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Pocomoke River & Tributaries - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Weekend Trip Report
Trip Dates: August 10-13, 2007
Nearest City: Snow Hill, MD
Difficulty: Easy
Submitted by: Mike_McCrea

Description:

Pocomoke Weekend of Rivers 2007

The 2007 edition of the Pocomoke Weekend of Rivers was a smaller gathering than some in the past, probably a result of not e-mailing a reminder invite to the Duckhead list. Good by me though, as Saturday and Sunday float trips still included a dozen or more boats – large enough to make it interesting, small enough to make it manageable.

Friday 8/10/07
Dividing Creek (16.7 miles)
OC1 – Kevin, Jeff, Mike

A Friday morning arrival and speedy disgorge of gear offered plenty of day remaining for a paddle. Kevin had arrived the night before and weathered a severe storm; those of us who had checked the forecast were dissuaded by the predictions of torrential rain with 2” hail possible.

Gathering a 3-boat crew Kevin, Jeff and I headed out for Pocomoke City and a bit of swamping on Dividing Creek, one of the Pocomoke River’s tributary gems.

One of my unannounced intentions was to finally, after years of Dividing Creek forays, make it as far up the creek as possible. This we did, but only because a fresh green branchy strainer fully blocked the creek at mile 8.35. I recognized that a previous push upcreek a few years before had gone a few hundred yards further, but I’m content to claim the limit of navigable waters on Dividing Creek at long last nonetheless.

Kevin and I were also content to have Jeff along as our swamp paddling virgin and regaled him with tales of Dividing Creek’s flora and fauna wonders – air plants, wild grape, Prothonotary warblers, buxom lascivious mermaids, whatever it took to get him to paddle lead as freshmeat bait for the greenhead flies.

Little known fact of eastern shore swamp paddling – the lead boat will attract nearly all of the greenhead flies. If the following boats stay 30 to 50 feet behind they are all but guaranteed a fly-free passage. The visual treat of seeing the lead boater swatting and cursing amidst a literal funnel cloud of swarming greenmeanies is almost as enjoyable as partaking an unbugged float on this delightful little creek. We can only pull this once per newbie, so we’re always looking for swamp novices on Pocomoke trips.

“Float” was to be an operative term for all of the weekend’s trips. Oh, we paddled, and covered some decent flatwater distances, but for the first time I had thought ahead and printed out the tide charts for Snow Hill and Pocomoke City, allowing us to plan our routes to snatch the rising or falling tides. Friday’s explore saw us probing up Dividing Creek with the help of a rising tide (which we outran several times on the way up, forcing us to stop for occasional muckle ups ‘til the tidal flow caught up) and retuning back downcreek on a gently falling tide.

Greenheads are the least of the bug hazards of Worcester County paddling. Chiggers (I came back with an itchy few), deer and dog ticks (I’m waiting to see if the one engorged deer tick I picked off when I got home treats me to another bout of Lyme Disease) and spiders galore (Kevin’s encounter last year with a Brown Recluse caused some nasty tissue necrosis on his leg. But it did clear up his lifelong eczema – that might be something for an ethno-botanist to look into).

You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but Jeff is a bit of a delicate flower, and some unknown bug bite caused his foot to balloon in Elephantiasis fashion. A hideously disfigured delicate flower, whose right flipflop no longer fit, but he upheld his Duckhead honor by paddling on for the next few days, popping benadryl and elevating his foot on the fore thwart beneath a bag of ice.

Our return found a campground rapidly filling with Duckheads, and a check of the tide charts showed a tide favorable route for the morrow.

Friday’s Dividing Creek trip was selected in part with an eye on the weather – high temperatures and high humidity meant that the shady canopy of Dividing Creek would provide some needed heat relief. The shade and muckleup rehydration stops kept Friday’s heatstroke at bay, as did forgoing even the mesh back summer PFD.

Towards the end of the steamy (and for some of us buggy) day the delicate flower enjoyed the canteen of ice water I dumped over his head – although he seemed a bit leery of my “Just close your eyes and trust me”. One can’t imagine why.

