From the Jean S. Roberts ramp, head up and across the river toward the town of Perryville on the north bank of the Susquehanna River. This old commercial town once thrived on the commerce associated with trade and industry on the river. Having fallen on hard times, it is now recovering with increased activity of visitors and new residents. As you pass by Garrett Island, the narrow river becomes 80 feet deep under the high Thomas J. Hatem bridge carrying US Routes 40 and 7. Further upstream you will pass under a second rail road bridge and the newer high bridge carrying Interstate 95. Because of this area's strategic location at the head of the Chesapeake Bay inbetween Baltimore-Washington and Philadelphia-New York, it has been an important transportation crossroads for many years.
You may start this paddle from any of Havre de Grace's kayak launching sites, but a nice trip may be had by starting at Jean S. Roberts Memorial Park just north of the Amtrak train bridge in the middle of Havre de Grace itself. On the way there you will probably pass by the old Lockhouse Museum underneath the US Route 40 bridge pictured on the left. It is worth a visit. ( Museum now open Thursday - Monday, 1-5 PM year round). The grounds and some of the remnants of the old canal locks are always available. The lock is being restored. If you want to shorten the trip drastically you may start at the Lapidum launch ramp.
Along the banks of the river you will encounter areas of very heavy submerged aquatic vegatation. Quiet paddling in these grasses may result in spooking some large bass that like to inhabit holes among the protecting strands of these aquatic plants. These beds were once much more extensive in this river as well as throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Poor water quality, siltation and excess nutrients have combined to limit the coverage of these plants that provide a safe nursery for many of the species of the Bay. Restoration of these grasses is an important step in bring back the Bay to the productivity it enjoyed in the beginning of the 20th century.
Near Lapidum you wil pass a quarying operation thaat provides sand and gravel for construction purposes to many places in the state. Much of their product is shipped via large barges. Take care to stay clear of any loading operations and give the cumbersome and difficult barges plenty of room.
On the opposite bank is Port Deposit, a "string town" that is still at the mercy of the Susquehanna River, although not as much as before the Conowingo dam was constructed during the great Depression. Constructed along one street between the high banks and the river, its history includes many times of near destruction by submerging under the swift waters of the uncontrolled Susquehanna. In recent times, large hurricanes visiting the Susquehanna watershed of required all gates of the Conowingo dam to be opened, once again flooding the town. The barge canal crossed the river here and continued up the north bank. An active railroad track continues along this shore.
Further up the river begins to get shallow and/or the current picks up. On late summer days the water level will be low, and there will be enugh water to get to Rock Run and to the mouth of Deer Creek on the southern bank. But after the islands, a rock garden and tricky currents will make passage doubful.
The bank at Rock Run is quite steep but there is a rocky landing spot in front of the museum. An easier landing may be had on the beach just north of the museum with a path following the old rail line used to build the dam giving access back to the museum buildings.
Above Rock Run landing is the mouth of Deer Creek, the major creek draining the northern half of Harford County. Above here the water will either be very shallow in a rock garden or very swift due to high releases from the Conowingo dam. In either case turning around here is advisable for all but the adventuresome in plastic (or rented) boats. Return to your launch site the way you came, although you may pass on the other side of garrett Island for some variety.
Down river is the grist mill built in 1794. It utilizes an overshot water wheel powered by a pond and flume system from Rock Run. The mill still operates on occasion for visitors and is open on weekends from 10 Am - 6:00 PM May through September. Grist grinding demonstrations are 1 PM to 4 PM when water levels and state of repair allow.
This route is part of the Maryland Greenways and Water Trails project "500 by '05".
"The Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways is a partially established trail system and greenways corridor that could ultimately provide a connection between the town of Havre de Grace, Susquehanna State Park and the Conowingo Dam as well as towns and natural areas on the shoreline in Cecil County. A two-mile section of trail was completed in 1995, utilizing a portion of a former rail line owned by PECO Energy, and additional upland segments were opened in 1999. Overall project coordination is now provided by a local non-profit group, the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways, Inc. The goal of the project is to protect open space along the river, develop a series of looping trails, stimulate tourism and compatible business opportunities in the towns, and encourage Smart Growth in the region. A pedestrian river crossing is being studied at various locations, including the abandoned piers between Havre de Grace and Perryville. " (from Department of Natural Resources)
Other nearby trips
Havre de Grace to Swan Creek
Conowingo to Holtwood Dam
Susquehanna Flats Three Lighthouse Tour