March 9, 2009

Trip Report: On the Patapsco River above Daniel's Dam

Last week had forecasted a beautiful weekend with Saturday being fantastic and Sunday to be even better. Because it is still March and because the water temperatures are still quite cold, I sent a joking e-mail to Steve that it would be over 70-degrees AND:







The e-mails that followed and the ensuing chat turned out that we weren't just joking and we firmed up plans to paddle on Sunday. We picked an early afternoon launch to take advantage of the warmest part of the day and the switch-over to daylight saving time gave us an extra hour of paddling time. Just like that, our plans were set. Late last year, we had paddled a section of the Patapsco River, just above Daniel's Dam that was flat water, fairly shallow and only 30' - 40' wide. We decided to do this stretch again because we knew the water and figured it was a nice calm area to start and we could just walk to shore/out in the case of capsize.

We figured that the air temperatures were in the mid-70s with water temperatures being in the high 30s, maybe even pushing low-40s. Being safety minded, this is a hard combination - going for wet or dry suit and you'll be drenched from the inside. Going without and having a capsize, you'll be risking hypothermia. My cold water attire (and the reason I don't paddle in the winter) consists of a 3mm farmer-john wet suit with a wind-break layer over top. I decided that I'd have enough ways to cool down that I opted for my wet suit with rain pants overtop with a light poly-pro t-shirt on top -- from the outside, you'd never know that I had some level of protection from the cold water. On my feet, I wore my neoprene socks. (As an aside- I really need to figure out better footwear. My neoprene socks offer no sole protection; I can't my Teva's and neoprene socks AND they're obnoxiously too long.)

We arrived at the put in around 2:40pm. I was paddling my Dirigo 140. Steve and his girlfriend, Amy, were paddling an Old Town Penobscot 16. The plan was that we would be taking a leisurely paddle upstream for as long as time, energy and water depth allowed. They planned to do a little fishing. I meant to take my camera and shoot, BUT... that got forgotten at the last minute.

Around 3:00pm, we had loaded boats and gotten them to the water's edge. At this location, there are 2 options for launching - you either launch from steps that lead to the water or from a muddy shore. As there was a fisherman at the bottom of the steps, we opted to launch from the shore. Steve and Amy quite gracefully got the canoe pushed off with nary an incident. I, on the other hand, was trying to keep from actually stepping in the water, so my kayak wasn't far enough in to not bottom out when I sat down. I had to quite forcefully scoot myself through the muck and leaves. Strike #1 for the paddle - it was used as a nice lever for pushing me backwards.

The moment we got on the water and floating, I realized how long these past 4 months off of the water have been. To float, to glide, to be connected to the outdoors. I missed this - I was so ready to be back.

We paddled upstream incredibly leisurely. If we hit 2mph for any stretch of time, I'd be pretty shocked. Amy was a bit under the weather, so she'd stop and let Steve handle the paddling from time to time. We chatted, paddled, and admired the beaver's handi-work and the rest of the natural views around us. Even a turtle was up on a log, enjoying the warm sweet sunshine. Steve dropped a line in from time to time and fished. He could see an occasional fish, apparently a lot of suckers and the occasional smallmouth bass - but didn't catch anything. We made it about 2 miles upstream where you have to negotiate a few large boulders in the water. Last time Steve was in his 17' Tempest - he had issues finding straight enough shots through the boulders. This time, he and Amy beautifully navigated the canoe through. We agreed that no matter what- they avoid any line that I pick. Strikes #2 and #3 for the paddle through the different sets of boulders.

Parallel to the river are railroad tracks and a tunnel. Just above the boulders is where the "other" end of the tunnel comes out. Just above that is an island that the water on either side is too shallow to be navigable. We had gone about 2 miles and before getting to the island, we decided to turn and head back downstream. Strike #4 for the paddle came from navigating back through the boulders.

The paddle downstream was even more leisurely than the trip up. Steve focused a bit more on fishing and Amy's job was steering (you didn't really have to paddle, as the tiny bit of current carried us slowly along). I took Amy's cue and propped my feet up on the front of the coaming for a while. All day, we passed various people in kayaks - it seems we weren't the only ones to get the idea with the beautiful weather. Steve had absolutely no luck with fishing, but it didn't seem to matter.

At the take out, I took the stairs to the water route; with Steve and Amy going back the muddy beach route. We made it back to the take out about 6:00pm - before daylight saving time, we would have been right at sunset. Instead, we still had an hour and were able to take our time with loading the boats back onto the vehicles.

An approximate route of our paddle:
View Larger Map

Note, I didn't take pictures this trip. But, you can live vicariously through the pictures from November's (almost identical) trip.


Patapsco Mike said...

Nice trip report! I stumbled on this while sending a blog post- we have very, very similar weblogs (although my trips are usually posted just as a single picture).

I paddle at Daniels once a week or so, as my house is on Daniels Rd. Maybe I'll see you down there one day.

Have you done the Woodstock Road to Daniels Road through-paddle yet? It's a wonderful half-day trip and the only place you need to get out and walk is right at the shallow spot at the top of the train tunnel.

Doug S said...

I haven't done any other areas of the Patapsco. If it's calm enough water to take the rec. boat down - I'm definitely game. I've hiked an area that was close to that - I'm not exactly sure where we started, but we walked up to Woodstock Road, at the biker bar there.

Anything to watch out for in that stretch?

(And, I just added your blog to my RSS reader.)

Patapsco Mike said...

On the water it's very easy. No real whitewater and never deeper than a 3-4 feet. I did it 4 times last summer with my 3 and 5 year old boys in my 3 seat SOT kayak.

The hardest part is getting into the river. Just park across from the Woodstock Inn- in the big gravel parking lot. Cross the RR tracks right next to the road and there is a hidden trail that goes under the bridge. Your boat will scrape the concrete bridge abutment- it's literally under the bridge.

The paddle is about 6 miles, and takes 2-4 hours depending on the water level and how much you paddle. Keep your eyes in the sky- I've seen a mature bald eagle twice already this year.

BTW- Woodstock Inn is a great place to eat lunch. It looks scary, but it's a local hangout and I take my kids there all the time. The food is very good and the beer is cheap!

I'm not sure what an RSS feed is...