|I put off this trip a week ago because the tides weren't right. But this weekend the tides would be high in the middle of the day and we would be able to travel deep into the marsh. I wanted to do a circular route using Cedar Creek southwest of Blackwater National Wildlife Area and near Toddville Maryland.
We left early at 6:00 AM and made the launch site on Cedar Creek at 10:00 AM. This remote little site delivers you deep into the marsh near the mouth of Cedar Creek. It is just a little graded turnaround at the end of a two mile graded sand road out into the marsh. It places you in a great spot to get way back in the marsh with a minimum of paddling.
We pulled the kayaks off the roof and set them alongside the small launch area. There was only one other car here so parking in the very small area was not a problem. The bank here is steep and muddy except for a small ledge covered with oyster shells. it is just large enough to get one kayak at a time into the water. Two hours before high tide the water came up to my knees as I got the kayak into position. I decided to get into the kayak using the bank like a dock, bridging my paddle across to the downtrodden grasses along the solid shore.
We headed up Cedar Creek, following the twists and turns, loop after loop through the hairpin and bow tie turns. About two miles in we took a smaller lead to the left that led back to a very shallow pond. Part of the pond had dead tree stumps and logs where there was once a forest. The kayak pitched violently to the left as I ran up on an underwater stump, causing a quick brace to keep from dumping into the muck. The pond soon dead ended into a clump of marsh grass and we retraced out track back to the larger channel.
We had been following the incoming tide. Now that we were headed back down the other side, we had an opposing current. The current had been significant at the mouth of Cedar Creek but up here at the end it was not an issue of speed, but rather a useful indication of where we were in the complicated system of river, creeks and dead end leads.
We continued down the creek choosing one side of a marsh rotary. When our "exit' came up we took it and then stopped about a hundred meters from the junction on what looked to be solid ground. The bright green reeds and grass of the late spring marsh did provide sufficiently solid ground to enjoy our lunch on nearly solid ground. the strong winds of the day, 18 to 20 knots, kept the flies and mosquitos at bay and the stop was quite pleasant in the strong sun. From the slightly greater elevation of the marsh bank, we could look over the expanse of marsh for miles in all directions.
This creek came out on the bay less than a kilometer from where Cedar Creek began. We turned back into the marsh to follow another lead that also made a circle back out into the bay. Before heading out into the strong winds and open water of Fishing Bay we discussed our plan for the rest of the paddle, reviewing the likely conditions that would occur if the line of strong thunderstorms we could see to our north push on through while we were paddling out along the shore of the bay. Our plan was to stay close to the shore even though the current strong south west winds and half meter swell would push on against the bank and be reflecting off the steep marsh front. if the thunderstorm front came through I knew the winds would be from the north and quite strong and I did not want to be pushed away from what would then become the protected lee.
We paddled out into the bay taking the sharp wind driven waves with splashing bows. Turning along the shore, we continued west, quartering the strong southwest wind. Half way back to Cedar Creek the front came through. The wind dropped briefly and then picked up strong from the north. We were protected in the lee and the reversed wind direction actually beat down the swell coming in from the southwest. We paddled strongly up Cedar Creek as the line of thunderstorms bore down on us, lightning and thunder filling the near horizon. We made the launch and got the kayaks up on the bank, cockpit covers on before the torrential downpour started. We retreated to the car, rolled up the windows and took a nap while the rain pelted a drum beat on the car roof. In about an hour the storms passed and we re-emerged to pitch our tents in back of the car where we camped overnight. Another set of storms came through during the night bouncing huge raindrops off the stretched nylon of the tent.
The next morning the sun came up off the marsh across the creek. All our foot prints in the sand had been obliterated in the strong rains of the previous night. The wind was down this morning. There were no flies or mosquitos, but there were no-see-ums so we kept well covered in spite of the warm and steamy start to this day. After a quick cold breakfast we struck camp, pit the boats up on the car and headed out o the main paved road. On the way we scared up three fox kits who were resting on a pile of marsh grass on the side of the road. They got up and ran down the road for several 100 meters before heading off the road into the marsh. Around another turn we started a small group of deer running down the road also. there was a lot of wildlife here is the two miles to the paved highway.
We made it over to Toddville and located the launch ramp on the creek that heads back west of the one road string town. Next to the seafood packing house, all quiet on this early Sunday morning, is a small single position concrete ramp. At this early hour of 7: 00 A.M. we were the only ones here. We had our pick of parking in the very small area. We launched our boats and began paddling past the working boats, crabbers and oyster boats tied along the small docks jutting out from the banks. A silver light shone through the light overcast and reflected over the smooth water. Once again the current was favorable for our paddle upriver. With high tide some 5 hours in front of us we should have been able to investigate the full length of this river.
After traveling a few miles up the river, we came to a bridge over the river. On our way to Toddville we had stopped to look at it from up top. I was concerned that it was too low to allow us to pass back under at low tide. Now from water level it was easy to see that this bridge would soon be impassable, well before high tide. The banks on both side of the bridge were high and quite muddy. Lined with tall and thickly growing reeds there was no spot for a portage either. We paddled under the bridge and went a short ways upstream before turning around and going back. I didn't want to get caught upstream of an impassable bridge.
Retracing our steps we turned into a side lead that headed back toward Toddville. It too forced us to turn around as we encountered a culvert under he road.
Farther down the main channel we turned north into another side channel, following a twisting and turning channel into the marsh.
Finally returning to the launch at 11:30 A.M. we pulled out our boats. There were several cars and trailers of boats launched after us along the side of the road. While we were loading up two more came and dumped in at the launch, so this launch site is fairly active on the weekend at least. Making a slow return to our homes with a stop for food, we got back at 6:00 P.M. Our ramble through the marsh was success.