By: Beth Hauptle
A SAMPLING OF PADDLING ADVENTURES IN MARYLAND
Nearly half of Maryland’s land is blanketed with forests, but the water wins. Nearly 70 percent of the Old Line State’s counties—as well as the city of Baltimore—border the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay, accounting for 4,000 miles of shoreline. Along with 16 state-owned lakes and ponds and thousands upon thousands of miles of rivers, streams, and creeks, opportunities for paddle sports and time in and on the water runneth over. Whether you own or rent equipment, here are a few options to whet your appetite.
Why not start with a kayak tour that culminates in a beer or wine tasting? In Brunswick, just an hour from the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore beltways, River and Trail Outfitters offers a wide variety of options. The most intriguing might be a toss-up between the “Kayak to Smoketown Brewing Station Tour” and the “Kayak to Big Cork Vineyards Tour.” These four- to five-hour excursions include a guide, kayak rental, equipment, shuttle, tastings, and appetizers. River and Trail also offers several different kayak tours that include various DIY fermentation workshops.
Take another weekend to drive east to Ocean City and visit 48th Street Watersports. Here you can rent a variety of boards and boats and even request free delivery. After a long day out on the bay, you might want to get dry (well, not exactly) at Dry 85 where you’ll find a notable collection of whiskey, daily happy hours, and Bacon Brunch on weekends in season.
Or you might want to head to Conowingo in the northeast corner of Maryland to enjoy a day on the water at Kayaking Made Easy, owned by certified instructor Mark Sargable. The variety of waterways in the area offer paddlers of all levels the chance to get out on the water and take in the beauty of the natural surroundings. On a paddle in Perryville Community Park, for example, you might see bald eagles, great blue herons, kingfishers, osprey, turtles, deer, fish, and more. Lock 15 on the Susquehanna is another of Sargable’s favorites. There he will point out various small islands with unique rock formations. On hot days, a dip in the fresh, clean river water is a must.
Sargable also offers a Havre de Grace History Tour where you can learn how the city got its name and other fun trivia. You’ll paddle past the town’s boardwalk, the old Bayou Hotel, the Concord Point Lighthouse, and other landmarks. If you’re lucky you’ll see the SkipJack Martha Lewis, one of the remaining working oyster dredge boats on the Bay. After the excursion, enjoy sunset water views at Lee’s Landing Dock Bar in Port Jarvis.
While it’s easy to get outfitted in Annapolis, if you already have a board, canoe, or kayak, you can choose from a number of boat launches. Back Creek Nature Park is a recently renovated urban ecology park near Back Creek, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay that has a pier for kayaks and other small boats, plus 12 acres with nature trails for hiking. Truxton Park’s public launch leads to Spa Creek, and Amos Garrett Park, a “street-end park,” has a kayak launch and a small pier for dinghies. From here you can paddle past the Annapolis Historic district.
In Prince George’s County you’ll find Atlantic Kayak in Indian Head, a woman-owned business with trips that focus on both natural and cultural history. On the Sunset Tour (Mattawoman Creek or Piscataway Creek), guides share their knowledge of the area’s flora and fauna, while at the Mattawoman Creek Fourth of July Sunset Tour, you’ll see D.C. fireworks from the comfort of your kayak. You can also choose a daytime excursion and history lesson on the Potomac, or take the eerie Mallows Bay Ship Graveyard tour, which leads you to the spot where hundreds of shipwrecks date back to the Revolutionary War.
For the most adventurous and experienced, travel to the northwest tip of Maryland to the town of Friendship where Precision Rafting offers access to remote areas of the rivers. These small group trips offer breathtaking scenery, big rapids, and powerful currents—but never fear: Precision also offers training to new paddlers. After a long day, visit Deep Creek Cellars for some refreshing wine while relaxing on the beautiful grounds.
These are but a few of the many options for paddlers of all abilities. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website offers a comprehensive listing of water trails, arranged by regions. Visit its website at bit.ly/MDBoating, and please don’t forget the sunscreen!
▲ Kayak to Smoketown Brewing Station Brunswick, rivertrail.com/food-drink-tours Tour 4-5 hours: guide, kayak, equipment, shuttle, beer tasting, and apps. Smoketown Brewing Station is housed in a 1948 renovated fire station.
Kayak to Big Cork Vineyards Brunswick, rivertrail.com/food-drink-tours Tour 5 hours: guide, equipment, shuttle, wine tasting, and cheese plate. Big Cork Vineyards is known for its intensely flavorful award-winning wines and a beautiful tasting room/event space with luscious views.
Deep Creek Cellars Friendsville, deepcreekcellars.com Stop by Deep Creek Cellars for a wine tasting. Here owners Paul Roberts and Nadine Grabania pride themselves in making wine in the most natural way possible. A great way to wind down from a strenuous white-water rafting adventure.
◄ Dry 85 Annapolis, Ocean City, dry85.com After your day on the water, stop in for Happy Hour and marvel over the vast selection of everything whisk(e)y: bourbon, rye, Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, you name it. Menu offers upscale pub food and a to-die-for Bacon Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays in season.
▲ Beans in the Belfry Brunswick, beansinthebelfry.com This coffee house is located in a century-old historic church. The menu includes all day breakfast, paninis, soups, salads and baked goods. Most Thursday – Saturday evenings you can hear live music and on Sunday don’t miss the four-course jazz brunch.
Food Kayak Tours Brunswick, rivertrail.com/food-drink-tours Tours feature a leisurely paddle down the Potomac River culminating in a fermentation workshop where participants learn how to make pickles or pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, or kimchi.
▼ Lee’s Landing Dock Bar Port Deposit, leeslandingdockbar.com Had a great day on the water but not ready to leave it yet? Take a seat on Lee’s deck and enjoy a family-friendly dining experience. You’ll find sandwiches, burgers, seafood, and daily specials. Fun, beach-like atmosphere and music on some evenings.
SEE (AND DO)
Kayaking Made EZ Conowingo, kayakingmadeez.com A variety of tours are offered for nature and history lovers. Owner Mark Sargable is a certified instructor and knowledgeable guide, so it’s a great option for first timers.
48th Street Watersports Ocean City, 48thstreetwatersports.com While you’re in Ocean City this summer, stop by 48th Street Watersports and plan a memorable family excursion. Here you can rent paddle boards, catamarans, kayaks, sail boats, and wind surf boards. Other activities offered include sailing instruction, sunset and night paddles, kayak eco-tours, and paddle fitness classes.
▲ Atlantic Kayak Company Indian Head, atlantickayak.com This woman-owned business offers a variety of tours focused on history, wildlife, or even a Fourth of July trip on the Potomac to see D.C.’s fireworks.
Precision Rafting Friendsville, precisionrafting.com Take a trip to just about as far as you can go west and north in Maryland for an extreme adventure. From intense whitewater trips for the most experienced, to kayak school for beginners, Precision Rafting offers everyone the chance to get out on the water.