When you think of boating around the Chesapeake, you might think primarily of going by sailboat or powerboat. But there’s a different kind of boating adventure you shouldn’t overlook—one in a kayak! Sure, you can’t go as fast or as far under paddle as you can in other boats, but that’s the appeal! When you’re exploring an area by kayak (or canoe), you’re much lower to the water, able to stop by patches of shore much more easily, and the tranquil speed gives you much more time to enjoy your surroundings. Kayaking is a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of society and find yourself surrounded by nature. Plus, because you’re powering it via paddle, it gives you some heart-pumping exercise and is much better for the environment. Paddle sports are also a great way to enjoy an outing with others from outside your immediate circle while still keeping a safe social distance!
Where to Start
“Where do I start?” you might be wondering. “I don’t have a canoe or kayak. And if I did, I wouldn’t even know any cool places to take it.”
Fortunately, the Chesapeake has plenty of places that offer guided tours, where an expert will not only guide you on safe and efficient paddling technique but also point out sights of historical or environmental interest. Everyone in the family is bound to learn something new when you take a tour via canoe or kayak.
Before you pick out the tour you want to undertake, it’s important to consider whether it’s the right fit. Many tour companies list their tours by ability level, offering tours that are good fits for beginners, intermediates, or advanced canoers/kayakers. If it’s your first time, you might want to take it easy. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced canoer, maybe you want a challenging course.
It’s also smart to dress appropriately. Most tours don’t have any dress code, so wearing your bathing suit and flip flops might be entirely appropriate; however, if you have to go inside anywhere to pay for your rental or if you’ll be getting out to trudge through forested areas, you might want to cover up more and bring a pair of sturdy athletic shoes.
Finally, don’t forget to wear sunscreen and insect repellant. You’re going to be outside for a prolonged period of time— the last thing you want is to end the day by coming home all burnt and bitten.
Tours you should definitely check out
Group Paddles and Tours with Capital SUP Capital SUP
Although it’s technically paddleboarding instead of kayaking or canoeing (hey, you’re still paddling — it’s just, in this case, you’re standing up), the chance to get out on the water with a guide from Capital SUP is a great way to enjoy Back Creek and the Severn River. There are Eco-Tours on Sunday afternoons, during which you can learn from a nature guide about surrounding wildlife and history as you explore the area on your paddle board. Last but not least, there’s the Annapolis Maritime Museum Tour, held monthly throughout the summer, when the tour group paddles across Back Creek to visit the Annapolis Maritime Museum and see the exhibit Our Changing Waterfront, all about the maritime history of Maryland’s capital city. Upcoming dates are June 12, July 24, August 21, and September 25, all at 10 a.m.
Kayak Excursion on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
Sultana Education, Chestertown, sultanaeducation.org/public-programs
When you take a kayak out on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, you’ll be able to take in the sights and sounds of these pristine wetlands just as the famed explorer once did when he ventured up the Chesapeake in the 17th century. A guide will point out historic landmarks and identify all the plants and animals (like turtles and herons). Tours can be scheduled May through October by reaching out to Sultana Education.
Sunset Paddle on Mattawoman Creek
Atlantic Kayak Company, Indian Head, atlantickayak.com
When you undertake the guided Sunset Paddle on Mattawoman Creek, you’ll be learning about not only nature but also human history. Out on what’s often described as the most pristine tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll almost forget that civilization is so close. Instead, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful plants like wild rice and cattails, as well as aweinspiring animals like osprey and eagles.
Mallows Bay Ship Graveyard
Atlantic Kayak Company, Nanjemoy, atlantickayak.com
This tour, which explores the Mallows Bay Ship Graveyard is a little bit spooky, a little bit historical, and irresistibly interesting. The site comprises hundreds of shipwrecks dating from the Revolutionary War all the way through World War II, all of which have been overtaken by flora and fauna. It’s one of those sights you have to see to believe!
Inner Harbor Kayak Tours
Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, waterfrontpartnership.org
This tour for experienced paddlers is a great way to see Baltimore City and the harbor in a fresh new way. With the guidance of Baltimore City Recreation & Parks and the Healthy Harbor, you’ll set off from the Maryland Science Center water taxi landing site before paddling around the harbor to take in such landmark sites as the historic Torsk submarine, the USS Constellation, and Mr. Trash Wheel.
River Tours of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater Adventures, Cambridge, blackwateradventuresmd.com
The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge offers an up-close look at Maryland’s natural resources, and the beginner-level Signature Little Blackwater River Tour gives you a chance to paddle through the serene brackish waters and see amazing wildlife, including eagles, osprey, herons, otters, turtles, and muskrats, all surrounded by swamps, forests, and farmland.
Article written by Dylan Roche