Jeff and I undertook an early morning car scout on Saturday to check water levels and bridge-visible strainerage on Nassawango Creek, a scout that included a stop for coffee, pancakes, eggs, sausage, home fries, rivermap reading and more coffee.

Pulling into the restaurant we had noticed two sea kayaks bedecking the roof of a car and wondered if the facility contained brother Duckheads. Awaiting our morning caloric blast we spread topos and tide charts on the table to cogitate a route, and low and behold the table beside us housed the sea kayakers. Not Duckheads, but enjoyable paddler brethren all the same.

Discussions of where we where paddling turned to what we were paddling. The reply of “Solo canoe and solo kayak” led one of them to ask “What kind of kayak?”

When I responded that if he could identify the make and model I’d buy his breakfast he damn near ran to the door. And returned as expected disappointedly mystified.

That’s one thing I enjoy about the Sea Wimp – no one has a clue. Is it a kayak? A canoe? A giant yellow and black bumblebee torpedo? A floating musclecar?

The other thing I have come to enjoy more and more as I continue to trick the outfitting is the serious daylong comfort of the Sea Wimp. Yakpads Paddle Saddle gel cushion atop an already comfy retrofitted Phase3 seat, YakPads “kneeling pads under my heels along with custom carved minicel knee and thigh braces, retrofitted rudder and foot pegs, Spirit Sail mount, ashtray, beverage holder. . .the Sea Wimp is so massively comfortable that I never exiting the boat during successive 8-hour paddling days, even when rare patches of swamp highground beckoned.

Squatting on a swamp hillside amid the great unwashed or reclining in the Sea Wimp’s near Barcalounger comfort? No freakin' contest.

Determining that the water level and tides were appropriate for a Nassawango put in at Red House Rd, following a falling creek tide down to the Pocomoke confluence, where we would have both wind and tide at our backs for an easy floating return to Milburn formed the plan and we returned to camp to gather the flock.

Saturday 8/11/07
Nassawango Creek/Pocomoke River
Red House Rd to Milburn Landing (9.2 miles)
Kevin Finch, Jeff Meitrott, Mike McCrea, Vitas Eidukevicius, Mary Eidukevicius, Martin Elliot, Lou Ann Elliot, David Pauza, Victoria Pauza, Maria Salvato, Patty Hale, Theresa Alexander, Tom Wilhelm

The usual chaos of attempting to gather a dozen plus paddlers, boats and vehicles from scattered campsites – never my favorite part of leading Pocomoke WOR trips – miraculously saw us heading out for Nassawango in tide timely fashion, and the end point of a paddling return to camp alleviated some pre-planning of shuttle vehicles at the take out. Or maybe not (Sorry Dave)

Launching from the easy access of Red House Rd we spread out along the creek in clusters of 3 or 4 boats, everyone partaking of the day at their own paddling pace, muckling here and there until we congregated at a patch of highdry ground along the Nature Conservancy’s Nassawango Preserve: http://tinyurl.com/23pwny

A fine and spacious legstretcher spot, but not equal to the lazing comfort of the Sea Wimp. Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right. Unless you goin' all the way. Chef was right.

Pushing off the Conservancy’s Nassawango landing provided us with a few miles of Spirit Sailing, Even in the barely sufficient 5-10 mph winds Jeff was exuberant with the mid-sized sail in the Independence, and began mentally designing the concept of a combination canoe foredeck spraycover (when horizontal) slash vee sail when lofted vertically.

Great idea – I want to see the protype!

I familiarly content to rudder steer the Sea Wimp under the full sized sail. It just doesn’t get much better than gliding downwind moving only your toes on the rudder pedals. Well, I did strain myself to lift a beer occasionally.

Under the Nassawango Rd bridge and down to the confluence with the Pocomoke, where we picked up a better falling tide and occasional tailwinds to carry us back to camp.

Chatting up my non-Duckhead neighbors at the camp the night before I had discovered that, for the 2nd (3rd?) year in a row our weekend of rivers visit coincided with a wakeboarding competition held off the dock at camp.

As we neared camp on the Pocomoke we could hear some serious motorworks and soon enough encountered a boat racing upriver towing two wakeboarders. Too much to resist – we positioned ourselves, waited until the boat came back downriver and sped across as close as we dared to greet the wake.

