Paddling the Chesapeake: Tuckahoe River
The Tuckahoe River is one of my favorite places to paddle. From the moment I first saw the Tuckahoe, I knew it was going to be a great place for a paddling trip. The Tuckahoe boat launch is located at GPS coordinates (N 38° 55.031' W 75° 56.663') and a map to this location is available here. After unloading the kayaks and making the easy launch from the boat ramp, Katie and I paddled north on the Tuckahoe River.
We headed under the small bridge that we crossed to get to the boat ramp and saw the train bridge that crosses the Tuckahoe River. This bridge was last used for rail traffic in 1997 by the independent Chesapeake Railroad. Soon after this bridge, we spotted our first painted turtle. There were many turtles sunning themselves on the fallen branches and trees along the shoreline. These fallen braches are often called strainers by paddlers since the current through these branches can catch a kayak.
Along the shoreline, we also saw several people fishing. The locals said the fishing was good. We continued paddling upstream as the river started becoming narrower. This region of the Tuckahoe River is tidal, so it is possible to paddle against the current in both directions. We meandered our way northward and ducked under low hanging branches. On this trip, many places appeared impassable, but closer inspection revealed narrow openings cut through the obstructions. The Tuckahoe State Park personnel regularly cut a narrow passage through fallen trees.
The current in this region was noticeably stronger and the width of the river decreased further. Slipping through the fallen trees and avoiding the submerged obstacles was becoming more difficult. With more trees overhead, we no longer saw turtles on the fallen branches. After about two miles, we decided to turn around and head down stream. Going was great because we were going with the current and scooting along. It was very tempting to paddle with the current and go real fast, but this was not the best idea. I zipped around a corner, past a strainer, over a pair of logs, and bounced the back my kayak on a third log. I was upside down doing a fish count faster than I could get in a high or low brace.
I got out of my kayak and stood in the waist deep water. The bottom of the Tuckahoe River in this area is mostly sand, and I pushed my kayak to the shallow side and started emptying my kayak with a hand pump. Katie paddled by and offered help, but it did not take long. Standing outside the kayak while pumping out the water shortened the time needed to empty the kayak. I was paddling again in a few minutes. Both Katie and I thought I would need to change into my dry clothes. We did this trip in the middle of April, so the water should be fairly cold. I did not feel cold and my shirt and bathing suit were mostly dry in the next fifteen minutes. The warm air and bright sun helped me stay warm and we continued paddling.
The rest of the obstructions I passed without any trouble, and we were back to the more open region of the Tuckahoe. We stopped at a sandbar on the right hand side for a lunch break. We have stopped here previously and found that as the tide changes it actually goes underwater. After lunch, we continued southward and went under the railroad bridge and returned to the boat ramp.
Since Katie and I paddled 11.75 miles on the Lower Sassafras the day before, we decided to do a short, 4.5 mile, trip on the Tuckahoe River. On previous kayak trips, we have paddled beyond the boat ramp to the wider sections of the Tuckahoe River. Boat traffic in this area tends to be greater, but most of the traffic is fishing boats. This trip can easily be extended by paddling south, and we are both looking forward to returning later this season.