Paddle The Pokomoke River – Md

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The Pokomoke river

Water Clarity – 5+ (fresh to brackish)

Natural Quality – 8+

Perspective; Weekday


The Pokomoke River

Forty something years ago I was a 20 year-old truck driver hauling produce along the eastern shore; that’s when I first noticed the Pokomoke river.  I met the wife back in Delaware then and over the many years of family visits since – I pondered the prospects of exploring the Pokomoke as I passed.


Within those years a career happened; retirement and ‘Life-at 60.” Stopping where and when I once couldn’t is now possible, and most likely – paddling the Pokomoke river was inevitable.

The hardest thing about paddlin, – is getting out the door.” tgh


 I simply liked the size and ‘nature’ of the Pokomoke.

There are as many reasons “Why?” folks paddle; as there are people; find your reason, and do it your way.   My reasons have evolved and at this time I paddle for ‘pleasure.’  Smaller rivers seem to allow more pleasure than do ‘coastal’ points and with the Pokomoke flowing into the Chesapeake bay; this two night (I figured) paddle would have a little of each.


Porters Crossing
Newark, MD
38.222872, -75.363210

Camping along the way makes even better – we pretty much camp as ‘through’ paddlers (anywhere the time/factors have me).  Having someone like-minded is good – Gordy (brother-in-laws brother) is always good to have around too – sometimes he ‘over-packs’ food and I benefit from that…  He’s a strong paddler and is good with the ‘Western’ style of paddlin; independents go as a group (Eastern style is totally group – slow to move, too many waves for me) – I appreciate ‘short stories too….

– anyway;  Our starting point for the Pokomoke was just off of Porters Crossing rd, North of Snow Hill, Md. and we were on the river before 8 am..  The best ‘river calibration/acclimation time is in the still of the mornings.  Best wildlife.


The Pokomoke is a Chesapeake tributary and becomes increasingly affected by the tidal changes of the Chesapeake. On this date it was nearing high tide; which is a good place to be.  In addition there was the moisture from all the rain; high water can be an asset on meandering rivers as its more forgiving when paddling down and through the bends.  With all the water there were places in the stream that were not clearly defined – paying attention to the waters movement helps.


The Pokomoke’s water originates from the great cypress swamp of Delaware, so the ‘feel’ of the river begins much the same as the Suwannee river from the Okefenokee swamp in Georgia. .


There are some mighty bald cypress trees along the way, as old and stately as any southern Oak I’ve seen. The water is dark and leave stained (tannic) another similarity.  The name”Pokomoke” is an American indian name given the river meaning ‘black’ water.


In considering the ‘Water Clarity’ of this river, the tip of the paddle remains visible beneath the surface and the clarity is good understanding the tannic qualities, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump in.  The clarity changes in the lower river as the tidal flow affects it more.


There are numerous older duck-blinds. In considering the “Natural Quality” of the Pokomoke – we observed deer, wood-ducks, turtles, the signs of beaver, Osprey, eagles, and more along the river. The higher water in the beginning had a few water-snakes on the move; I didn’t bother them.

Its good habitat.

We made Snow Hill, Md an hour and a half after put-in.

The Pokomoke River Canoe Company


The water was high enough to paddle right up on their dock, good place for traveller.


We weren’t in any hurry, so it was great to stop and check out the character of the little canoe store. ‘Barry’ was present and if you have any questions about the river, paddlin, food, women, hang-nails, or just anything in particular; you’ll feel right at home with his warmth of conversation.  We hung around a while then wandered up the street for a cheese-steak.

On return (and with the higher water) Barry had the state ‘bridge-tender’ come down and let us through….. The stop in Snow Hill was a good break

After Snow Hill  the stream widens and the wind can be more of a factor.

Below Snow Hill and just off the main river marked by a red/green marker is Shad Landing State Park.  In expecting some windy conditions for the day I had noticed in preplanning the river their canoe-trail.  Slough-like it winds near the park and around then back into the river a little further downstream – shelter from the wind and a little ‘peace’ for the mind.

