On May 7th we drove to Laurel, Delaware for a one way paddle downstream on Broad Creek to Phillips Landing Recreation Area. Ths is a beautiful part of Delmarva and a favorite kayaking destination which always furnishes surprises. On April 15th, 2019 an EF-2 tornado touched down between Bethel and Laurel and moved Northeast. Even though Broad Creek was not directly in the path of the tornado, high winds battered the entire area. We wondered if we would see any evidence, and we did.
At the boat ramp in Roger C. Fisher Laurel River Park in Laurel sights of a light fare greeted us first. A family of geese played around the ramp until we arrived, when the parents hurriedly moved the goslings into the water and swam away.
The River Park ramp provides easy parking and launching into this hardwood lined stream.
Using a tide chart we planned a one way trip for this beautiful spring day. Our second car was left at Phillips Landing (about a 15 minute drive). The closest tide chart for this area appears to be Sharptown on the Nanticoke which is 10 miles downstream. It provides a pretty good prediction of the tide on Broad Creek. Paddling downstream toward Phillips Landing the calm waters of the creek offered reflections of the newly minted green leaves along the banks.
An advantage to launching on the high tide is easier access to some side creeks and guts. We ventured down Little Creek by passing under a low white bridge. There wasn’t much to see but the creek was home to numerous turtles. At low tide this area is choked with water lilies and pretty impassable. We’ve learned that kayaking Broad Creek at low tide provides great bird watching as the shorebirds feed in the mudflats and eagles and osprey find fishing easier.
The numerous osprey are a highlight of Broad Creek and its tributaries. In early May the ospreys are nesting and the females sat on their nests watching us warily. This first osprey was high in a tree and intently scanning the creek.
Several miles downstream from Laurel the first evidence of wind damage from the tornado appeared. A number of trees had their tops or large branches sheared off. Additional trees had toppled completely into the water. Some of these toppled trees were normal bank erosion, which may have been sped up by a factor of F-2.
We saw this damage for a long stretch but it eventually disappeared as we neared Bethel, Delaware.
Floating below Bethel we spotted unusual activity in a grove of pine trees quickly realizing we had discovered a small heron rookery. The babies were hatched and visible in the nests. The tops of large pine trees are the preferred nesting site for herons. This was the first time we spotted them while on Broad Creek.
Osprey nests are abundant or Broad Creek, and we ended our paddle by seeing what seemed like a dozen additional osprey nests with the heads of mothers sticking out, an indication the eggs have not yet hatched. Once the eggs hatch the osprey usually stand on the edge of the nest. We always give the osprey nests a wide berth. Our zoom lens provides us with the great pictures.
Phillips Landing is approximately 7 miles downstream from Laurel and if you have the ability to shuttle this provides a great one way trip. The tide flow on Broad Creek is not overwhelming though, and it’s easy to do an out and back paddle from either Laurel or Phillips Landing.
For a longer shuttle paddle one can leave a car at Cherry Beach in Sharptown, Md and include a section of the Nanticoke. From Laurel to Sharptown by kayak is approximately 10 miles. There are large boats on the Nanticoke in this area, but plenty of room to share. Paddlers should avoid the Nanticoke in windy weather.
Directions: Roger C. Fisher Park is on 6th Street in Laurel. Phillips Landing is approximately 15 minutes away and located on Phillips Landing Rd.
Services: No port a john at Laurel Park. Several restaurants in the area, the Laurel Coffee Shop receives excellent reviews.