DE - Chesapeake & Delaware Canal - 2004/11/13 - 29.0 miles



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Kayaking C& D Canal. The Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay are connected by a sea level canal constructed to pass shipping safely inside coastal waters. Used extensively by Liberty Ships avoiding possible dangerous submarine infested ocean waters, its present day commercial use is much reduced. Only fairly shallow draft vessels can pass through the 14 mile long canal.




By Julio Perez

Some days you plan a trip to minute detail and it goes to hell

On others days you just show up and things go well. 

Our plan on this day was between the two extremes but the water gods smiled on us almost continuously. Ted (Naperkoski), Hank (McComas) and I took to the water at 9:45. We paddled out of Chesapeake City at 4.3-5 mph with some concerns over what the canal current might have in store for us later in the day. By 10:45 we had covered 5.0 miles and felt we could maintain that pace for a couple more hours.  The canal’s banks are stone and uniform, as you would expect from the corps of engineers. (See map)




There are six bridges over the canal that are useful markers for the passage of time and miles (one in Maryland (Rt 213) and five in Delaware). From the low perspective of a kayak one sees second growth trees 30-40 years old on either bank and occasional patches of marsh grass. There are 11 wooden fishing piers along the canal but sites adequate for kayak put in are rare(from Chesapeake City East). There are good public ramps at Chesapeake City, the marina at Summit Point (6.0 mi. east of Chesapeake city), then two at Delaware City (13..75 mi. east of Chesapeake city), one at the park 1.25 mi. north on the canal branch(on the Right) and one at the public pier in Delaware City (on the Left).



The calm day with dense cloud cover and the flat water of the canal hypnotized us, so on occasion I noticed that we were traveling East at 6.8 – 7.4 mph. This was the fastest speed I had ever maintained for over one hour. This was great, until I considered that the goofy timing of currents in the canal might get their revenge on our return journey. It was challenging to decipher the current prediction table because we were aware that in this narrow waterway there would be influences on the currents from the Chesapeake as well as the Delaware Bay. Further, the discrepancy in the length and depth of the two bays was certain to make for odd changes instead of the usual two equally distributed high and low tides.  We paddled on for just over two hours, reaching Delaware City at 11:00 am  and took a brief break at the municipal park on the East side of the Delaware City channel branch. There was a nice but muddy ramp leading up to a parking lot, spot-a-pot and enough grass to sit or stretch out for a bit.




Continuing on the canal branch we passed the waterfront  of  Delaware City (map).  We left the canal and entered the Delaware Bay just in time for grumbling stomachs to call for a real lunch break. With Fort Delaware State Park (the small island) to our left and marsh to our right we searched the coast for an easy landing . At about ½ mile south we found a debris strewn, marshy area and pulled the boats up between grass patches. A fallen tree served as our lunch table and driftwood planks as chairs.



Lunch consisted of dried fruit, nuts, cereal, power bars, a turkey summer sausage and hot chocolate. I suppose that after challenging our muscles we now wanted to challenge our intestines. During our forty minute stop we walked the shore finding  old bottles, ceramic bowls and insulators, silverware and dishes from old Fort Du Pont (aerial photo). The fort was located about 100 yards inland. The sense of discovery was pleasant but the realization that this dump was located on the shore of Delaware Bay did not inspire confidence in the states interest in the environment or local water quality. The signal for us to travel on was sight of my boat going south without me. The combination of tide and boat wake had floated my boat off the shore and the breeze was sailing it south. We took the hint, grabbed boats, packed up and headed south toward the canals main branch.

As we entered the canal I braced myself for some hard paddling and started to consider tactics for safe travel should we still be on the water after sunset. Canal traffic in the afternoon was much heavier than in the morning. Most boaters were very courteous and slowed prior to reaching us (it would have been nice to have a few waves to surf). Progress on the return trip was slower (3.8-4.8mph) but still faster than usual. I believe that this was due to a combination of factors unrelated to current; too much testosterone and Ted’s new boat. We became a little paranoid by the time we reached the rail bridge at the half way point. We were convinced that someone had come behind us and spread those bridges out.  




The sun approached the horizon and with one hour of daylight left we were paddling steady and doing about 7.0 mph again. Two cyclists stopped us about three miles from Chesapeake City and asked if we were with the Wilmington Outdoor Club. The towpath and several roads adjacent to the canal are frequented by local outdoor clubs for hiking and cycling.  During our paddle we saw very little wildlife. The stone jetty of the canal is an unfriendly environment for birds and the fur bearers that live in local streams. I can see how a bike ride along the canal could be more interesting for observing wildlife.

At the end of most trips is the hour of reflection; the time when we slowly adjust to returning to the rat race. A few brief words recall a pleasant moment that we shared on the journey, followed by long silences.  We finish at sunset, quietly pack gear, secure boats and head for home.

 Where to next?

Trip Summary

Put in: Public Ramp Chesapeake City adjacent to Corps of Engineers

Route type: Out and back.

Conditions:       Overcast

                        Air Temp. 60-63, Water temp 50

                        Winds calm to 5 mph

                        Tides and currents confusing but mostly cooperative

Gear:    Mariner Express 16.0 ft./ Swift Mid paddle 220cm        Hank

            Current Designs Caribou 17.25 ft./ Werner Rec Tour S 230cm  Ted

            P&H Sirius 17 ft./ Werner Shuna, Bent shaft carbon 215cm       Julio

Time                 6:18    

Distance           29.0 miles

Click here for Dewey Beach Paddle Trip report


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EVEN THE BEST BOATERS CAN FIND THEMSELVES IN SERIOUS TROUBLE ON THE MILDEST OF DAYS ON THE WATER. 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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