MD - Nanticoke River - 2013/04/27 to 2013/04/28 - 32.0 miles



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The Nanticoke River valley is the most undeveloped in the entire state of Maryland and boasts the largest unbroken pine forest in the state. We traverse Broadcreek and Marshyhope Creek in two day paddles.




I haven't done much paddling on the Nanticoke River. It always seems that I never get around to it. I have paddled on Barren River out of Mardella Springs at the end of another trip.  I have paddled near Vienna, MD. But I never seem to just get around to paddling the northern Nanticoke and its tributaries. 

This weekend would be different. Wayne Richardson and I were going to stay in Salisbury on Saturday night after paddling from Laurel, DE to Sharptown on Broadcreek.  Then Sunday we would paddle down Marshyhope Creek from Federalsburg to Sharptown.  

The Nanticoke Water trail is being defined and will eventually become part of the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail. The Nature Conservancy is supporting the preservation of the many miles of undeveloped shoreline and are preserving 20% of the 745000 acre watershed. One third of the tidal wetlands in the state of Maryland are in the Nanticoke system. On the northern section of the river are xeric sand dunes with pine hummocks growing on top of them.

We met at the park-and-ride near Havre de Grace Maryland at 6:30 A.M. and followed in a caravan down the back way around the top of the Bay staying on 313 for most of the trip.  After a very pleasant traffic free ride, we arrived at the ramp at Sharptown shortly after 9:00 A.M.   Leaving one car at the ramp, we quickly made the 10 mile trip to Laurel Delaware where we found a small ramp with almost no one there.  We had the kayaks off the racks and in the water by 10:00 A.M.

We had arrived just after the ebb started.  There was a small current flowing downstream in the dark creek which was approximately 10 yards wide.  Immediately after leaving the ramp, we were in a nice quiet undeveloped stream. In fact at least two thirds of Broadcreek is without any development on the banks.

It was a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze blowing. The temperature was in the mid to high 70s. the water temperature, because of the dark color of the water from the root tanins, had warmed to a very pleasant high 60s.

Even in the last week of April, the trees were not fully out yet. Their light green leaves shifted in the gentle breeze.  Broadcreek is full of twists and turns as it makes its way to rejoin with the Nanticoke River. The creek is about 8 to 9 miles long.  

We stopped at a nice little gravel Beach for lunch. It was one of the few gravel beaches that we saw. Most of the banks either had forest right to the edge, or there was a soft muddy marshy fringe fronting the trees.

We continued on down the creek, discovering multiple beaver lodges. Each one seem to be built by a master builder who was using a tree in the center of each lodge.

Once we reached the Nanticoke, we started seeing navigation markers has we turned south to follow the much larger river.  In just a few miles, we retured to the Sharptown ramp. We landed on one of the nice but small sand beaches between rock groins. Two people were retrieving their boats on the somewhat busy.  The 12.5 mile paddle took us just over 4 hours. We put our two kayaks onto the car we left at the large parking lot and headed back to Laurel Delaware to pick up our other car. Once there we went on to Seaford Delaware to check out two other ramps. That would've made a nice third paddle of about 12 miles to go down the Nanticoke from Seaford to Sharptown but we didn't have enough time in the weekend to make all three paddles.  Leaving Seaford we went down to Salisbury and checked in at the motel. The outside of the Budget Inn looked run down, but the inside of been recently refurbished and was quite pleasant.  

After a shower I headed out to find my favorite Salisbury Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Mexicana. Unfortunately it had gone out of business. I consulted my out-of-date GPS database and looked for two other Mexican restaurants both of which were also gone. I wound up going to La Tolteca, an acceptable but not great Mexican restaurant.


The next day we left a car at Sharptown ramp once again and drove 13 miles up to Federalsburg. Instead of using the large ramp at US 313 we went to a ramp a little farther downstream at the VFW. The single ramp had a nice sized parking lot and a portable toilet. Once again the tide was high and the current was slack. We had decided to ride with the current and take a chance that the wind which was scheduled of be up to 20 mph by mid day wouldn't blow us back upstream.

Almost all the Marshyhope Creek shoreline is undeveloped. There are only a few small clusters of houses, not more that 30 or so homes in the nearly 20 miles we paddled. Osprey hunt all along the river. We watched as an osprey hovered and the struck successfully to pull up a small fish. Two mature bald eagles launched from a tree across the river. With a loud protest the osprey dropped the flailing fish back to the water. The eagles returned to their perch to wait for another opportunity to steal a meal.

On the shore we saw long ridges of 20 to 30 foot high sand ridges. These are xeric sand dunes formed by northwest winds blowing across a sandy plain from thousands of years ago. They are more than a half miles long and long hundreds of feet wide. The only commercial site we saw on this river was a quarry bagging this sand. From the look of it, I don't think it has much of a future.

The current stayed with us all the way down Marshyhope, neutralizing the push back upriver of the strengthening wind. The clouds rolled in from the west and the wind shifted from a headwind in the SSE to a headwind out of the NE as we turned and headed up the Nanticoke back to our car at Sharptown ramp. We loaded up, picked up our car at Federalsburg where the ramp was almost fully exposed at low tide. All that remained was a painful decision to join the traffic jams on the western shore starting just after crossing the Bay Bridge. We should have gone back the same way we came.


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