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Itinerary:

Getting Bayside at Rock Hall Harbor

Those looking to experience the iconic watermen’s community that is the eastern shore should look no further than Rock Hall, and to get in the thick of this town you can do no better than Rock Hall Harbor. Bayside Public Landing is ideally located in the middle of it all, surrounded by marinas, bait shops, seafood restaurants, waterfront properties, and more. Rock Hall serves as a snapshot of the rest of Kent County; both are economically tied to their marinas and other businesses that support marine services. In the course of its life, Rock Hall has served as a port for the tobacco trade, a well-used ferry terminal, and a hub for the crabbing and fishing economy in Kent County. Today the harbor is still an important locale for working watermen, and also serves as a hotspot for recreational boating.

This landing is popular with boaters heading out to the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay. Paddlers should be aware that this launch site is both busy and unprotected, and is best enjoyed on calm days. Once on the water, Eastern Neck Narrows is six miles to the south, and Swan and Tavern Creeks are each about one mile in the same direction. These smaller tributaries are much more protected and offer landscapes that vary from grand waterfront estates, to farm fields, to wooded areas, to Chesapeake marshlands. 

Image Credit: Chris Cerino / Sultana Education Foundation

Things to Know

Paddlers launching from Bayside Public Landing may first wish to explore the coves and marinas located in Rock Hall Harbor itself. Upon exiting the harbor, paddlers will be on the large open water of the Chester River. This location receives heavy boat traffic and can be exposed to high winds on certain days. From here, it is six miles south to Eastern Neck Narrows. Heading north, it is about one mile to Swan Creek and Tavern Creek, which are protected scenic tributaries and are very worth exploring.

Navigational Hazards

Bayside Landing launches directly into the protected Rock Hall Harbor, but soon empties into the open waters of the Chester River. Paddlers should only use this location on calm days, and even then with caution of winds and boat traffic, which can both be high. There are several protected, smaller tributaries located outside of the harbor, but which require navigating the Chester proper. Caution of high winds should be taken at this location.

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:
Off Bayside 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

Plenty of marked, paved parking

Restrooms

No, but there are restrooms at nearby restaurants, etc.

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

This site features two double wide cement boat ramps that are ideal for putting in larger vessels. There is no small vessel specific soft launch, but kayaks and canoes can be launched from the ramps.

There are no camping amenities at this launch.

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.

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. 

Weather

Main image: Chris Cerino / Sultana Education Foundation