Kids were having a ball learning paddling skills near the swimming area.

Shad Landing Canoe trail;  a nice little interlude while paddling the river.

When you ‘see’ wood-ducks on a river – that’s a positive indicator for the areas habitat.  Wood-ducks know that you are coming long before you can ever catch a glimpse of them – no matter how quiet you are; we were still able to spot a number of sets along the river; beautiful creatures.

Somewhere I read that there were 173 different species of birds/foul along the Pokomoke – I wasn’t counting, but no doubt the river was a special place.  We had an Eagle that continuously moved ahead of us much like an Osprey would when taking advantage of prey from the movement of a nearing paddler.

The efforts of many make all of this possible; the duck-house above (one of many) was marked with the boy-scout insignia.

“Rivers are ‘muses’ for your thoughts; barnacles on your brain are those things that you comprehend along the way”  tgh

Barnes Landing

Here and there were structures – remnants, farm and otherwise frequently nurtured thoughts of the rivers history as part of the underground railroad during the Civil War

Cracker Jack

Pokomoke City, Md

“Friendliest town on the eastern shore”

– and they were good to us.  We made Pokomoke City after 7.5 hours of paddlin, about 3:30, just in time for the Tiki Hut of the Riverside Grill to open…. Jenny served us with some friendly conversation and a couple frosty beverages, along with a chicken ceasar salad.  The city has a wonderful dock running the length of their river frontage, after beverage and conversation two weary paddlers found an opening near the city’s boat ramp and pitched our tents for the night.  Soon after, zzzzzzz

It’s been my experience that a good through-paddler goes down with the sun and rises with the morning light.

Being told that the tide could be more of a factor after Pokomoke we paid close attention to the mornings water.  High tide, and it was turning around….. you dang right, we were on it!

– after the Nanticoke we figured we had four hours of favorable tide.  The wind was an unknown, but you can normally expect calm mornings…..

With the increasing daylight of the summer we were on the water at 630a, in glass-like calm; time to burn…..

Time to enjoy the paddle, and on more than one occasion – wildlife watching us pass (deer in the bushes)

Couldn’t believe the flat-water; after paddling the Nanticoke last fall and being challenged with tide and wind – this was the reward. It was picture perfect paddling.  That’s not a dirty spot on your screen, its a crop duster working the crops beyond the horizon.

The extreme tranquility continued as we passed through the area of Rehobeth, onward and around the marsh toward Shelltown, Md

With several grand old fading farms along the water nearing the coastal flats

four hours later, still riding the tide; life among the mud was good

With Shelltown, Md in sight you know that you are nearing the mouth of Pokomoke sound, stay right.

The mornings paddle from Pokomoke had taken 5 hours; Pokomoke Sound and the Chesapeake bay was straight ahead

The Fair island cut was a welcome sight and marks pretty much the end of the Pocomoke river – my curiosity was satisfied in the best of ways.


The Pokomoke is not a difficult paddle, 55 miles or so; have a reason.  Wildlife is good +.  We had favorable conditions, weather was everything.  I was packed for three nights out; only used one – a day and a half to paddle.  Land-food is available in Snow Hill and Pokomoke…. airplane-mode for the phone.



 We arrived at Pokomoke Sound as the tide stood still before us, nice…..

After stretching on the sandy shore just outside the cut, set our sights 12-miles across the water. On the distant shore is a white windmill, in the direction of that windmill is the structure pictured below.  That marks Rumble Point rd. Rumble Point rd was our secondary escape/pickup point from the bay if needed… (Crisfield plan A)


Is was a long paddle in open water. Set a course, adjust with factors, paddle through it. Mental fortitude is a part of any paddling adventure.



We made Rumbly Point rd with continued calm waters and investigated the pickup point. I’ve never seen so many mosquito’s on one porch, With favorable conditions we decided to move on…..

Those favorable conditions didn’t last.

It was well after lunch, the heat was rising, and things on the water were starting to roll, twist, stretch, list, and yawl.  Time on this water felt like too much like work – not the reason I paddle.


