoir where you'll find the opposite extreme. This reservoir is actually part of the Susquehanna River, just dammed.
Next, I drove across the dam to the Harford County side and stopped at Fisherman's Park. The river was very high from all the water being let out of the dam. They closed the launch site which was largely under water. See second photo.
At the southeast end of the long parking lot, near the entrance were more black vultures than I'd ever seen. See third photo.
Checking out the dam, I saw a significant amount of water being released (fourth photo).
With powerful optics, one could view across the river a half mile away and see the heron rookery I saw while exploring Octoraro Creek earlier that day.
Fifth photo: Very fuzzy-looking heron nests but yes, they are indeed nests.
Sixth photo: If you look real hard, you can make out a few herons standing on nests.
Seventh photo: More of the same.
If you have a camera, binoculars, or spotting scope with greater than 40x optical zoom, then you'll likely see something more impressive. Better yet, return with a kayak and paddle up close when the river conditions are much safer. To find out if water is being released from the dam, call the Conowingo generation hotline: 1-888-457-4076 or the Spill conditions hotline: 1-877-457-2525.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
Daniels Area of the Patapsco River
On April 5, 2017, I got in way early to work and then left early to do some kayaking at the Daniels Area of Patapsco State Park. I was hoping to see American Toads mating like I did on April 13, 2014.
It was around 72 degrees in the mid-afternoon when I launched but the water was quite cold. Definitely wetsuit weather. It started out sunny and then got a little overcast.
I paddled downstream to the dam and then cut across from the Howard County side to the Baltimore County side of the river. Making my way upstream, I scanned the shore near where I saw the toads last time but didn't see any.
There were a lot of tiger swallowtail butterflies out. See first photo, first column.
I kayaked up Brice Run for a very short distance. Making my way back downstream, I saw some graffiti on the north side of the bridge. See second photo, first column. Perhaps it was made by people from my area with a lot of town spirit. In the third photo, first column is the south side view of the bridge. Zooming in, there is a red eared slider turtle near the base of the bridge. See fourth photo, first column. Under the bridge were about a dozen fish, each 14-16 inches long. I saw another, smaller turtle that day.
Continuing upstream, I kept an eye and ear open for wildlife. I kept hearing frogs and/or toads but couldn't see them. But then around 3.2 miles from the start, I hit the jackpot. I was portaging through a shallow whitewater section. Looking to the right, I saw a pool of water. Knowing that amphibians like standing water, I investigated. As I approached, I saw American Toads hopping about. This was at Google map coordinates 39.336531, -76.877507.
Unlike the toads I saw two years ago, these were laying eggs. I only saw about a dozen toads.
Fifth photo, first column: A toad near a string of eggs.
Sixth photo, first column: You know they are definitely toad eggs when they are hanging out of a toad's butt
Seventh photo, first column: Making some noise.
Eighth photo, first column: A foursome.
Ninth photo, first column: Isn't this a wrestling move?
First photo, second column: Heimlich maneuver.
Second photo, second column: Now you know where plastic toads come from.
There were several hundred eggs in this pond which was no longer than my cubicle at work.
Third photo, second column: A string of toad eggs.
Fourth photo, second column: Close up.
Fifth photo, second column: Making me hungry for curly fries.
I paddled a little further upstream and stopped at one of several tunnels on the Howard County (south) side where water flowed under the rail trail. It was near here that I saw raccoon footprints. See sixth photo, second column.
I played with my camera, trying to take some time delay photos. In the seventh photo, second column, I'm paddling my Prijon Catalina.
With a rail trail on one side and a working railroad track on the other, I saw some metal debris. At first, I thought this (eighth photo, second column) was a railroad spike but it is threaded at the bottom and therefore a bolt. I think the stuff stuck to it is concrete.
I saw one bald eagle, another kayaker, and a canoeist.
I ended up putting in an easy 6.62 miles.
If you come out to this area, I suggest waiting until after it rains. I had to do about four portages because the water was too shallow. Bring a boat that can take some abuse too.
How did my camera do? Not bad but I still prefer my FujiFilm camera better when it was new. This new Canon doesn't seem to focus as well as the FujiFilm when they are both in the automatic mode. But the optical zoom is fantastic!
