Assateague Island and the Pokomoke River 2008

April 14, A  Travel Day: Bruce and I left Albany by 8:00 am and arrived in the Ocean City, Maryland area by about 3:00 pm.  We drove directly to the Assateague Island National Seashore Visitor’s Center to gather information for the start of our trip tomorrow morning.  We stayed in an Ocean City hotel, where we got a last shower and a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s anticipated paddle around Assateague.  

April 15, The Pocomoke River not Assateague Island: The day dawned a bit overcast and very cold, with a strong wind blowing.  We had a quick continental breakfast in the hotel lobby, then drove over to Assateague Island.  The forecast was for 20 to 25 mph winds.  The rangers were warning folks about the conditions, which would not improve until the next day.  The wind, air temperature (highs in the low 50’s) and the cold bay water (510) gave us second thoughts about starting out today.  

We grabbed a cup of coffee at the local Dunkin Donuts while we looked for alternatives in my book, Sea Kayaking Along the Mid-Atlantic Coast by Tamsin Venn.  We had both seen an interesting description of a twelve-mile paddle on the Pokomoke River, beginning at the Shad Landing area of Maryland’s Pokomok River State Park.  Wind should be less of a problem on a river than on the open bay.  It was about a twenty-mile drive, so we headed out as soon as we finished.  

We arrived just before noon.  At the ranger station, we gathered information about the river and registered to camp for the night.  We quickly set up camp and had a quick lunch, then drove to the launch site, readied our boats and headed out.  

Bruce was wearing his new dry suit.  I elected to skip wearing my wetsuit and went with my paddling jacket and pants.  I was warm enough, but as soon as my hands came into regular contact with the water, I knew that was a mistake.  The water was very cold.  Even though we could stay close to shore most of the time, a dip in the water could prove to be very serious because of the air and water temperatures, combined with the wind and the remoteness of our surroundings.  Hypothermia would almost certainly be the result.  I vowed to wear the wet suite next time and hoped I’d get through today without a problem.

Starting from Shad’s Landing on Corkers Creek, we paddled 2.0 miles northeast along the Pokomoke River to the Nassawango Creek, then turned northwest to follow the creek for some 3.3 miles before turning around and retracing our steps back to camp.  The area is beautiful, wild and undeveloped.  It holds the northern most growth of Bald Cypress trees in the U.S.  These trees are impressive for their size and appealing shape.  The river is wide and wandering and, according to the map, continues in this way beyond our turn off at Nassawango Creek.

The Nassawango Creek begins as wide as the river it flows into.  Much of the creek lies within the Nassawango Creek Preserve, which is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy.  There is the possibility of powerboat traffic until you pass under a low bridge about a mile from the river.  After that, it’s strictly canoes and kayaks.  We did not see another boat on this part of the trip.  

The creek is rich in birds of prey and dozens of turtles.  We saw turtles grouped together on rocks or logs all along our route, sometimes a half dozen or more.  We heard the wild cry of an Osprey and turned to see three mature Osprey/s circling in the sky.  Around the next bend, a magnificent Great Blue Heron stood and studied the water.  Then, 

lifting from the top of the tallest tree ahead of us, the biggest Bald Eagle either Bruce or I had ever seen.  Further on, a Belted Kingfisher rocketed past, while the ever-present aggregation of Turkey Vultures circled lazily above us. 

We took a break at the small boat access point on Red House Road, and elected to go no further, as the creek narrowed considerably here making additional progress in our long sea kayaks difficult.  Back in our boats, we headed down the creek and were soon paddling on the Pokomoke toward camp.  Once back at our campsite, we decided to go out for dinner, as it was getting cold and the light was fading fast.  Ahead of us was a very cold night with temperatures in the low 30’s.

Resources: Sea Kayaking Along the Mid-Atlantic Coast by Tamsin Venn, Appalachian Mountain Club Books

Click here for the Assateague Island Report


 © Don Yackel 2020