With wave-action and conditions worsening; we found a calm canal near Horse Creek  and reassessed our objectives.  With the phone GPS we located and paddled a ditch onto Phoenix Church rd.  very near Crisfield – thats where we called for our ride…..




We had paddled the Pokomoke and flirted with the Chesapeake,

– it was all good…





Topside of The Suwannee; Fargo to Live Oak


Suwannee river trips;

A River of Time, The Suwannee Grin, Last Call, and now –


Top side;

Fargo to Live Oak

@77 miles – 4 days



February 2017; winter in the foothills of SC hasn’t been much more than a refrigerator door left open; other than that – I’ve slowed from paddlin trips.  Maybe its a ‘cycle’ of sorts but from the moving streams and lakes that I’ve meandered – it’s more like I’ve “stopped to feel the bottom of ‘wherest I stand.”  What kind of rhythm is this ‘life-at-60‘ in?


At the same time, paddlin friend Gordy was hunting a way to ‘unplug’ and had planned a Suwannee trip of his own, – I pondered whether to paddle along.

Having just returned home after already a pretty good couple of weeks at Fisheating Creek in South Florida; rv style, ‘feet-up,’ ridin old folks bikes, and visiting with old friends. I was pretty satisfied.

On the drive back from that trip, I did stop at the Suwannee river as it crosses under hwy441 at Fargo. With no plans of paddling at the time, the creek was swollen with water; it beckoned.  I walked down the ramp in my chaco’s, into the water.  Standing in the tannic waters, I said hello, it felt good.  These thoughts followed me home.

The river at the time was over the 55 foot reading for White Springs (a common gauge for paddlin the Suwannee); the water in Fargo was moving along really good. I’ve paddled the river at 51 feet and at 61 feet (lower and higher) so it wasn’t hard to imagine a few days atop the Suwanee’s current – along with the warmer weather – it was inviting.

I pondered what else, if anything I had going on.  It was true My Dad’s estate still lingered and I really did need to travel to the Sanford area and touch some bases there.  Maybe a trip to touch those estate bases could include a 4-day, @77 mile paddle, cool – thanks Dad..

The next thing I knew; I had drove down and met Gordy at Cone Bridge landing off 441.  It was a new and improved landing from the past.  Cone Bridge landing is not far from the Georgia line on the topside of the Suwannee.  Having a couple days to kill we made the most of the time drinking waggitt-adder‘s and slowly sorting through our ‘paddle gear.’ The river for our paddle would be running at/about 53-feet – using the White Springs reading.


Options for the night before a Suwanee river paddle include the Suwannee river state park or a hotel at the next exit south on I-75.  After a couple nights at Cone bridge we stopped by the Music Park (where Suwannee Canoe Outpost folks are located) – BINGO!  they were happy to shuttle us to Fargo right then, a day earlier than planned.

and there we were; back on the river again……..

There was a soft current to the Suwannee; smooooth on the topside.  I was sitting in something as comfortable as your favorite lawn chair; paddling with the least amount of effort or turbulence, peering out of these two little portholes…

In its own way yes, better’n home.


 I noticed trees doing the river dance,

The topside of the Suwannee is where generations of tree’s have danced (and/or “twerked”) their own two-step for thousands of years.  It’s a gnarly place.  It’s a moments pass, through where one might sense the roots of these trees finding kindred ground within the stoic nature of time ….


A day early and after an ez three hour paddle we found us a primitive campsite, it was three oclock in the afternoon, early, but why not?  This trip is not about mileage, it’s a 4 day pleasure paddle….

Don’t get me wrong, I do/can cover mileage, but today my reason is different….

We had passed and spoken to this fisherman earlier in the day, as the evening neared he came buzzing through the stillness, headed home… river life to home life.


After a long paddle day (mileage) a good paddler goes down with the sun and rises with the morning light. Of course when you’re off the river early, sitting around a campfire for a while is good too.

