At Sea Level on a Kayak
If you can imagine gliding in peaceful serenity or churning in a swift current on a kayak, then you can imagine the glorious waterways of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Hundreds of miles of coastal and tidal bays, creeks, and rivers yield the very best in the scenic wonder of coastal plain topography, and there is plenty of access on any kayak in the states that compose the peninsula. An entry level or recreational kayak is the first step towards an open waterway of an inland bay, nearby tidal creek, or enclosed pond in a pine forest.
But with so many kayak models and features, how do you know the right fit for the right “paddle”? Basic knowledge of these tiny but capable vessels will make your entry smooth and comfortable, matching your skill and comfort on the open waterways.
Most kayaks are made of plastics, wood, or fiberglass and range from just a few feet in length—what I call the “sport” kayak—to full-length tour (or sea) kayaks at approximately 16 feet on average. Wide bodied recreational kayaks are the best for a beginner in contrast to the sleek hydrodynamic architecture of the tour kayak, better suited to the expert or professional.
The tour kayak evolved from the centuries-old original “qayak” concept. Trusted among many Indigenous tribes as far north as Greenland for efficient travel and hunting by water, the sea qayak is a contemporary favorite across North America. Specialty clubs not only celebrate the heritage of navigation by water, they honor the historical craft for performance and design.
At the recreational level of many brands and models, available accessories include seats, beverage caddies, storage bins, and shock cords for personal items. Even the two-blade paddle has various shapes, sizes, and materials for efficiency in the rotation and the drive of power with each scoop in the water.
While the rotation of the paddle acts in concert to support balance, the keel acts in concert with the propulsion and produces the drive or “track” through the water. Large blade symmetrical paddles are recommended for open bay waters to accommodate the current’s pressure and make a solid and efficient track. Asymmetrical paddles are equally efficient in tidal creeks, smartly navigated according to high and low tides.
Access to kayaking varies from simple municipal ramps along town canals to established park features found on state and federal lands. The highlight of many public parks is water access served by the quintessential “boat ramp” carved in every park boasting recreation on the water.
In Delaware, Lums Pond and Trap Pond State Parks are famous for their kayak excursions and explorations. Lums Pond’s waters are tucked away in the heart of New Castle County and are a welcome retreat in the most populous county on the peninsula. In the southwest corner of Sussex County, surrounded by heritage farms and hundreds of acres of preserved lands, lies Trap Pond. Renowned for the Great Bald Cypress Swamp, in a preservation district managed by Delaware Wild Lands, the kayak trail is a signature amenity nestled in this famous swamp. The appeal of these state parks’ enclosed waterways is the protected nature of the land and forests, and charted navigation with markers and maps.
For the more athletic and intermediate kayaker, who may want an open bay experience, the Delaware Inland Bays or Blackwater Wildlife Refuge on the Maryland Eastern Shore provide many natural and physical features to satisfy the soul of an explorer who has sufficient skill to traverse many miles. Access to the Inland Bays is supported by Seashore State Parks with small lots and sand beaches tucked along Coastal Route 1 in Sussex County. Black Water Refuge is often likened to the Florida Everglades (though on a smaller scale) and is no less majestic and significant in the natural world. Access at the refuge is also managed by park systems. For the paddler with solid skills and weather knowledge, the refuge provides a glorious vista of pristine waterways between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.
With so many waterways and parks providing access, kayaking at any skill level on a pristine summer day will bring you closer to nature, give you a sense of the tides, and deliver satisfaction with each stroke of the paddle. ▼
JuneRose (aka JR) Futcher is a native of Delaware, a lifelong sailor and certified private sailing instructor, an award-winning photographer, and a community and arts activist.
Photo: JR Futcher