MD - Nanticoke River - 2010/10/07
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Just north of Vienna, MD on the Nanticoke are several small creeks and a marshy area that make a great half day paddle on my way to the Virginia Barrier Island for Columbus Day weekend.
|The Nanticoke is a river I have paddled very little. Barren Creek, a twisting little 6 mile long tributary of the Nanticoke, is the only piece I have paddled. The Nanticoke is a substantial tidal river flowing north north east from near the southern border of Maryland on the eastern side of the Chesapeake. This was Columbus Day Weekend and I was on my way to Kiptopeke to join a dozen friends at a lodge at the state park and then go kayak surfing for a couple of days. I left early in the morning. The rest of the group would not be arriving until 7:00 P.M. so I had five or six hours to fill in some of the big holes in my Nanticoke paddle coverage.|
Route 50 is the main highway to the eastern shore - Ocean City in particular. It crosses the Nanticoke about 15 miles before Salisbury in the small town of Vienna. Vienna is a little town that the world seems to pass by, in volume, but little to none of it rubs off on Vienna. Despite the large busy road running right by the northern edge of the town, there seems to be nothing going on in Vienna. The old brick and clapboard houses look like they must have 50 to 100 years ago. There is a power plant next to the river, practically under the bridge, but even it looks to have fallen on hard times. The town has one ramp for launching boats. There is no parking at the boat launch ramp, but the lot at the town hall half a block up the street serves as the parking. I made my way to the ramp. unloaded my gear and parked the car at the town hall. While I was walking back two separate fishing boats came from opposite directions on the river to use the ramp, with my boat sitting on the side of the narrow concrete ramp. I bet we were the only ones to use the ramp all day, and here we all were in the same 15 minute period falling over each other.
The Nanticoke has a substantial tidal range ( for the Chesapeake ) of about 3-4 feet and consequently can have some of the bigger tidal currents experienced in the bay. There was about a 1.5 knot ebb just past full high tide as I left the ramp and headed north, hugging the west bank to stay out of the worst of the current. I paddled past a motley group of barges and tugs of a tottering marine construction business and then past the oil fired power plant which looked forlornly idle. The current picked up as I passed under the Route 50 bridge which restricts even further the flow of the Nanticoke at the narrowest point of the river for several miles, no doubt why the bridge is located here.
About 100 yards up the river, I came upon the mouth of a little creek which I knew headed north westerly in the scrub oak for a couple of miles. The trees had lost a third of their leaves, probably due to the hot dry summer we had this year. The water was dark from the stains of the oak leaves and roots. The creek snaked back in forth of the low swampy land. The trees and the dark water reminded me of the area at the mouth of the Suwannee river just before it enters the Gulf of Mexico. I followed the creek until I ran out of water then turned around and paddled back to the river, turning into another lead through the marsh just prior to returning to the main channel.
This little channel twisted along on the edge of the forest. The red leaves of the black oak trees contrasted with the yellow of the low poison ivy plants that were pleasing from the safety of the water. There were only a few patches of the tall invasive phragmites australis. Most of the plants on the banks of teh marsh were natives.
I found another little creek heading up into the oak forest and followed that for perhaps a mile. I couldn't quite get through to the other lead that showed on my Google satellite map so I turned around and headed back. By now it was time to head back to the ramp and head on down to Kiptopeke for the rest of the activities. See the video of the weekend trip.