I’ve learned that with flatwater paddlin; in grasping the most of a river’s ambiance; start early (on the water by 8am), the only noise is what you make.  To savor being there; stop early (campsite picked by 3pm) – set up camp; and be part of the rivers nature for a little while (and have a great evening).

OBTW; my interest leans toward ‘places and things;’ and not so much toward people.

“Tom, party of one”…. 🙂

In the mornings a good cup of river-jolt (coffee) hits the spot,


One of our factors in choosing a campsite was firewood; it was a good thing – because this night was a cool 42 degrees (and the fire had to be ‘stoked several times through the night).

A mechanical type of waking, hot water for coffee, MRE, stowing the gear.  There was a ‘nip in the morning air as we started out; mornings are absolutely the best part of the day.  Its a muffled quiet in the haze, misty spider webs are throughout the trees, it’s all there for you to absorb.  Once again; for the most part – the only noise out there is the noise that you make.

Night two was just before Cone Bridge landing.

As the Suwannee turns from a creek to more of a river there are simple changes that take place with the shoreline. On the topside of the Suwannee those changes remain predominately natural

like the Suwannee riverdances


In the miles before limestone rift of Big Shoals the movement of the Suwannee is slowed, more soft paddling.

The slow water of the elongated pools create more stable habitat for wildlife.  Paddling through the still tannic waters of the mornings; both physical and mental reflections move about freely.  Simple complexity.

Big Shoals was the target for Tuesday in our original paddle plan, but leaving Sunday we were a day early. Making it early to the portage of Big Shoals left us with the possibility of hanging out for the afternoon – which it would put us back on our original schedule. A great camping place; so we did.

Looking at the water flow at 53-feet over the shoals there appeared to be a paddlable ‘line’ on the far side – but, no takers.. camp was set


Under this paddle rate I appreciate having stowed a real chair, even though its just a folding one – it worked well; ‘feet up.’

Putting in below Big Shoals the following morning was uneventful (it can be a challenge), the few miles before White Springs we were accompanied by the sud’s from the churning waters of Big Shoals.  A byproduct of the vegetation which gives the Suwannee its darkish colors, the suds disappear with time.  It can be a little surreal moving along with/in it at times.

Whats below or along the Suwannee shorelines dictate the direction and movement of the water by altering its perpetual current.  Where its possible to imagine those obstacles with the turbulence of the surface – the suds provide a more visible definition to the maze of resistance beneath.

I felt that a kayaks negative contrail would look pretty neat if filmed or photographed by a drone while moving through this sudsy mass…..

Musses.  At White Springs the suds disappeared; a comfortable mornings paddle while enjoying yesterdays cold coffee (I sure like those Yeti-type cups).


We had each started out with a gallon of water, but with the more frequent stopping – making it to Woods Ferry would be close; we needed to refill.  There is water available for paddlers (spigot or fountain) at the granite steps of the Stephen Foster state park, just past White Springs and that is where we filled our jugs


an hour or so later we could hear the traffic of Interstate 75

It was a simple morning paddle, no outstanding changes from years past.  Soon we passed under the interstate-75 bridge

another hour and we were pulling up at Woods Ferry river camp,

A roof and heck yes, a hot shower!  Woods Ferry is the first of six river camps available free to paddlers and hikers (Woods Ferry, Holton Creek, Dowling Park, Peacock Slough, Adams Tract, Anderson River camp) all part of the State of Florida’s Suwannee river wilderness trail, great job folks – thank-you.


It was all coming together…..

Moving along a peaceful river helps….

and the Suwannee is a special one.  Here we passed Suwannee Springs, where years ago health was thought to be perpetuated with the Suwannee’s water



Maybe there’s some truth to it, just from a different stand point

– anothers view

On the fifth day, we made it back to the Suwannee Canoe Outpost, easily done in 4 – but with the early start, well…  I was on my scheudle

We went for a burger and a beer up at their cafe – good stuff


after the land food and restocking from his truck Gordy headed back out for more of the river…


and I moved on down the highway to complete my business


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