MD - Patapsco River - 2010/05/30 - Middle Fork



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A short paddle starts on the Baltimore harbor amidst the floating garbage of a mega city but soon transitions to a surprisingly wild and life filled paddled up a pleasant river.




When Wayne suggested paddling the Patapsco I was immediately skeptical. The busy cargo port on the southern edge of this large city is not really my idea of a great paddle. But Wayne had in mind a paddle from near Broening Bridge over to the middle fork of the Patapsco and then up the long river that starts well to the west of the city an flows 40 some miles down to the tidal waters. Almost all that distance is in park land. So with some misgivings I decided to go on a Memorial Day Weekend Sunday.

The weather was clear with a bright blue sky and as yet not muggy breeze of 8 knots out of the north. We found our launch spot easily, a two ramp launch in Broening Park next to the old time classic architecture of Broening bridge just south of the toll booth for I 895, the old Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. We launched over the collection of garbage floated up on the ramp, a collection of sticks, plastic bottles and broken pieces of plastic. At least there were no needles here as I have seen at other places along the harbor. We quickly got our kayaks off the roof rack and were soon paddling out onto the waters dotted with other plastic bottles floated by the high spring tide.

Several hundred meters southeast along the shore brought us to the bridge we had just crossed on the way to the launch. Twenty crab pot lines made a sparse fence hung from the concrete span where they were carefully tended by a hopeful crabber looking for a traditional Maryland Memorial Day crab feast.

The first mile or so of the river is a dredged canal that runs along what once was a land fill for the city. Now the area is being reclaimed. It runs alongside the busy and very noisy I 895 roadway. About half way up the canal is another small launch site that would have been much better for this trip. It is harder to find via land but is much less used and much less polluted. The banks are covered by phragmites and several little leads poke back into the marshy area. The number and variety of birds here and throughout the day was surprising. We saw seagulls, mallards, Canadian Geese, blue herons, little blues herons, night heron, a wood pecker, many osprey and at least three bald eagles in six sightings.

We followed the river which became increasingly clear and swift. After 5.4 miles of paddling we reached an area where the current got fairly strong, just after crossing under I 695. The river was still navigable but was getting shallower so that you needed to hunt from bank to bank for enough water. The current was slowing our progress by more than two thirds. Floating down the other direction in a plastic boat would be advisable if you wanted to see more of the river.

On the way back I picked up two basketballs I had seen on the banks of the river on the way up. I gave one of them to a little boy at the launch ramp which seemed to make his day. We packed up and headed home for a great cookout to end a really nice day. Thanks Wayne.

(Sorry - no pictures. Dead batteries. They were OK the day before!)


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