Delaware Bay Adventures

April 2011

While in Delaware recently there was time for a paddle, the most convenient place seemed to be a nearby canal, the Lewes to Rehoboth canal – so….


that’s where I went.  In the rawest of forms “canals” are but man-made channels for water; expectations would be mundane shorelines with a less established cycle of wildlife.   A slightly brackish atmosphere – one in which I still have plenty of attention for – of course there have been days that I wouldn’t rule out paddling a ditch either – a canal is simply an elongated channel of water.  But here leading into the coastal flat of The Cape Henlopen State Park; this particular cut still left plenty of room for natural interest.


At the time of ‘put-in’ I was unsure of any ‘proper name’ or local slang to capture the cut; I did wonder if my day just might be like the Seinfelt show – ‘a paddle about nothing.’

Didn’t really matter, as a kid my Saturday morning treks wading along our neighborhood channels opened a world of intrigue.  There were tadpoles, lilies and the life that circled about them – those simple treks were real life adventures that were never as bad as my parents wanted us to perceive.  Still, the local canals of my neighborhood (Florida) were shrouded with the true apprehensions of snakes and alligator’s to which Lee, Mark, and I simply waded right-on-through (kids make alot of noise) – then again we might just have been ‘lucky.’

Our local canal in Ft Myers ran several miles from Highway-41 past the hospital, the trailer-park, the ballpark, and then behind the High School that I would graduate a number of years later.  It’s origin came from someone else s neighborhood (along Canal st) and ‘ran’ all the way to the Caloosahatchee river.  Our little band made the expedition to the Caloosahatchee and to the ‘new-bridge’ numerous times – a trek that our parents would have never knowingly allowed.

Fifty years later here I stand along a much larger ‘canal’ in Delaware, one with a history – “The Lewes-Rehoboth Canal” connects Rehobeth Bay to the Delaware Bay at Lewes – this particular canal was authorized by the U.S. River and Harbor Act of 1912.

“Initially, the canal was envisioned as a means of access to the sea for farmers and saw mills along the Indian River and Bay. Consent to acquire land for construction was granted to the U.S. Government by the Delaware state legislature in 1913. Construction by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was completed in 1927.

Today, this feeder route to the Inter-Coastal Waterway is used by commercial and pleasure boats and provides access for pilot boats to guide ocean-going vessels up the Delaware Bay to the major ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia.”

Delmarva Chapter 56, International Right-Of-Way Association.

On this date I would paddle from Rehoboth Beach to the Delaware Bay (Roosevelt Inlet) – @ 8 miles, ez paddle.

Henlopen acres Marina

Knowing the winds would be noticeable at about 22 mph, I did check the weather for wind direction – it would be from the South, so this was the determining factor for paddling Northward towards Lewes.  Good choice, wind at my back – the tide for some reason was less of a concern.

There were several ‘off-chutes’ along the way that were available for exploration, but I continued-on toward the sawgrass and protected flats of the State Park.

Still plenty to ponder with homes, yard-art, docks, boats, and man-made features along the way,

and the civilization of Rehoboth slid behind,

while the canal opened up into more of a coastal-flat setting.  The constant wind remained and ally and the tide stayed in my favor.  All making this paddle the more simple – peaceful, and comfortable.

Small clusters of birds skillfully maneuvered the heatwaves of the sawgrass flats ahead,

numerous times they passed in tight-knit formation before disappearing over the grass once again – frolicking, returning and teasing me yet again.

I paddled up behind the old WW II invasion towers on Lewes Beach.

Birds were the predominant wildlife, I could understand why ‘birders’ frequent the area, Does anyone come to watch the fiddler-crabs?

I quietly passed through them all.

The shores were protected and the low tide exposed the ‘mucky’ nature of the earth while leaving fiddler crabs to scamper.  Small shellfish clung to weeds and seemed plentiful.

There were several Osprey nests, with sitting Osprey’s – Cape Henlopen Osprey Cam.

I did take one of the ‘off-chute’ channels out into the flats area of Cape Henlopen State Park and thinking how similar that it was  to the coastal flats of Suwannee Fl I that I had just recently paddled – with but one notable exception – no gators!

Looking towards the Highway 6 bridge in Lewes – note; the small pass at this railroad trestle funnels water through at a rapid pace, paddle on.

On the other side of the bridge stand hoards of vessels awaiting crews, fishermen, and ‘paying’ passengers – along the same area are several waterside restaurants too; had a ‘cold-one’ and some deep fried pickles at Irish Eyes and then later enjoyed another cold-one and some deep fried sweet potatoes at Gilligan’s (the ‘bacshortly routine).

Long dead vessels.

Interesting boardwalks and docks, a city street separating the homes from their docks.

At Roosevelt inlet it was a quick paddle out into Delaware Bay before returning to the protected waters of the canal.  With a little more time (and research to maximize tidal efficiency) I could (and maybe should) have extended my paddle further up the canal to the stream leading inland to Milton, Delaware (the Broadkill river) – chalk this trip up for experience.  I think a Milford to Rehoboth paddle could be in future works.

Lewes Fire and Rescue boat at Roosevelt inlet.

In the end all was good, a canal is simply a canal if that is all that you perceive it to be – this was an eco-system to paddle.  Paddling, is about finding the less exposed corners of our world and dwelling within the perspective of them – ‘any’ time paddling, is better than ‘not having the time.

– Just a simple view, from two little portholes.