The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery


Elk River to Bohemia River

Elk Neck, MD

 October 19, 2002


Thanks to members of the Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) for hosting members of our Jersey Shore Sea Kayaking Association (JSSKA).  This jointly sponsored weekend of Fall paddling and camping at Elk Neck State Park was great fun for everyone, even if the weather was a bit damp and chilly. The paddling was great, and the stories, food and refreshments at the campfire were also very good!

Sandy beaches, marshlands and heavily wooded bluffs comprise the peninsula formed by the North East and Elk Rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay, where Elk Neck Park is located. Several trails meander through the diversified topography, and reveal a wide variety of plant and animal life. An easy walking trail to Turkey Point Lighthouse provides a spectacular view of the Elk River and the Chesapeake Bay.

On our first day we paddled the Elk River to the Bohemia River.  This route turned out to be quite an adventure due to the high winds and waves that were created.  Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association members included myself, Tom Kelly, Joe Messier, Elaine Zompolas, and Jesse Jepson.  Our route was organized by CPA member Ed Dryden.  Tom McCrea and Rich were also part of the CPA crew and we were later joined by another CPA member Mark, who caught up to us en route to the Rt 213 bridge. 

The open water portion of the paddle to the Bohemia River provided quite a ride as we surfed some 2-3 foot rollers across the river and a shipping channel. We paddled up the Bohemia River to the Route 213 bridge where we landed for a short break before heading back. 

On the way back, winds had picked up quite a bit more and were in our face once we entered the mouth of the Elk River from the Bohemia. Ed offered us an option to paddle a somewhat longer but less wind resisted route back to the takeout.  After scouting conditions on the open water with my binoculars, they looked very choppy but not beyond my capabilities.  

After a careful assessment of the last stretch of open water, Tom, Elaine, myself and Mark from CPA decided to paddle the straight line tangent directly into the wind and bigger waves for some added excitement, while the rest of the group opted for the easier but somewhat longer route along the less wind battered shore. 


Unfortunately, I didn't realize that Joe also chose to take the straight line course with us into the wind as I thought I saw him with the other group. When Elaine caught up to me, she informed me that Joe was behind us. Although we all got somewhat separated and were not able to stop in the wind to catch up with each other during the crossing, we all managed to keep an eye on each other.   

I found the waves to be loads fun and I got very, very wet as many of them rolled right over my deck. The intensity of the wind however later progressed to the point of being draining after the first mile.  The crossing back to the takeout required continuous and sustained endurance to get back. I had to stop watching the speed on my GPS as I had difficulty maintaining 1.5 miles per hour in the ferocious headwind even with a continuous and vigorous paddle stroke. If I stopped paddling for even a few seconds, I was pushed back 10 ft. Although Mark and I could see our landmark for landing, we appeared to be approaching it very very slowly.  I literally gave it everything I had to get through the last mile. At one point of really pushing it, I felt myself lock into the adrenaline zone which enabled me to finally get to the takeout. It felt good to get into that intense paddle zone since I hadn't been there in a while.


After that last two miles in the intense wind and 15 miles of paddling overall for the day, it felt great to land. One by one, the rest of the paddlers landed safely at the Elk River State Park ramp.

Thanks to Ed Dryden, Tom McCrea , Rich and Mark from CPA for being great host guides and paddling partners on this adventurous trip. 



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