Coastal Plain Water Trails
Explore the tidal rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay. You’ll find flat water paddling opportunities that provide access to natural habitats for birdwatching and fishing, as well as access to towns, attractions, and heritage sites - a perfect combination! The smooth, flowing waters at the head of these rivers provide great opportunities for novice paddlers exploring narrow channels, while wide open water where the rivers meet the Bay offer challenges for more experienced paddlers. These water trails deliver a signature Maryland experience. Combine your outing with a stop for fresh, Maryland seafood or a trip to a local craft brewery or winery, plentiful in this area. Pay attention to tidal fluctuations before heading out.
Explore the Capital Region from a new perspective: the water. Grab your kayak or canoe and enter the calm waters of the Anacostia River. The water trail spans nine miles from Bladensburg, Maryland past Washington, D.C. to its juncture with the Potomac River. Along the way, you’ll find forests, wetlands and a diversity of wildlife that bely the waterway’s urban surroundings. Toward the confluence with the Potomac River, you’ll paddle past the National Arboretum, Nationals Stadium, and parks, recreation areas, and local businesses with lots of options for outdoor fun.
Centreville was once the launch site for grains that were shipped to feed George Washington’s armies during the Revolutionary War. Today, the Centreville Wharf and Centreville Landing mark the starting points for four water trails. The Mill Stream and Yellow Bank Stream trails pass through calm, low marshes and make for peaceful easy paddling, while the Alder Branch Trail heads out into the main waters of the Corsica River with its stronger currents and open stretches.
Running the 64-mile length of the meandering and broad Nanticoke River, with easy access at more than 25 public launches, boat ramps, and piers, the Nanticoke River Water Trail is a unique escape. Home to a large concentration of bald eagles, you’ll marvel at these mighty raptors soaring above. Much of the water trail visits natural environments that provide a setting evocative of the indigeneous landscapes inhabited by the Nanticoke Indian Tribe - the river’s namesake. Native Americans once used this route for trading and fishing. Stop in Vienna and other towns to visit museums, restaurants and shops. Find out more at paddlethenanticoke.com, or get a map at the Dorchester County Visitor Center or through the DNR Outdoor Store.
With nearly 50 square miles of forests, fields, marshes and open water, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, “The Everglades of the North,” offers breathtaking vistas and a rare glimpse of untouched America. The Blackwater is simply a “must” experience for any outdoor lover. Open vistas, winding marshes, and remarkable waterfowl viewing at the heart of the Great Atlantic Flyway have earned The Blackwater its nickname, “The Everglades of the North.” Beginners are invited to the Green Trail, with the Purple Trail fit for more seasoned paddlers. As always, check ahead for weather and other advisories, but do not miss this truly special place.
Paddle out from the Federalsburg Canoe and Kayak Launch, near the site of the Annual Frog Fest, which is celebrated on the last Saturday in June. Surrounded by small town charm and more than 3,000 acres of wildlife preserve, it’s the perfect spot to launch a serene river paddle.
The beautiful Patuxent River flows more than 100 miles with dozens of launches along its banks, inviting day paddlers to pick a portion, or true adventurers to plan a canoe-camping getaway. Highlights include the picturesque Jug Bay Natural Area, Kings Landing Park, Historic Sotterley Plantation, Greenwell State Park and the famous Calvert Marine Museum.
Get All The Info At PatuxentWaterTrail.org
Part of the larger Potomac River Water Trail, which runs from the Nation’s Capital to the Chesapeake, the Lower Potomac Trail is truly unique. Put in at Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area and paddle upriver to the famous Mallows Bay National Marine Sanctuary, home of the largest ghost fleet of ships in the Western Hemisphere. Paddle among the hulls of more than 100 abandoned mighty ships as they are reclaimed by the woods and wetlands of the river. Spot nesting ospreys, protected fish nurseries and a biodiverse sample of native plants growing inside the former ship hulls and on the bay shore. The historic shipwrecks date back to the Revolutionary and Civil wars, as well as WWI.
This trail combines sheltered water on the Mattawoman that is perfect for new paddlers with a loop out into the Potomac for those ready for adventure. Explore the beautiful forested shores of the Mattawoman Natural Environment Area for incredible birding, and see the legendary ospreys of Smallwood State Park.
Explore rolling Southern Maryland farm land and lush marsh ecosystems along Church Creek and Nanjemoy Creek. See marsh flowers in bloom, enjoy amazing fishing, and even camp along this sheltered trail.
From Washington, D.C. the mighty Potomac River widens and flows into Southern Maryland, where it is impacted by the tides, and eventually empties into the Chesapeake Bay near the sandy shores of Point Lookout. With stunning spots along the way, from National Harbor to the quiet waters of Mallows Bay National Marine Sanctuary, with its famous ship graveyard, there are endless opportunities for paddling adventure along its 115-mile length. Paddle by Fort Washington, Washington’s Birthplace, the Leonardtown Arts and Entertainment District and beautiful natural spots like Newtowne Neck and St. Clement’s Island. You’ll see numerous lighthouses along the way too. Keep close to the shoreline on this section of the river to stay out of the way of boat traffic.
St. Mary’s County is truly a paddler’s paradise, with six trails to choose from. Explore the waters around Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland’s colonial founding place. Set out from Port of Leonardtown, a hip Arts & Entertainment District offering outdoor concerts, art galleries, special events and wineries. Find out about the lighthouses, museums, and more that you’ll discover in this great collection of water trails.