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
Little Choptank River
On March 25, 2017, the high temperature was supposed to be in the low to mid 70s although in Savage, I heard it actually got up to 80. Good kayaking temperatures. Earlier in the week, the low was in the low 20s so this was a warm (literally) welcome. There were other changes taking place. Daylight savings time was on March 12, the Vernal Equinox was March 20, and today...well today is Maryland Day.
Maryland Day commemorates March 25, 1634. On that day, settlers disembarked from two small sailing ships - the Ark and the Dove - on to Maryland soil. At St. Clement's Island, they landed in what is now St. Mary's County, Maryland.
- from Maryland.gov - Maryland Day
What better way to celebrate Maryland Day than to explore this beautiful state? So I loaded up my Prijon Catalina and headed out to Dorchester County to kayak in waters I had not been before.
One big reason to get out was to test out my new Canon Powershot SX720 HS compact digital camera. This was replacing my old FujiFilm FinePix F850EXR. The latter is by far the best camera I've had until now. In saying this, I want to clarify that the latest is not always the greatest. I hated my Panasonic Lumix camera. So how would my Canon compare to the FujiFilm? It is heavier and a little bulkier, which I don't like but this is offset by the 40x optical zoom which is twice what the FujiFilm had. The wrist strap is on the middle of the right side while on the FujiFilm, it is on the top of the right side, which I prefer. But the FujiFilm is getting old. Photos are often blurry on the right side. Controls do not operate smoothly. Of course this was not an issue when it was new. But I've easily gotten my moneys worth out of the FujiFilm and if there was an updated FinePix compact digital camera similar to my old one, I would have certainly bought it. For now, it is being demoted to back up camera.
I found this Dorchester County launch site on July 5, 2015 and vowed to return. There aren't many places to put in around this area and if I want to explore further east in the tributaries of the Little Choptank River, then this is a great location.
Before launching, I paid a visit next door at the Spocott Windmill. I wanted to get a good photo of the front of the windmill but the lighting was much better for the back. See first photo. Notice how they can rotate it to face the wind...very clever.
This windmill is typical of the grist post mills used in the 18th and 19th centuries for grinding grain. Such a windmill, built here about 1850 by John A.L. Radcliffe, was blown down in the blizzard of 1888. In 1972, it was reconstructed using the orignal grinding stones and internal steps.
- from Maryland Historical Society sign
I did a commando launch at a drainage ditch across from Lloyds Volunteer Fire Department, Station 36. See second photo. What is a commando launch? I don't know if that's a real term but I define it as
Launching at a place that is totally not meant for launching. It often involves large boulders, steep hills, mud, breyers, etc.
The biggest limiting factor with a commando launch usually ends up being where to put my car. Fortunately, in this case, there was a large shoulder along the road. I planned it so I launched two hours before high tide and returned two hours after. There wouldn't have been enough water anywhere near low tide. This is one reason I was using my Prijon Catalina instead of my surf ski or SUP. The latter have a non-restractable rudder and fin, respectively.
I paddled south on Gary Creek and then east on Lee Creek on the north side.
It didn't take long before I saw a bald eagle. Unlike most, this one just sat there while I took its photo. I got to make good use of my 40x optical zoom. However, I am now more limited by my ability to hold the camera steady on a kayak/SUP rather than the zoom capabilities of the camera. See third photo.
Somewhere on the north side of Lee Creek, I found a very small, delapidated cemetary (fourth photo). I could not find this on satellite photos or maps so maybe it is just a family plot.
I was hoping to find a heron rookery. Early spring is a good time to spot them before the trees grow back their leaves. But today I did not find any. In fact, I only saw about three or four herons all day. But I did see numerous osprey. It looked like they were starting to stake out their nesting locations. See fifth photo.
I kayaked as far up Lee Creek as I could, getting 0.2 mile from Hudson Road (route 343). I had to turn around, not because of water depth, but because it got too narrow. The water was black, probably from natural tannic acid produced by leaf decay.
It is a little early to be seeing much wildlife but that doesn't mean there weren't signs of other life. I saw numerous barnacles. According to Bay Journal - Barnacles: We're stuck with them, three species of barnacle are found in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries: the bay barnacle Balanus improvisus, the ivory barnacle Balanus eburneus, and the little gray barnacle Chthamalus fragilis. I looked at photos of each and they all look very similar to me so I don't know what it is that I saw (sixth photo).
