Paddling the Chesapeake: Lower Sassafras River
Our trip on the Sassafras River had a rocky start. I found some canoe and kayak launch sites on the Kent County web page. The first launch site was located in Georgetown. When we reached this access, it was blocked by locked gates. "No Trespassing" and "Members Only" signs were posted, so we went on to Shallowcross Wharf. We arrived shortly after high tide, and the access was a climb down loose granite rocks. These are the rocks normally used to protect the shoreline from erosion. They were loose and easy to twist an ankle on. This access point is little more than a grassy extension of the county road with no parking area. There are two houses adjacent to the launch site, so deviating from this location is not permitted. On our paddling trip, we saw a public boat launch that would have made our day much easier. It is located at GPS coordinates (N 39° 21.780' W 075° 53.191') and near the Granary Restaurant and Marina. A quick search shows that the Granary is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. When we stopped by in the middle of April, they were hosting a wedding. A map to the boat launch can be gotten here.
Katie and I started our trip paddling east on the Sassafras River going against the tide but with the wind. The wind was minimal. The struggles to load the kayaks were soon forgotten, and the beautiful expanse of the lower Sassafras River was ready to be explored. There were a few speedboats about 300 yards to our north in the boat channel. We both noticed these boats slowing down for no apparent reason. There is a slow boat zone about a mile west of the Route 213 drawbridge. I circled the slow zone in the map generated by my Garmin GPS. Several speedboats were anchored near the southern shore enjoying the peaceful afternoon. The no wake zone is for the largest boat day care I have ever paddled through. Several large marinas are in this area, and we saw many hundreds of boats. Some boats were visiting from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida.
We met up with a group of locals who were paddling inflatable kayaks from their boat. I asked them about the boat life later on in the summer. The traffic and number of boats greatly increases and the amount of swimming done around boats anchored in the no wake and slow zones greatly increase. The Dyer Creek runs south from this area and is a protected habitat by the Department of Natural Resources. They extend the minimal wake zone throughout this area.
We paddled under the Route 213 bridge without needing the assistance of the drawbridge. The Sassafras River opens into a large expanse of water once again. The shore throughout this region was mostly sand and gravel making a landing spot for lunch easy to find. There are many possible side routes to explore, but Katie and I paddled along eastward and found a narrow inlet to explore.
At this point, we decided to turn around and head back to the launch site. The winds seemed to have picked up a bit, but no white caps or rough water was in sight. We reached the drawbridge, and heard the long horn blast followed by a short one signaling a boater's request to have the drawbridge opened. We paddled through the expansive marinas and took a break on the sandy shore near the west boundary of the Dyer Creek. It was a nice place to stretch our legs before our paddle back to the launch site.
As we rounded the corner of Dyer Creek and entered the Sassafras River, we felt the stronger wind. Since the Sassafras River runs east west throughout this region, the west wind has a large area of water, or fetch, to work on. The wind makes large waves and occasional whitecaps making paddling a little tougher. We headed directly into the wind so that we took the waves head on making our kayaks more stable. We passed another group of boats anchored along the southern shore. The water in this area has a sandy bottom and shoreline. Our progress was slow, but we continued paddling steadily making progress. We left the no wave zone as several speedboats were leaving as well. The speedboats were in the boat channel to our north and their wake did not reach us for about a minute.
We reached our launch site at almost low tide. There was a narrow bit of sand before the climb up the rocky shore. We had no trouble getting our kayaks out of the water. This was a great paddling trip. Our total trip was about 11.75 miles, and we both look forward to paddling the upper part of the Sassafras River. We will definitely use the boat ramp we found along the way and noted above.