Explore Southern Maryland’s Waterways on These 5 Trails

Kimberly Bean
Kimberly Bean
Published on February 1, 2017

If you’re new to Southern Maryland, one of the first thing you’ll learn is that water – and spending time on or near it – is a way of life. It’s only natural; Southern Maryland is a peninsula that is bordered on the east by the Chesapeake Bay and on the west by the Potomac River.

But these well-known bodies of water are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to waterways in Southern Maryland. Other major waterways include the Lower Potomac River, the Patuxent River, and the Wicomico River. A network of smaller rivers, streams, and creeks complete the picture of an area that thrives on its connection to the water.

Not sure where to start? The state Department of Natural Resources has put together several water trail guides to help you start exploring the waterways of Southern Maryland. Grab a boat and a life jacket and check the tides – let’s start paddling!

Point Lookout State Park

Located on the southernmost tip of St. Mary’s County, Point Lookout State Park sits where the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River meet. The park has seven miles of water trails; some excursions will take you all day, while others will take an hour or two. A campground in the park means you can stay the night and take in the other historic and recreational activities at the park.

Find the Point Lookout State Park Water Trail guide online or at the park’s visitor’s center.

St. Mary’s County

St. Mary’s County has a network of rivers, streams, and creeks, and local paddling enthusiasts have worked with the Town of Leonardtown and the state to create a trail guide for the western side of the St. Mary’s peninsula. The guide includes trails along the Lower Potomac, Wicomico, and St. Mary’s rivers; as well as McIntosh Run, Herring Creek, Smith Creek, and Jutland Creek. Users will find access and routes as well as historic and cultural information.

Find the St. Mary’s County Water Trail guide online or at the county Welcome Center in Charlotte Hall.

Mattawoman Creek. Image via Nemophylla on Wikipedia

Charles County

You’ll find four paddling trails in Charles County, including routes along Mattawoman Creek, the Lower Potomac River, the Port Tobacco River, and Nanjemoy Creek. The guide includes information about access areas and services like restrooms, parking, and picnic areas.

Find the Charles County Water Trail guide online or at the county Parks and Recreation Department.

Patuxent River

At 110 miles long, the Patuxent River is the longest river entirely within Maryland’s borders. There are many public launch sites and parks along this scenic river. The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) created a map for the upper section of the river, which is between Montgomery and Howard counties. The Patuxent River Commission is creating a larger map of the river’s water trail.

Paddling on the Potomac River

Potomac River

The lower portion of the Potomac River stretches 115 miles from Washington, D.C., to the Chesapeake Bay. A set of six maps charts your course along all or part of the route, including access and support locations along the Maryland and Virginia shorelines. The map is out of print, but you can find it online here.

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