I also saw several marsh periwinkle snails. See seventh photo.
But the think I saw the most were oysters. See eighth photo.
The eastern oyster is one of the most iconic species in the Chesapeake Bay. For more than a century, oysters have made up one of the region’s most valuable commercial fisheries, and the filter-feeder continues to clean our waters and offer food and habitat to other animals. But over-harvesting, disease and habitat loss have led to a severe drop in oyster populations. Scientists are working to manage harvests, establish sanctuaries, overcome the effects of disease and restore reefs with hatchery-raised seed in an effort to bring back the bivalve.
Oysters are natural filter feeders. This means they feed by pumping water through their gills, trapping particles of food as well as nutrients, suspended sediments and chemical contaminants. In doing so, oysters help keep the water clean and clear for bay grasses and other aquatic life. One oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water in a single day.
- from Chesapeake Bay Program - Oysters
All these oysters are not just the result of nature. Humans have put a lot of time and money into helping restore the oyster population in this area. Paddling around, I witnessed areas where large quantities of stone have been brought in to help the oysters thrive.
DNR officials said stone is not a random material. They say in some spots, the stone makes a better substrate that they can then place the fossilized shell, and later oyster spat-on-shell on top of. They also say it has a proven record of success with stones of this size and type over the past three years in Harris Creek in Talbot County.
WBOC - Md. DNR Oyster Project Brings in Stone to Little Choptank
Homes are spread out. The area is not very densely populated. But the south side is even less dense. There are numerous signs indicating much of the area is a wildlife sanctuary. Other signs warn fishermen of the $500 fine for taking oysters, clams, and mussels. Clearly, this is a good place to paddle if you want to be out in nature.
I saw a few belted kingfisher birds. These are small, chatty, elusive birds that typically do not stay in one place very long if there are humans in the area. I've found them extremely difficult to photograph. But with my new camera, I was able to use 64x zoom (optical and digital) to take a photo from far enough away that the kingfisher was not concerned about my presence. See ninth photo.
While I didn't explore Smith Cove, I did kayak throughout the creek just east of it. This creek does not have a name but it is scenic and natural. Just make sure to be there near high tide. In here, I spotted a large, dark mass in the pine trees far away. I figured it was an eagle nest. Zooming in with my camera, I confirmed this and even saw an eagle in the nest! See tenth photo.
I finished my trip, kayaking 13.75 miles.
I paid one more visit to the windmill and its neighboring structures. This time, I stopped at the Colonial Tenant House, circa 1800. See eleventh photo.
How did my camera do? The photos you see here are the best out of 159 that I took. Except for when I first arrived, the lighting generally was not good. The wildlife I took pictures of were typically far away. So the conditions were not optimal. I think this camera did at least as good as my FujiFilm camera except for selfie shots taken with the timer when I was in the kayak. Those were terrible. But I attribute this to the camera trying to focus on the front tip of my boat along with me sitting several feet back. Still, I think my FujiFilm would have done better.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
The last and only other time I landed at Fort Carroll was September 25, 2016. Back then, the vegetation was too thick to get around so I vowed to return when things weren't so green. On February 20, 2017, Presidents Day, it was sunny, the wind was light, and the high temperature was in the low 60s so it seemed like a good time to return.
Many people in the area (even folks that grew up here) have never heard of Fort Carroll. Those that have heard of it might only know that it is an abandoned 19th-century military installation in the (Big) Patapsco River in Baltimore County. But there is much more to it.
Fort Carroll's origins date to 1847, when the State of Maryland gave permission to the United States War Department to construct a fort in the shallow water of Soller's Point Flats to protect the city of Baltimore. Britain's invasion of the Chesapeake in the War of 1812 had shown that forts like Baltimore's Fort McHenry were too close to the cities they were meant to defend. A new plan for fort construction, called the "Permanent System" (also known as the Third System) intended to defend America's most important seaports and prevent another invasion from the sea.
On October 8, 1850, the fort was officially named after Charles Carroll (1737-1832), a Maryland political leader and the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1853, a lighthouse was added atop the fort's parapets.
At the onset of World War One, the Army removed some of the guns and [in] 1920 had put all remaining weaponry to use elsewhere. The realities of modern war ensured the complete obsolescence of a fixed fort so far up the Chesapeake Bay. In March 1921, the Army officially abandoned Fort Carroll and moved all remaining military equipment to nearby Fort Howard.
