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A Paddle of Gratitude

A paddle at Gratitude will feel aptly named for those looking to explore more protected tributaries of the Chester River while still being able to enjoy scenic views of the upper bay. The put-in site is located at the mouth of Swan Creek which, along with nearby Tavern Creek, is much more protected than the river, very scenic, and excellent for exploring. Swan Creek in particular is very popular during the summer, so paddlers should be aware of increased boat traffic during those months.

The settlement named Gratitude has strong ties to Rock Hall’s history as a busy port. In the 19th century the town experienced some growth due to the emergence of sailing packets bringing cargo from Baltimore. Eventually steamboat traffic also made its way to Rock Hall, and this development allowed for much more travel from one side of the Bay to the other, and to points further north and south as a result. Gratitude gets its name from a steamboat of the time, demonstrating the importance of technological advances in shipping and travel to the people of the Chesapeake Bay. The biggest industries of the time in Rock Hall included seafood, canning, shipbuilding, and exporting agricultural products such as peaches and tomatoes.

Things to Know

Gratitude is located at the mouth of Swan Creek and is a perfect place from which to explore both that tributary, as well as Tavern Creek just upriver. These smaller tributaries of the Chester River are very well-protected and contain scenic landscapes to explore and enjoy from the water. Heading south, it is not far from the landing to get to Ferry Park, also known as Rock Hall Public Beach, but this route involves navigating the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay and is therefore recommended only on calm days. 

Navigational Hazards

Gratitude is located at the mouth of a very protected creek, and just south of another small tributary. Therefore, heading south will expose paddlers to open river waters, while heading north to Tavern or Swan Creeks offers protection from wind. Tidal currents are moderate here. Be aware of winds out of the west, which can make paddling more difficult. Paddlers should be aware of boat traffic from Swan Creek during warmer months.

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:
5924 Lawton Avenue
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

very limited side of the road parking for 2-3 vehicles




  • 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.


Camping & Amenities

This landing is a sandy soft launch located at the end of the road. This site is perfect for launching kayaks and canoes.

There are no camping amenities.

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.

The Chester River once contained some of the most prolific oystering grounds on the Chesapeake Bay, even attracting its own fleet of “oyster pirates” that regularly sailed under the cover of darkness to illegally dredge oysters reserved for hand-tonging.  While much of the Chester’s oyster population has been lost due to pollution, overharvesting, and disease, the middle portion of the river contains one of the last viable oyster bars on the upper Bay.  In late fall, watermen can still be seen anchored over this bar in front of Cliff City Landing using the ancient method of hand-tonging to capture the tasty bivalves.

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. 


Main image: Chris Cerino / Sultana Education Foundation