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Martinak State Park - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Weekend Trip Report
Trip Dates: July 2004
Nearest City: Denton, MD
Difficulty: Easy
Submitted by: Mike_McCrea

Description:

Paddling Caroline County - Watts Creek and Tuckahoe Creek

We had packed our gear in dry bags, racked the boats and made shuttle plans for a canoe camper down the Paw Paw Bends section of the Potomac when a last minute check of the weather forecast revealed a prediction of torrential rains and flood watches throughout the Potomac drainage. Adventurous though we may be our intended trip destination had “epic” written all over it, and we opted to range in the other direction for a few days of car camping and day paddling in Caroline County.

Our alternate destination was Martinak State Park, at the confluence of Watts Creek and the Choptank River and we girded ourselves to make the mental transition from backcounty campsites to “Howdy neighbor, could you turn down the Metallica on the boombox”.

Surprise – the tent camping loop at Martinak was empty. Twenty-eight sites and not another soul in sight. Good thing too, since the sites at Martinak are Levittown close in proximity. One trick to site selection we finally recognized: if forced to choose or reserve a site unseen pick one on the outside of the loop curve, those sites tend to be more spacious by virtue or simple geometry.

Camp established we hauled our boats down to the State Park put in at the mouth of Watts Creek. As we were offloading we chatted up a kayaker who was taking out – small world; he was taking off from a race-training run, noted my Wye Island Regatta race tee shirt and we chatted about the race and discovered that we had friends and acquaintances in common.

Watts Creek/Herring Run (7/13/04)
OC1 – Mike McCrea, Diane Hollingsworth, Cooper McCrea
SOT – Tyler McCrea

Watts Creek is reminiscent of Kings Creek in Talbot County, though in my book prettier. Eagles, osprey and I suspect a heron rookery somewhere nearby. We followed the twisting turns of Watts Creek upriver on a rising tide, beneath the noisy Rte 404 bridge, beneath the Double Hill Rd bridge and up to the near limit of navigation. Heading back downstream we poked up Herring Creek, a tributary equally as large as Watts before turning about and making for the confluence with the Choptank River.

The mouth of Watts Creek provided a sandy bottomed swimming and frolic venue for Ty, Coop and Diane to practice their Cirque de SOT routine and practice they need, as they endeavored without success to stand atop the Typhoon three abreast.

All of this SOT standing, falling, splashing and swimming took place mere feet from the world’s calmest osprey, who remained perched atop a channel marker glaring at us with birdy bemusement.

Back at camp we marveled at our weather luck; blue skies and sunshine here on the eastern shore whilst the western shore hunkered down under a flood watch, tornado warning and thunderstorms. We chose well.

Tuckahoe Creek (7/14/04)
OC1 – Mike McCrea, Diane Hollingsworth, Cooper McCrea
SOT – Tyler McCrea

Awakening to our still deserted State Park on Wednesday morning we headed off to paddle another eastern shore gem, Tuckahoe Creek. Tuckahoe Creek is a small, twisty Duckhead delight. The Tuckahoe watershed holds water well, so it is nearly always floatable. It runs sandwiched between Tuckahoe State Park and the Adkins Arboretum, so the intrusion of human development is nil. Even the shuttle is a plus, short, straightforward and easy.

Having witnessed the boys tendency towards brotherly shenanigans on Watts Creek – one favorite trick was to paddle swiftly up behind yon brother’s boat until the bow was beside the lead boat’s stern, then suddenly sweep the paddle wide and spin the lead boat off into the spider-covered bankside foliage – we decided it would be best on this small, twisty and heavily wooded creek if some sibling cushion was provided, and so our order of passage was Tyler, Mike, Cooper, Diane.

We maintained this order down to the halfway point at the Pee Wee Trail footbridge, a fine level & open spot for a picnic and a surprisingly deep and cool swimming hole as well. Putting back on after a lengthy lunch and swim we altered that order and Cooper lead us down to the take out.

Given the twists, turns and tricky nature of this diminutive creek both boys did quite well as leaders and we are all indebted to those sawyers gone before us whose work was evident; not a strainer to be found, only a few speedbump logs and (Diane counted ‘em) 17 limbo logs, most of which were easily passable with just a bit of hunch and scrunch.

Driving the backshuttle we came upon a family standing beside their well and truly stuck conversion van, dad having backed the rear wheels into a ditch during a three-point turn. A Park Ranger was in attendance but his helpfulness was limited to directing traffic.

I hopped out, retrieved the towing chain and cable from the bed of my truck and coerced the ranger into giving them a pull with his 4WD pickup. He looked doubtful and made the stuck driver sign a release while I hooked them up and cleared the family away from the chain and cable in case anything snapped.

The Ranger took the slack out of the cable, eased forward in 4-wheel low and the van came out of the muddy ditch with a giant mud-sucking schluuppp, much to the amazement of both the van driver and the ranger. I was soon packed up and back on my way, confident that two more people would soon be buying towing cables to keep in their vehicles. (@$20 at a Walmart or auto parts place…and I use mine a couple times a year)

All in all a right fair trip. We learned a trick about blind selection of campsites. The boys each got to lead on a tricky swamp creek. The value of keeping a towing cable in the car was imparted to more folks in need. Aside from one 3am cloudburst the weather was unexpectedly fine. Good call on the change of venue; New Jersey bore the brunt of the storms, getting a 12” deluge that burst 5 dams along the Cooper River. And the Paw Paw Bends section will be there next time we’re up for a quickie canoe camper.

Accommodations:

State Park campground facilities at the put ins for both Watts Creek and Tuckahoe Creek.

Directions:

From Rte 404 in Denton Maryland follow the signs to Martinak State Park to reach the Watts Creek put in. To reach the Tuckahoe Creek put in follow the signs from Rte 404 in Hillsboro to Tuckahoe State Park.

Resources:

Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails by Ed Gertler


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