- from Bytenet - Fort Carroll
I launched from Fort Armistead Park a little after noon. I wanted to take advantage of the high sun to get good photos of the interior space of the fort without catching a lot of shadows. I paddled to the west side of Fort Carroll (first photo, first column) where I saw the Fort Carroll Light (second photo, first column), originally built in 1854.
Slightly south of the Fort Carroll Light, one can see bird nests above the stone walls. See third photo, first column. These are likely from cormorants.
Quite a bit of foliage was growing above one of the south walls. See fourth photo, first column.
Along many walls, one could see openings for the cannons. See fifth photo, first column.
I entered on the north side, just across from the Fort Carroll Landing Dock. I had a rope with one end tied to my bow and the other behind the cockpit. As I pulled up to the entrance, I untied the line behind the cockpit and then held it in my teeth. With my hands free, I could climb another rope that took me into Fort Carroll. Yes, there is at least one line that stays there. Then, using the rope tied to my bow, I pulled my boat into the Fort. See sixth photo, first column. If you plan to land here and want some advice, shoot me an e-mail. I assure you that you will be grateful.
In the fort, small animal bones littered the floor. See seventh and eighth photos, first column.
The exterior of the Fort is made of large stones but much of the interior is brick (ninth photo, first column)..
Between the wall and the floor in some areas was a dark drop-off of what looked like three feet. Using the flash on my camera to see, it appeared to be an area for water to drain away. See tenth photo, first column.
It is hard to think of what daily life would have been like back then. Seeing an old fireplace (eleventh photo, first column) got my imagination going.
Pillars added a touch of class to this otherwise Spartan structure. See twelfth photo, first column.
The place is an unofficial bird sanctuary. I found a few broken eggs (thirteenth photo, first column) and dozens of nests. Visiting in the winter when there is minimal wildlife activity helps ensure they are not disturbed.
I had read about peach trees planted by a former lighthouse keeper at the Fort. I assume the trees in the first photo, second column were the ones mentioned.
I came across a few animal skulls. See second photo, second column.
Old, rusted machinery could be found. I believe these were tractors in the third photo, second column. I also found a motor (fourth photo, second column) sitting all alone.
Time for a selfie to prove I was actually here. See fifth photo, second column.
In some areas, bricks were arranged to form curved structure on the floor. See sixth photo, second column. This was probably created to ensure the cannons could rotate on a level surface. I don't imagine this has been level for quite some time.
In several places, I found holes in the floor (seventh photo, second column). These weren't simply broken spots...they were made intentionally. Looking inside, I saw some bricks and trash (eighth photo, second column). Not sure what the holes were for. Maybe there was a toilet there?
If you want to see what Fort Carroll looked like back in the day, check out these awesome historic photos at The Baltimore Sun - Inside Fort Carroll, an abandoned citadel on the Patapsco.
I said good-bye to Fort Carroll and started making my way just south of where I launched. I spotted what I originally thought to be an interpretive buoy. But this was much larger and fixed in the floor of the Patapsco River rather than floating. I'm guessing it is used for collecting more data than a buoy. See ninth photo, second column.
I explored the water around Fort Armistead. I've only come here to launch and never checked anything out on land. Based on what I've read, it is a filthy place though there is some interesting history worth investigating if you can look past all the litter.
Fort Armistead (1896-1928) - An Endicott period Coastal Defense fort named in G.O. 134, 22 Jul 1899, for Major George Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry during the British bombardment in the War of 1812. Located at Hawkins Point, Baltimore County, Maryland. Abandoned in 1923 and claimed by the City of Baltimore in 1928. Used as a Navy ammunition dump during World War II and returned to the City in 1947.
- from Fort Wiki - Fort Armistead
The area is very industrial. I found some big leaking pipes, which I've found isn't exactly uncommon in Baltimore. See tenth photo, second column. While I don't find "industrial" particularly pretty, I do find it interesting, especially if it is very old (eleventh photo, second column) or photogenic (twelfth photo, second column).
I saw the remains of Brewerton Range Front Light, established 1868. See thirteenth photo, second column. Here is what it used to look like when it was functional. Today, some of the support rods have rusted through (fourteenth photo, second column) to the point of breakage.
