PHOTO BY JIM RAPP
STORY BY NATALIE WARREN
I slid my kayak into the tea-colored water of Nassawango Creek as the first beams of sun peeked through the tall cypress forest. Local paddling enthusiast and naturalist Jim Rapp and I left the canoe shop in Snow Hill, Maryland early enough to witness the awakening of wildlife in the quiet nature preserve. We navigated the narrow twists and turns of the creek, flushing wood ducks at every bend, to reach the confluence of Nassawango Creek and the Pocomoke River. "Not far downriver is where explorer John Smith and his crew once traversed in search of freshwater,” Jim explained as we crossed over onto the wider stretch of the river. Six miles after our launch we arrived at Shad Landing in Pocomoke River State Park, where paddlers are spoiled with amenities including riverside camping (with water and showers), a picnic area, and State Park programs. Ron from Pocomoke River Canoe Company arrived at the landing to shuttle us back to Snow Hill for a bite to eat at Harvest Moon, one of the family-owned restaurants in town.
Feeling rejuvenated and reconnected with the natural world after my morning paddle, I was sold on Snow Hill as a picturesque place for paddlers of all abilities to embark on explorations of the Pocomoke and its tributaries. Ron shuttled us to another nearby paddling location after lunch and, much to my surprise, I hopped out of the van to find something very different from the cypress forest we paddled that morning. I took a deep breath and filled my nostrils with the sting of salt water -- the Atlantic Ocean.
Paddling opportunities along the coast are endless. On a nice day, you can brave the six-mile stretch following a chain of islands in Chincoteague Bay to Assateague Island, where paddlers can camp, hike, and, of course, keep an eye out for Maryland's famous wild horses. Jim and I were joined by two members of the Snow Hill Maryland Paddlers Club (who also own B&Bs in town) and kayaked four miles up a brackish water creek through the EA Vaughn Wildlife Management Area.
Day-paddlers visiting the town can work with the outfitter in Snow Hill to customize routes and shuttling. The typical day paddle is a 5.5-mile stretch from Porter's Crossing to Snow Hill, where weekend vacationers can paddle for a few hours, explore town, and stay in one of the three Bed and Breakfasts near the river. The nightlife in Snow Hill exceeded my expectations for a town of just over 2,000 people. Every Friday and Saturday, the Blue Dog restaurant is filled with people from all over the region eating dinner and listening to live music. The most popular event happens on Friday nights, when the owners of the restaurant sing show tunes with a talented backing band — a New York City experience in quaint Snow Hill, Maryland.
More adventurous overnight paddlers should consider paddling the Pocomoke River from Porter's Crossing to Pocomoke City. Paddlers can stay at a B&B in Snow Hill or, for a more rustic experience, paddle another 4.5 miles to Pocomoke River State Park. From there, it is a 10-mile stretch to Pocomoke City, where paddlers have the option of spending the night at a B&B or arranging a shuttle through the Pocomoke River Canoe and Kayaking shop (pictured below) back to Porter's Crossing. The pedal-and-paddle enthusiasts out there can paddle from Snow Hill to Pocomoke City and bike back on the Great Delmarva Bicycling Trail.
What makes Snow Hill, Maryland the next best paddling town? Apart from the unique and abundant paddling opportunities, the town has plans to increase paddler amenities and roll out the red carpet for locals and visitors recreating in the area. Those plans include increased camping opportunities, an interactive website geared toward outdoor recreational users, and a Pocomoke River Sojourn event to encourage more people to paddle the full length of the river. Snow Hill also plans to open a local brewery and other paddler-friendly businesses that would contribute to the trail town experience. If you aren't convinced yet, the locals claim that the acidity in the water from decomposing cypress needles is a strong deterrent for mosquitoes. Come one, come all -- mosquito-free paddling!
Pokomoke River Canoe & Kayak -- Pocomokerivercanoe.com
Town site -- snowhillmd.com
River House Inn -- riverhouseinn.com
The Cedars B&B -- cedarsnowbnb.com
Chanceford Hall B&B -- chancefordhallbandb.com
Blue Dog Cafe -- bluedogsnowhill.com
Harvest Moon Tavern -- harvestmoontavern.com/
Pocomoke River State Park -- dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/pocomokeriver.aspx
EA Vaughn Wilderness Area -- dnr2.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/publiclands/eastern/eavaughn.aspx
-- Each month, Natalie Warren (pictured above) will highlight a different North American town making positive strides toward community and infrastructure developments catering to recreational paddling. In 2011, Warren was one of the first two women to paddle 2,000 miles from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, recreating Eric Sevareid's route from Canoeing With the Cree. The journey earned a nomination for the Canoe & Kayak Awards' 2012 Expedition of the Year.
Warren’s nonprofit Wild River Academy works with communities across the country to increase paddlesports tourism and experiential learning opportunities on their local rivers, presenting 'urban' rivers as a natural, dynamic classroom for youth. Currently a River Steward for Wisconsin’s St.Croix River Association, Warren has also worked with the River Management Society, finding ways to increase awareness about the economic benefits of water trails, and with it, paddlesports tourism.
CHECK OUT OUR LIST OF NORTH AMERICA’S TOP PADDLING TOWNS.
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