Sea Kayaking Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay: Day Trips on the Tidal Tributaries and Coastlines of the Western and Eastern Shore

by Michael Savario and Andrea Nolan,

Backcountry Press, Woodstock, VT,, paperback, 2003.

Review by Eric Pavlak.

With 4,600 miles of tidal shoreline and more than 400 rivers and creeks, the Chesapeake Bay can be a paddler’s paradise. Unfortunately, it takes careful planning and a bit of experience in avoiding the paddling hell of power boats and overdevelopment that mars much of the bay. A good guide book in invaluable.

Sea Kayaking Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay is the excellent guide to paddling some of the nearby tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s fortunate that is good, because it is the only one available. (Ed Gertler’s Delaware and Maryland Canoe Trails, Senaca Press, does overlap on the tidal rivers, but does not cover open water.)

A good guide book writer must actually paddle (or hike or bicycle) all the trips described. Similarly, a good reviewer must actually do some of the trips described in the book to give a fair evaluation. Thus it has taken me some time to properly rate this book.

First, I have found this book accurate. This is most important. The trip descriptions are excellent, and include access information, safety considerations, and general wind and tide information. There are excellent driving directions to put-ins, many of which are otherwise obscure and hard to find.

The book includes usable charts of all trips. It is illustrated with many photographs, and includes information on the ecology wildlife and history of the trip areas.

There is also information on equipment and paddling skills, plus lots of extra information on safety, weather, travel and land accommodations.

The Chesapeake’s tides are minor; its winds are not. It is wide and open with little shelter from the flat land. Due consideration is given to wind in this book. Often the route taken, direction of travel and even the advisability of the trip are wind dependent.

While excellent, this book is not without deficiencies. While Chesapeake tides are small, sometimes they matter, particularly when combined with wind. Example: on the Tilghman Island trip, the paddler is warned of tidal current in the Knapp Narrows, yet no direction of flow based on the tide stage is given. It is not obvious. Also, it would be useful to list tide stations and relevant marine charts.

Aesthetic and safety considerations seem to make me a bit less tolerant of recreational power boats than the authors. I have done a lot of paddling in cold weather and in places like Maine and Nova Scotia, and am used to being free of them. So when the authors warn of high boat traffic, you probably don’t want to go there.

Conclusion: I give this book an A rating. Get it before you go and enjoy many, many days of happy paddling.