Monday, July 11, 2016

MD North East River: Fall Line Foray

My first outing since returning from Spain a week ago. Just what I needed! I've had a tough re-entry considering how different six weeks in Spain absorbing the Camino experience was compared to the violence occurring back home in the States. From an atmosphere of kindness, generosity, and friendship to a universe of paranoia, fear, bigotry, extreme sadness, and unkind/ugly people left me feeling exhausted. I asked my friend Kim (who helped me train for the Camino with hundreds of miles of day hikes for the past two years) to please pick a place to paddle. I would show up when and where she wanted. I wanted to be on the water more than anything.

The tidal stretch of the North East River.
We met in Cecil County, MD, at the North East Community Park just south of the little town of North East. The Upper Bay Museum is here but it was closed, so I made a date with myself to come back and visit. The park was full of families enjoying picnics and the playground, fishing and riding bikes. The sandy beach kayak and canoe launch was just past the playground and pavilion. Looking south from the put-in was the wide North East River as it emptied into the Chesapeake, I saw sailboats skimming the distance open waters but our afternoon trip would be to the northeast following the narrow reaches of the river at high tide as far as our boats could travel to meet the Fall Line - the end of navigable waters.

A populated and private shoreline, complete with guard goose!
The North East River is not a wild eastern river by any stretch of the imagination (not the Susquehanna or Upper Delaware) so houses, docks, neighborhoods, and bridges are everywhere, but there is the strong element of nature adapting to the presence of people with its soft muddy tidal wetlands and sweeping shoreline forests. The area is known for its rich waterman's history and heritage of waterfowl hunting. The town of North East marks the northern reach of tidal waters while the old Upper Bay port town of Charlestown can be seen several miles down shore. The famous Turkey Point Lighthouse is far below and it would take a sea kayak and a paddler with open water skills to reach it from where we put in. So around the bend we went to make our way into the narrowing river as the high tide lifted our boats over mudflats and gravel banks.

Riding the high tide into the narrowing river.
Arrow arum, common alonhg the muddy wetland edges.

Osprey, bald eagles, and vultures wheeled overhead and we passed an eagle's nest - for the moment unoccupied - but a local fisherman assured us that it had recently held the fourth brood of eagles raised on that shore. We paddled as far as we could manage, then got out and walked our boats through cobble banks and shallow chutes. We managed to paddle another short section under bridges and around high cut banks before the sound of riffles and rocky ledges could be heard around he bend. We had come to the Fall Line where the gradient steepens, the Coastal Plain ends, and we've reached the end of navigable waters.

Walking boats over shallows and keeping cool in summer's heat.

End of navigable waters on the North East River.
A typical profile for Cecil County's streams and rivers are the deep gorges that define their course through the hard bedrock of the hilly terrain of the Piedmont. They meander and cut sharp lines as the waters find the faults and joints in the rock. Ledges stand on end and deep pools lift cold water from far below. We beached our boats and hiked a shoreline trail to a favorite swimming hole below the Amtrack bridge where ledges of pink feldspar and fine grained granite crossed the river's breadth. It was a great place to float!

Crystalline feldspars (pink) and multi-hued concrete (graffiti).
A deep pool and a relaxing back massage. (Photo by Kim)
We enjoyed ourselves so much that we almost forgot about the tide changing! There was a bit more walking on the way downstream as we lost some depth! Woof! But it was fun and we only grounded once on an emerging mudflat. I enjoyed just drifting with the outgoing tide as we returned to the wide reach with a view of the open river with its sailboats in the distance. I managed to get a little birding in as well, and was pretty excited when I saw a male common merganser coast over our heads - far out of season for this species! I also observed a wood duck hen with nine chicks, two kingfishers, mockingbirds and cardinals, a Carolina wren, and listened to a very agitated marsh wren warn us away from his nesting area.

Letting the tide take us out.

A Cardinal spy.
Great Blue Heron.


Though the Upper Bay Museum was closed when I paddled this river on a Sunday afternoon, it looks wonderful and I plan to visit soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment