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Itinerary:

A Landing for Ferries on Rock Hall Public Beach

This public beach is located in historic Rock Hall, a lovely destination on the eastern shore which dates back to 1707. The beach is known locally as Ferry Park, a name that hearkens back to Rock Hall’s days as a bustling ferry landing that connected eastern shore to western shore. The public beach is a wonderful place to spend the day. Picnic tables, barbecue stands, and pavilions make it ideal for picnicking, and its location right on the edge of the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay make it a great place to paddle. Be aware that this site will put paddlers right onto the open waters at the mouth of the Chester River; conditions can be rough on windy days.

For a less strenuous day of recreation, head north for less than a mile to reach Swan and Tavern Creeks. These tributaries are more protected and offer views of farmland and large waterfront estates. Less than one mile south will bring paddlers to Rock Hall Harbor. Here it is easy to explore the many marinas and restaurants that make up modern day Rock Hall. Be sure to return to the beach for sunset. The sprawling Chesapeake Bay and its bridge make for some of the best views around. 

Image Credit: Chris Cerino / Sultana Education Foundation

Things to Know

Paddlers should be cautious when launching from this site due to its location on the open waters of the Chester River. It is a short half-mile paddle north to the mouth of Swan Creek, and three-quarters of a mile to the mouth of Tavern Creek, both of which are much more protected and well worth exploring. Heading south, it is a 6.5 mile paddle to Eastern Neck Narrows. For a shorter trip, there is also the option of paddling south for less than one mile to visit Rock Hall Harbor, along with its marinas and restaurants. 

Navigational Hazards

This beach access site puts paddlers directly into the open waters of the Chester River. Paddlers are advised to use this launch site only on non-windy days, as conditions can be quite rough. There are several easily-accessible creeks nearby for getting out of the exposed river.

Water Safety

Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Water trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate rivers. The National Park Service, Chesapeake Conservancy and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of water trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials. Learn more about water safety.

Marine Forecast

We STRONGLY suggested that you review the marine forecast ahead of heading out for a paddling trip. To review the forecast for this paddle trip, visit:

Emergency Information

Launch site address:
5736 Beach Rd
Rock Hall, MD 21661

Nearest hospitals:
UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown
100 Brown St
Chestertown, MD 21620
(410) 778-3300

Chester River Hospital Center
6602 Church Hill Rd #300
Chestertown, MD 21620
(410) 778-3300

Parking & Shuttles

Plenty of paved, marked parking for 20+ vehicles

Restrooms

Seasonal portable toilets

Equipment

  • ALWAYS wear a properly secured personal flotation device (PFD) when participating in paddlesport activities. Make sure that your PFD has a readily accessible safety whistle.
  • Bring a paddle float and water pump for self rescue.
  • A spray skirt is recommended for cold/foul weather.
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing that shields you from the sun (sunglasses, sunblock, hat, and a long-sleeved shirt that can get wet) and is safe to swim in. Water shoes with closed toes will protect you from abrasive hazards at launch areas that can cut your feet.
  • Bring water in bottles than can be secured to your craft. Bring more water than you think you’ll need and drink regularly throughout your journey.
     

Outfitters

Camping & Amenities

Rock Hall Beach, or Ferry Park, has a sandy beach that is excellent for launching kayaks or canoes. There are plenty of amenities, including picnic tables, pavilions, a gazebo, barbecue stands, and of course the swimming beach that overlooks the Chesapeake Bay.

There are no camping or overnight amenities available at this site. 

Trail History

During his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay in August 1608, Captain John Smith visited an American Indian community at the mouth of the Chester River which he referred to as “Ozinies.”  This site was most likely located in the vicinity of present-day Rock Hall.  Smith did not travel up the Chester River’s main stem, in part because the river offered little promise of providing the elusive “Northwest Passage” to the riches of the Orient.  However, Smith did chart the river’s mouth, Kent Island, and the forested interior of what would become Kent and Queen Anne’s counties.

Before the Civil War, the farmlands of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties began to be known for their bounty of corn, wheat, and fruit. The introduction of the railroads to these areas opened them up for shipping to other counties in Maryland and beyond, which bolstered the economy of these places greatly. This growth was also accelerated by technological improvements in farm machinery. Shipbuilders in the 18th century enhanced trade by building small boats for local transportation, in addition to larger-masted vessels for trade internationally. Eventually the great steamboats of the early 20th century allowed for increased trade and tourism, bringing products and people to and from the eastern shore. Though the eastern shore is largely characterized by wide open spaces and vast farmlands, advancements and innovations in transportation have allowed for the spread of products, a boost to the economy, and the movement of people to these less-habited shores.

Rock Hall’s location at the mouth of the Chester River made it an important ferry landing for colonists traveling north and south in the 18th century, including George Washington.  Today, Rock Hall is a haven for working watermen and a busy hub for recreational boating, with several marinas and three public landings within the harbor.  The town is also known for its numerous festivals including Waterman’s Day, 4th of July Weekend, Fall Fest, and Pirates and Wenches Fantasy Weekend. 

Weather

Main image: Chris Cerino / Sultana Education Foundation