MD - Pocomoke River - 2001/06/13



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Shad Landing to Porter's Crossing -16.5 miles round trip




By Hank McComas

Cypress reflections on Pocomoke River from Kayak
Cypress reflected in the black water


The Pocomoke river originates in the Great Cypress Swamp on the Maryland and Delaware border. Its length in 73 miles, emptying into the Pocomoke Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. From the sound, the river is about 400 feet wide until Snow Hill with a depth from 7 to 45 feet, averaging 15 feet. Shortly after Snow Hill the river narrows to 100 feet or less. By the time it reaches Porter Crossing, it is a small shallow stream no more than 10 feet across with a depth of 2 or less feet.

Its waters are stained a deep tea color from the tannin of the cypress trees. On still days, the surface becomes a highly reflective mirror for the majestic cypress tees, conifers and deciduous trees lining the banks, The banks themselves are surprisingly high, 20 to 40 feet in many places, surprising for the generally featureless Delmarva peninsula. The Pocomoke is Maryland's first scenic river. Development along its shores is relative low considering the natural beauty of the river itself.


Tidal fall in the river can exceed three feet. The currents can get as high as 2 knots with a predilection for flow down river. At the northern end currents vary from none to downstream 2 knots. Winds blowing up or down the river's general Southwest Northeast alignment will have the most effect. Tidal predictions for Pocomoke City runs 2 hours behind Crisfield MD tides and Snow Hill 3 1/2 hours behind. The rather large time difference between the two close cities can be used to the advantage of those making a one way passage. Snow Hill is the home of Pocomoke River and Canoe Co. Kayak and canoe rentals are available, as well as shuttle services. Launching is possible from the back of the store as it is right on the river next to the bridge. At dead high tide, canoes may have some difficulty getting under the bridge. Lodging and supplies are available in Snow Hill and Pocomoke City.

I camped at the Shad Landing unit of
Pocomoke State Park, a pleasant state campground of 275 campsites. I was one of only 25 campers in the facility as this was the last week before summer school vacations. In high summer season, reservations would be recommended. The park has a swimming area, store and marina. There is the usual concrete ramp and several floating docks, as well as slips for small boats.

I arrived late in the evening (9:45 PM) after driving from Martinak State Park and the Choptank river trip. The campground has a locking gate that is active after 11:00 PM. Registered campers have the pass code, but do not be late if you do not have it. The fee is $18.00 per day. If you are late, the camp is full or you prefer more primitive, quieter camps, check out Milburn Landing State park on the other side of the river and south of Shad Landing. The drive there requires a long loop to the North or south in order to cross the Pocomoke River.


Pong lillies and shore of Pocomoke
Floating lillies on the river


The next morning, I was on the river by 9:15, heading northeast (up river) toward Snow Hill. The Pocomoke river curved gently but steadily toward Snow Hill. Leaving Nassawango Creek for another day, I reached Snow Hill in about two hours. I saw only two bass boats on this stretch of the river and these were the only boats I saw all day. I passed under the bridge at Snow Hill and glided pass the Pocomoke Canoe Co.

Just upstream there were large clusters of pilings forming the remains of a dock for large barges, highlighting the past importance of the Pocomoke river for water transport into the agricultural heartland of the DelMarVa peninsula. From the times of early colonization until recently, the Pocomoke river played a vital part in the delivery of goods to and from market. It also played a significant role as part of the underground railroad in the days when slaves made tobacco and cotton farming an economic pillar of the region.

I stopped along the Western bank for a stretch and a snack. There was a sunny area where someone had created a fire ring and made an unofficial camp. The mosquitoes were present, but not obnoxious. Much of the rest on the banks were either swampy or too steep to provide any type of comfortable resting spot. Channels were winding and multiple. The Pocomoke River Canoe Co. has placed white directional signs at almost every place one could go off course. I found that the encounter frequency of such human activity detracted from my experience. I am sure that some novices would be glad for the assistance however.

Turning a bend of the river a bald eagle slipped from its perch and made its way upriver. Every quarter of a mile or so it would again leave its place of concealment and head up the river as I approached it perch. Other than the ubiquitous cormorants and mallards, I saw only a solitary kingfisher, twittering as it rushed along the river banks. Although I saw many nesting boxes, I did not see any wood ducks for which these edifices were specifically constructed.




The Pocomoke River narrows to stream width and enters a dense overhanging canopy of cypress (picture) and deciduous trees typical of swamps found much further to the south. The stream twists and turns making a great opportunity to utilize all your turning strokes. There is not enough room to turn around for much of this section. The current was running downstream at 1.5 knots even though the tidal height was still rising. It is likely that at this location and further upstream that the current never reverses.

At the road bridge of Porter's Crossing there is plenty of room to turn around, which is good because the river essentially becomes impassable due to the branches and obstructions in the stream channel. Apparently Pocomoke River Canoe Co's maintenance of the water trail, apparent in the sawn limbs further to the south, ends at this juncture.

A leisurely return paddle brought me back to shad Landing at 4:30 PM in plenty of time to enjoy a hot shower and leisurely meal before retreating to the safety of the van. The mosquitos proved to be very few this week.

The next day.....


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EVEN THE BEST BOATERS CAN FIND THEMSELVES IN SERIOUS TROUBLE ON THE MILDEST OF DAYS IN THE OCEAN. PARTICIPATION IN THIS SPORT IS A STRENUOUS ACTIVITY. CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN BEFORE UNDERTAKING ANY SUCH ACTIVITY. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT EACH BOATER TAKES FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OR HER OWN SAFETY, AND IS TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ASSESSING THE DANGER LEVEL AND ACCEPTING THE CONSEQUENCES OF PARTICIPATING IN THIS SPORT.

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