That’s, um, a helluva wake! Or series of wakes, each in the 2 ½ or 3 foot range. We all enjoyed the ride, but we all took some water over the bow. Chatting the boatdriver up later I discovered that their tow boats not only have specialized wings on the stern to create a massive wake, but the boat carries 2500 lbs of ballast.

Durn fun – If there’s a wakeboarding competition again next year I may have to bring a couple of sit-on-tops and spend a day in front of camp playing.

Saturday Night
Our long, hot weather day of Dividing Creek explore on Friday, and the desire to meet-and-greet new arrivals had nixed the traditional idea of a night float that evening, and Vic’s eagerly anticipated group crab feast captured any possible paddling partners on Saturday eve with the promise of a feed-me smorgasbord.

Just grab a seat somewhere along the line of three picnic tables stretched end-to-end and Chef Vic will pile steamed blue crabs, cast iron griddle fried soft crabs, steamed corn and various sundries before you ‘til the elastic in your waistband leaves gutbruises. Only Vic camps with a pick-up full of cooking implements. Hey Vic, no hand-cut deep fryer french-fries this year? Yer slackin’ boy.

Somehow work of Vic’s past performances got out among the non-Duckhead campers in the park. One woman asked if Vic delivered. I believe I saw her and her husband satiated at the table beside a pile of crab shell, along with a couple of other extraneous not-Duckhead campers, all deep in pickin’ and bantering conversation.

I expect that serendipitous crab feast was the stuff of their weekend memories.

The player of the evening, despite Vic’s attempt at notoriety - dumping a load of still-live, only-slightly-steamed and highly-pissed-off crabs on the table in the dark - was no doubt clubfoot Jeff.

Jeff's tablemate, a happily feasting if uninvited Pigtown matron, began his memorable evening by announcing “I gonna pick you a crab Hon; dis how ta doit widdout getting’ no shell” and Jeff concluding his evening with an invite to a wakeboarding co-ed shower.

Good weekend eh Jeff? Just remember to ease off on the Eagle’s accelerator, no matter what Jerry Reed says. In his own words:

“I was driving down US 50 on my way to Pocomoke River to paddle with some Duckheads, when Jerry Reed's "East Bound and Down" came on the radio.

Well, my natural instinct was to put the metal to the pedal. The rookie Maryland Trooper passed me and pulled a U-turn. So, there I am in the Eagle with a canoe strapped to the roof and flashing blue and red lights bearing down on me. He said he couldn't figure out what I was doing driving 63 in a 50, after just leaving a 40mph zone. I reached over and turned up the song. He didn't see any humor in it, but I'm guessing he was so young that he never saw Smokey and the Bandit!

Oh well, I'll pay the $90 for all the other times I got away.---“
Jeff – I really dig the Eagle. Classic paddler car!

Distaining the fingermess of cleaning crabs I opted for a tidy soft crab sandwich, nibbling off the crust-protruding legs first is only proper, and then headed for the Independence waiting at river’s edge.

Upstream solo on a slack tide under the new moon, the Milky Way and the occasional blaze of a Perseid streaming overhead, paddling far enough from camp to enjoy silence broken only by competing Barred Owls calling “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you” bank to bank. Sitting quietly in the lilypads along a deep, dark river, watching the starts and listening to owl calls; there must be such a thing as a solo muckle.

And then, after a lengthy quietude break, sliding back downriver on a slight breeze, ghosting unnoticed towards the assorted Milburn dock denizens. In the faint new moon starlight I could make out that the Duckhead Perseid watchers were sharing the dock with some night fishermen.

Nearing the dock in the new moon dark I asked “Am I about to cut into anyone’s lines”
“JESUS CHRIST, THERE’S SOME DUDE OUT THERE” bellows the startled reply.

Dammit, Now I’m a “dude”, at least to the unobservant angler. Well, this silence seeking dude has gotta go, heading on downriver to another inviting lilypad patch to watch the sky and drink in the quiet stars and reverberating owl calls

Drifting back upriver, paddling stealthily, I am pleased to find no flashlights intruding on the dark from the dock, and as I get closer it’s obvious that the dock population is all laid out prone on the deck boards, intent on the sky, watching for meteors.

