Paddling Maryland State Parks

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Summer is a great time to get out and explore the many water trails across Maryland. Here are some of our favorite spots to paddle!

Point Lookout State Park

Kayaking.Lotus.JPGPoint Lookout State Park is the southern-most point on the Western Shore, where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay. You are surrounded by water on three sides, making it ideal for both beautiful sunrises and sunsets! Lake Canoy at Point Lookout is a wonderful place for a canoe, kayak or paddleboard, especially when you want to be a bit more sheltered. Although it is not actually a lake as the name suggests, it is a shallow body of water connected to the Potomac River, near the park's boat launch. You can launch directly from the boat launch or from behind the park store where there is a small sandy spot off the parking lot. The Park Store also rents kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, but call ahead for hours. You can also launch directly from the campground if you happen have one of the very popular waterfront campsites in the Green's Loop of the park's campground. Campsites can be booked up to one year in advanced, and are quite popular on weekends during the summer. If you have the option to visit during the week, or in September/early October, it's a bit less busy and often the weather is still very nice!

During your paddle in Lake Canoy, be sure to take time to enjoy the wildlife, all around! There is a small heron rookery (nesting colony) between the causeway and the park store. If you look and listen you will see Great Blue Herons coming and going, building nests and feeding young, from late spring to early summer. If you listen carefully, you may even hear the young herons "clacking" and begging for food! You will also see plenty of Bald Eagles and Ospreys in this area. There has been an active eagle nest in the top of a large pine across from the boat launch on "Treasure Island" for many years. The nest typically yields two young each year. It takes about five years for the young eagles to get their "bald" heads, the juvenile eagles maintain a dark, blotchy appearance until then. Osprey can also be seen nesting on man-made nest "towers" or platforms throughout the park, as well as using some dead tree snags. Watch for these noisy "fish hawks" building nests and fishing from spring to summer!

Newtowne Neck State Park

Newtowne Neck is one of Maryland's "newest" parks, located in St. Mary's County, just outside of Leonardtown off the Potomac between Breton Bay and St. Clement's Bay. The 700+ acre property was purchased by the state in 2009 and has over seven miles of shoreline, so plenty for a short paddle. For a longer day trip, you can paddle out to St. Clement's Island, which was Maryland's first landing in 1634. On St. Clement's Island you will find a replica of the Blackistone Lighthouse, as well as a picnic pavilion, tables, grills and composting toilets. There is no camping permitted on St. Clement's Island, so take a break and refuel before heading back to Newtowne Neck, or for experienced paddlers you can continue along the Captain John Smith Trail along the Potomac River.

Janes Island State Park

Kayaking.JI.2017.JPGIf there were a park known to be a paddler's playground, it would have to be Janes Island, with almost 30 miles of water trails! Located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, in Crisfield, this park is surrounded by water, and certainly has some of the best sunsets around! Janes Island has a large variety of camping accommodations, everything from a small conference center, to full service cabins that can sleep six, to rustic four person mini-cabins and a campground with water and electric. There are also several more "primitive" paddle in campsites that you can only get to by boat! You’ll enjoy exploring all around the island and make sure to check out the old "fish factory" remains. The beaches are beautiful and stretch on and on. This is truly a gem on the Chesapeake. And don't forget to stop in one of the many restaurants in Crisfield for a crabcake and slice of Maryland's state dessert, the Smith Island Cake, before heading home!

Mattawoman Creek Natural Area

Located in Charles County is the Mattawoman Creek Natural Area, which is an absolutely lovely estuary teaming with life and perfect for a relaxing paddle! While not technically a park, this area is owned by the State and managed by the Maryland Park Service. Mattawoman Creek is best known for its large variety of wildlife, especially birds, and the rare American lotus, which blooms late in the summer. The large and fragrant yellow blooms, among the giant lily pads of the lotus plants, can only be found in two places in Maryland and the Mattawoman is one of them! Paddling along these lotus blooms should be on you kayak “must do” list! Please remember your leave no trace ethics when visiting this area: take only photos, leave only paddle strokes- please do not pick the flowers!

Now that summer has arrived, it's time to grab your pfd and paddle and get out on the water exploring one of these great locations!

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