The Brewerton Range is one of the final turns for vessels entering Baltimore Harbor. This light was originally mounted in the Hawkins Point Lighthouse adjacent to Fort Armistead, across the Patapsco River from Fort Carroll. The lighthouse was demolished in 1924 and the range light was relocated to the substructure of the lighthouse.
- from Lighthouse Digest - Brewerton Range Front Light
Just before landing, I paused to get a view of the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge. See fifteenth photo, second column.
I didn't get a lot of kayaking in and I wanted to do something active outdoors so after I came home and dropped off the boat, I went roller skating at National Business Park in Annapolis Junction. Looking at the number of cars in the parking lots, I was surprised how many people were working today.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
After some nice, scenic, easy, warm weather hiking with friends the day before (February 18, 2017), I figured I'd spend February 19 on the water. I don't normally go paddling in February but it was sunny and warm...unusually warm. Unless we get some serious snow, this will be the first winter I can remember in this area where the federal government didn't shut down at least once. It is funny how when we have an exceptionally hot summer, people complain about climate change but when it happens in the winter, folks don't seem to mind.
I was hoping to get out on the open water but the NOAA forecast for Baltimore as of 1020 was
Scattered sprinkles before 11am. Cloudy early, then gradual clearing, with a high near 70. Northwest wind 11 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph.
That's more wind than I'm comfortable with on open water in February. Just yesterday, we saw ice on the water. So I switched to plan B.
I headed back to Eden Mill Nature Center. I hiked there yesterday. But today, I'd kayak. I launched around 1250 just above the dam on Deer Creek. This was my first time paddling in this area. Prior to yesterday, I wasn't sure if it would be deep enough but it looked like it would be...at least for awhile.
I kayaked upstream, along the Beaver Run Trail where we hiked yesterday. The water was deep and cold, but not too cold. I was wearing my farmer john wetsuit, long sleeve neoprene shirt, and neoprene diving shoes. I wasn't too hot and if I fell in, I would be somewhat uncomfortable but certainly able to get to shore without being in danger of hypothermia.
Making my way west, I passed a huge bamboo grove on the south side. See first photo. Notice the people in canoes fishing. A sign at the entrance to it read "G and T." Not sure what it meant.
Harford County has some beautiful rolling hills and farmland. See second photo. It is a peaceful place to go and clear your head.
I saw several Canadian geese, about a hundred fish (third photo), a great blue heron, and a bald eagle.
I was able to paddle about 1.75 miles upstream without having to portage. I actually did portage prior to that because I made bad choices and took my kayak into the shallow area when a deeper one was available. But had I been smarter, I think 1.75 miles is as far as I could have paddled without having to get out of the boat. Downfalls and fast currents weren't the problem. Shallow depth was the issue, at least at first. See fourth photo. After 2.25 miles, the current got fast enough to be a problem so I turned around.
Making my way back downstream, I saw 14 kayaks or canoes. This place is REALLY popular. I was the only person not dressed for summer paddling. See fifth photo. Most weren't even wearing a personal floatation device (PFD).
It was a beautiful day and great to be outdoors. Even though things weren't green, mother nature was still looking great. See sixth and seventh photos.
I paddled upstream on Big Branch Creek. I only made it up 0.2 mile before it got too shallow. I went ashore and checked things out. Even if I portaged around the old beaver dam (eighth photo), I wouldn't have been able to get much further. The creek got narrow very quickly.
I ended the day having paddled just under five miles. It was a slow, scenic, exploratory day of kayaking. I satisfied my curiosity. But once I got home, I realized that had I paddled just a little further, I would have made it to Hidden Valley Natural Area. Looks like I should be able to launch a kayak there.
This tract of land, administered by Rocks State Park, is located five miles north of Rocks at the intersection of Madonna, Telegraph and Carea Roads. The undeveloped area offers a beautiful hiking trail and fishing spot along Deer Creek. Pets on a leash are permitted. Parking is provided for 8 to 10 cars.
- from Maryland DNR - Rocks State Park
I guess I'll have to return to check this out.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
Jellyfish and cownose rays
While I didn't actually do any kayaking or paddleboarding on February 12, 2017, I did see some stuff that might be of interest to a kayaker or paddleboarder. See my February 12, 2017 hiking blog.