MD - Dundee Creek to Pooles Island - 2005/06/05 - 18 miles



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Dundee Creek is one of the prettiest creeks on the upper western shore of Chesapeake Bay. Filled with lots of submerged aquatic vegetation, its water quality is good when the rest of the bay stinks.




Dundee Creek is a nice creek to paddle. Usually clean and clear when ther places in the Bay are not, it is easily accessible from Baltimore and the northern suburbs.

Just past Gunpowder State Park, the road to Dundee Creek leads to a marina and ramp. On the right side there is a small beach launch with smooth sand, perfect for launching canoes and kayaks. There is no fee for entrance or parking here.




I arrived at a few minutes after 8:00 AM and found my paddle partners already there and getting their boats down from their vehicles. It was a lovely morning with no wind, calm waters and pleasant temperatures. We launched and headed down the creek. The right side of Dundee Creek is a part of Edgewood Arsenal military facility and is sign posted against landing due to purported unexploded ordinance.

Pooles Island has an interesting history. Originally named after onw of Captain John Smith's comrades, Nathanial powell, on his initial exploration of the Chesapeake Bay. Over time Powell's Island became Pooles Island. Susquehannock Indians lived on the island harvesting oysters from the surrounding waters and creating oyster shell middens on the island. Starting in the 1700s much of the island was planted in wheat and tobacco. Purchased by John Bordley in 1771, he attempted to make a game preserve out of it by adding imported hares and partridges from England to supplement the native deer and game birds. A political activist, he used the island as a gunpowder factory and livestock production to supply the Continental Army.

Pooles Island sits in the middle of the Bay near the deep channel of the drowned river valley. From the typical shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the water depth increases to 30 to 50 feet a short distance off shore. Squeezed into a relative narrow passage, the current on both sides of the island gets up to 1.5 knots or more, one of the higher velocities in all the bay. Out in the deep channel are what is known as "the bumps". These small hillocks rise to with 10 or 12 feet of the surface from 40 or greater depths. As the current flows back and forth over them, there presence can some times be detected by the boils showing on the surface. With the water turn over here this is a very productive area for fishing and there are frequently many boats either anchor near or drifting over the bumps.

The bumps were created by oyster reefs that built up from the bottom. Though sediment has long killed the oysters themselves, their prodigous construction is the result. maryland Department of Natural Resources has dredged up many tons of the shells for relocation to areas further south where it is hoped that the oyster spat will be able to "set" on the old shells an reestablish productive oyster reefs once more.

The natural chokepoint provided by this island was not ignored by the British in the War of 1812. They establish a gun battery here in 1814 to suppress traffic between the more southerly ports and the head of the bay that transferred cargo on to Philadelphia.

One of the more interesting tidbits of Pooles Island history was its selection as the site of the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1848. as boxing was illegal at the time, a remote site removed from legal encomberances was required. All was prepared with trainers, fighters and a small corps of newspaper men in attendance when a steamer arrived with law officers and militia. All participants scattered and the principals managed to escape. The fight was rescheduled to a farm on the Eastern Shore.

In 1873 the island was converted to a peach tree orchard and the succulent peaches where prized in the fruit markets of Baltimore.

On the northwest corner of the island is a lighthouse built in 1895. The lighthouse was abandoned in 1939 and the exterior was restored in 1999. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Like the rest of the island it is also off limits.

We paddled to the Gunpowder River and turned south to head out around Poole's Island, a large island on the edge of the deep channel flowing down the east side of the Chesapeake. This island is also restricted with no landing allowed. We circumnavigated the island and headed back. On the way back we stopped to practise our rolling in the shallows on the south side at the mouth of Gunpowder River. After 45 minutes of this we headed back up Dundee Creek to our cars. By 3:00 PM we were back on the road.


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