Closer, closer, almost there. . .and I’m floating under the dock without having been noticed. Hmmmmm, what now?
“FE FI FO FUM, I SMELL THE BLOOD OF DUCKHEADDOM!!!”

Yeah, that got a reaction, suddenly breaking the silence from inches below their stargazing dock-stretched heads.

I do love me those Pocomoke nightfloats. Maybe next year the tide timing will be right for a middle twelfths nightfloat from Snow Hill or Pocomoke City back to camp. Catch the best of that tidal action and a little tailwind and we can beat the shuttle drivers back to camp without paddling a lick. Muckling MPH May Vary (MMMV).

Sunday 8/12/07
Pocomoke River
Porter’s Crossing to Snow Hill (5.1 miles)
Vic Chenowith, Jeff Meitrott, Mike McCrea, Vitas Eidukevicius, Mary Eidukevicius, Martin Elliot, Patty Hale, Theresa Alexander, Tom Wilhelm

An early rise, a breakfasting car scout with Jeff and CWDH and we had a plan for the day. Porter’s Crossing to Snow Hill is prime Pocomoke paddling, with a quick and easy shuttle, a route kept clear of strainers by the Pocomoke River Canoe Company. Plus easy canoe-dock egress, plentiful parking and friendly folks at the outfitters shop.

Pocomoke River Canoe Company
http://www.atbeach.com/amuse/md/canoe/index.shtml

We elected to run the shuttle at the front end of the trip, in part so that as many vehicles as possible would be positioned at the take out and in part so that we didn’t consume too much of the limited parking at the put in.

We kept the access trail clear as the livery trailer twice dropped off small groups of paying paddlers while we were staging gear and we dawdled sufficiently to grant them space and quietude on the river ahead.

Unfortunately we then paddled fast enough to catch back up, subjecting them to the off key harmonies of CWDH and the Squatter Sisters singing selections from Topher’s commemorative Wye Island race CD’s.

That audio treat was enough to spur the livery folk on to a faster stroke rate and once again we had the cypress swamp to ourselves as we repeated Saturday’s Nassawango spread, scattering into groups of 3 or 4 boats up and down the river and stopping occasionally to muckle.

A lingering lunch break on a rare patch of highground (note: look for this steep wooded hillside on river right just after the only power lines to cross this section of the Pocomoke) and we soon moved into the more open river along the tidal headwaters.

No falling tide this time, as a downtide run would have given us the choice of putting on near 5am or near 5pm. At 5am some Duckheads are just getting to sleep, and a late day start is how the BMO crew managed to spend the night in the swamp:

The rising tide and a light headwind slowed our downriver progress to a satisfactory muckling pace and we were greeted at the take out by Duckhead friend and livery proprietor Barry Laws. It appears that Barry reads these trip reports, and he began regaling his livery customers with tales of Duckheads-done-wrong:

A quick drive over to Assateague provided a refreshing post-paddle swim in the Atlantic and a return to camp in time for Chef Vic’s fried chicken., followed for me by an early-to-bed in order to be packed next morning and on the road in time for a scheduled 9:30 college visit with the boys (Salisbury University, a comfortably sized campus 30 minutes from the ocean. And close to some great paddling water).

A wonderful weekend, for the twenty-somethingth year in a row. And not a single hospital visit for a change. Thanks paddling pals, beach-goers and shuttle bunnies all.


Photos: http://good-times.webshots.com/album/560335244oTZooE

http://good-times.webshots.com/album/552466281SCcWyC

Accommodations:

Pocomoke State Park between Snow Hill and Pocomoke City has the Shad Landing area on the east side of the river and the Milburn landing area on the west side. Typical State Park amenities. The Shad Landing area of Pocomoke River State park is on the east side of the river and is larger and more developed. The Milburn Landing area on the west side is smaller and offers easier river access.

Fees:

None for launching or paddling. Entrance and camping fee apply only at the State Parks.

Directions:

Find Pocomoke City on a Maryland map. Find Snow Hill to the north. Look inbetween - that's all prime blackwater river and tribs.

Resources:

Ed Gertler's "Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails"


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