Havre de Grace is located in a picturesque setting at the head of the Chesapeake Bay and at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. It has a long an important history in the colonial and post-revolutionary periods of United States history. Filled with museums, pedestrian walkways (destroyed bu Hurricane Isabel, it will be rebuilt) and restaurants along its recently renovated waterfront, Havre de Grace can be a day's destination in itself. Many day trips of completely varied nature are possible from any of the three public launching sites in the town itself. Read more about Havre de Grace.
South of the park is a small island created from the dredging spoils out of the marked channel along the west side of the Susquehanna Flats. You can take either side of the island, but a wide bank of very shallow water extends off the southern point of this island. There is significant exposed sand during low tide here and very little water over the rest of it.
This day I chose to launch at the small beach near the Tidewater Grille in downtown Havre de Grace just downstream of the railroad bridge. There is ample municipal parking in this lot. The unimproved beach is an unofficial kayak launching site, frequently used by the instructors, students and customers of Staark Moon kayak shop just across the street. The area was just clearing from use by a single rowing shell as i arrived.
There are two channels extending south: one is the marked channel from Havre de Grace to the Bay south of the Susquehanna Flats. The other is also marked but just for small boat use. It is close against the high west bank. Follow either of these channels. You can blaze your own path due south toward Swan Creek, however you will have to deal with the heavy Submerged Aquatic Vegatation (SAV) that is making a comeback against the heavy siltation and over fertilization of the run off coming down the Susquehanna.
In the middle of Swan Creek is a half acre island name Maids Island. The Susquehannock Indians used the island as a training camp where older women trained young maidens to become good wives. Mention this to your wife with caution. The island and surrounding land was part of the 1660 patented estate of Nathaniel Utie. Utie's lands also included the large island which he named Spesutie, which is now part of Aberdeen Proving Ground. He named it using the Latin word for hope, "spes" and his own name, hence Spesutie (pronounces Spes Su' Sie). He named the area around Swan Creek Oakington.
Flowering bushes along the bank
Follow the straight bank southward keeping between the other small uninhabited islands, which make a nice place to stop and stretch. These artificial islands are the spoils of the dredged main channel into Havre de Grace. On the high banks of the mainland on your right is the ancestral home of Governor Tydings. It is now an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center, Father Martin's Ashley.
In about 5 miles you will come to a creek on your right. This short shallow creek is Swan Creek. Explore this and return to your launch point in Havre de Grace and you can easily have a nice 12-14 mile paddle. At low tide you will not be able to get all the way to the end of the creek indicated on the map below due to shallow water.
When the Susquehanna Canal was opened in 1808, bypassing the unnavigable shoals and falls where the Susquehanna descends off the Piedmont plateau, cargo from central Pennsylvania was shipped on large lumber barges. These arks brought the produce through the canal where they were loaded onto sailing ships for other ports. The barges were then broken up for their lumber, floated down river to Swan Creek where there were three lumber mills. The busy mills attracted workers who settled in a new community called Oakington. The mills and its community died when the canal was closed after the railroads took over the cargo traffic and there was no longer lumber barges coming down the river.
Oakington as a tract of land stayed mostly in tact. In the Mid 1900's it became the estate of J. Millard Tydings, a U.S. Senator for Maryland from 1927 to 1951. His son Joseph continued with both the estate and the job, serving as Maryland's Senator from 1964 to 1970. The estate was donated as the site for Father Martin's Ashley, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center of world renown.
Other nearby trips
Havre de Grace to Rock Run
Conowingo to Holtwood Dam
Susquehanna Flats Three Lighthouse Tour