Paddling 2024

This page describes my kayaking and standup paddleboarding adventures in 2024.

In the photo above, Daphne and I are paddleboarding at Conowingo Islands on May 18, 2023.

Peruvian tall ship B.A.P. Union: March 3Open accordion icon
In my opinion, it was so far the most perfect day of the year: low wind, bright sun, and high temperature in the mid-60s. But the water was still around 50 degrees so I wore my 5mm wetsuit. I had Daphne wear her wetsuit for awhile but I eventually removed it because I felt there was a chance of her overheating.

We launched from Canton Waterfront Park and then paddleboarded a total of seven miles to see the B.A.P. Union, a visiting Peruvian "tall ship." B.A.P. stands for "Buque Armada Peruana" and means "Peruvian Navy Ship." Here's Daphne and I in front of the ship.
Daphne and I on SUP in front of tall ship B.A.P. Union

From March 2-5, 2024,
Baltimore plays host to the incredible BAP Union, a 379-foot, four-masted flagship vessel and training ship of the Peruvian Navy. The steel-hulled barque carries a crew of 250 officers and trainees and is currently undertaking a circumnavigation to showcase Peruvian culture.
- from Chesapeake Bay Magazine - Peruvian Navy's Tall Ship Docks in Baltimore, Bringing Deck Tours, Peruvian Culture
Portside view of tall ship

BAP Union is the first sail training ship of the Peruvian Navy. It acts as a training vessel for officers and naval cadets and as a sailing ambassador, promoting Peru in its various voyages around the world. It was launched in 2015 after a three year building project that took place in Spain.
- from Sail Training International - Union
Front portside view with forward bunting hanging from bow

The ship's figurehead is made of bronze by the Peruvian sculptor Pilar Martínez Woodman and features symbols of Inca culture.
- from Fox 45 News - Peruvian tall-ship open free to the public through Tuesday
Ship's figurehead, man with right arm raised

After Daphne and I got off the water, we met up with Norma and Hazel (her mom), shown here, for lunch. We bought food from a Peruvian food truck.
Hazel and Norma on land with starboard side of ship behind

One thing I noticed was the sections of rope that had a thick fuzzy covering. I later learned this is called baggywrinkle. It is
a form of chafe gear that is attached to points on the ship where a sail might rub against it. The goal is to provide a soft surface that will not wear a hole through the fabric of the sail.
- from Scott's Hobbies - Baggywrinkle: Or what's that fuzzy stuff on the ship?

Here's the aft side of the ship, proudly displaying a very large Peruvian flag along with colorful bunting. What we didn't see were the sails. The ship
carries a whopping 34 sails covering 36,620 square feet of sail area.
- from Facebook - Sail Baltimore
Aft side of ship with flag flying

We thought about boarding the ship but the line was REALLY long and I didn't think Hazel would want to wait for so long. But that's fine. In my opinion, I had the best view of it from the water.

The three of us walked around the Baltimore Inner Harbor area. We stopped by the USS Constellation where we found this cannon on display.
The USS Constellation is a sloop-of-war, the last sail-only warship designed and built by the United States Navy. She was built in 1854, using a small amount of material salvaged from the frigate USS Constellation, which had been disassembled the year before.
- from Historic Ships - USS Constellation
Daphne and I next to cannon

I saw quite a few mallard ducks and sea gulls. But the most interesting bird I saw were American coots.
Two American coots on the water

This was my first day on the water this year. I had been pretty stressed from all the home renovation work but today I actually felt at peace today.
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Southwest Area Park to Masonville Cove: March 8Open accordion icon
I worked a short day, came home to pick up Daphne and my SUP, and then headed out to Southwest Area Park. It was a dark and dreary day but it was going to be better than the weekend which called for lots of rain on Saturday followed by high winds on Sunday.

Normally, from this launch site I paddle upstream on the Patapsco River but I figured I'd leave that for a warmer day when there would be more wildlife out. Heading downstream, we came to a culvert under Highway 895 on the right.
Inside the culvert

Inside the culvert, I looked for bats but saw none. Below is Daphne and me on the other side. I passed through at high tide which helped since it was shallow.
Me sitting on the SUP and Daphne standing, on the opposite side of Highway 895, with graffiti on a wall behind

We passed under four bridges. Three were for motor vehicles and one was for trains.
Daphne and I on SUP near train bridge

After the South Hanover Street Bridge, the Patapsco River widens considerably. I call the section upstream of this bridge the "Little Patapsco" while the part downstream is the "Big Patapsco."

Baltimore has a reputation for being very dirty. A lot has been done to clean up the touristy sections but many of the other parts on or near the water are filled with trash.
Shore covered with trash, mostly plastic bottles

I later read that a trash cleanup is planned for tomorrow but I highly suspect it will be canceled due to heavy rain.

We landed at a small beach at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center, the nation's first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and home to Captain Trash Wheel. This is the southernmost of the four Baltimore trash-collecting solar and hydro-powered trash interceptors. The most litter that one of these wheels has collect in a single day is 38k pounds!
Daphne and I on SUP near Captain Trash Wheel with Baltimore City skyline in the background

The beach where we stopped is the northern terminus of the Captain's Trail. The Education Center has several short trails.

I saw a bald eagle and some buffleheads.

Paddling back upstream, we looked around on land. I found a smashed-up white Kia and a really big pipe. Here, Daphne's ears are looking rather Yoda-ish.
Me holding Daphne with her ears sticking out.  A pipe with ~10 foot diameter lies behind us.

Some people say we put Daphne on a pedestal. Here is proof of that.
Daphne standing on a submerged pedestal

This is our paddling route...a mere 5.5 miles. Afterward, I took Daphne for a short walk in the park.
Map of our route
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Black Rocks: March 14Open accordion icon
With a high temperature of 79 degrees, I was very much wanting to get out on the water. So Daphne and I drove out to Green Haven Wharf. I hadn't been there for awhile and a few things changed. Previously, I carried my boat down some stairs to the water on the downstream side of the pier. But now there is a much nicer beach launch on the upstream side.
New sandy beach launch area

As I prepared to launch, two paddleboarders landed. One of them recognized me. It was Ellison S., a very well-known paddleboarder in the area. He and I had never met before but we knew each other by reputation. In a Facebook post, he referred to himself as the "Maryland SUPbassador" and me as the "Maryland Magellan." I think the names fit given his effort to promote paddleboarding and my explorations.

I launched on Stoney Creek and paddled downstream.

Daphne and I saw a muskrat, a bald eagle, and some greater scaup.
Male and female greater scaup on the water

There was other wildlife too. Here's a red-eared slider. Notice the red ear.
Red-eared slider on a log

Hugging the shore, I explored some of the shallower areas. I didn't make it far upstream on the narrow tributary shown below. Heading back downstream, I saw the Herbert A. Wagner electric generating station in the distance.
View of Herbert A. Wagner electric generating station through the reeds

Eventually we came to Black Rocks which resides at the mouth of Stoney Creek. Here's a view with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the background. Unfortunately, this is the last time I would see this bridge before it fell on March 26, 2024. Tragic.
Black Rocks with Francis Scott Key Bridge in the background

There are many topics I know very little about and geology is one of them. I asked many people about the origin of these contorted rocks, which seem so unlike others I've found in the area but none of the people I knew could provide an answer other than a guess.
Another view of Black Rocks

I've found stuff written about the nearby White Rocks, which lies about 1.5 miles to the east. But nothing about Black Rocks. I even joined a geology Facebook group but nobody could tell me anything about these rocks.

I ended up writing to the University of Maryland, College Park, Department of Geology and received the following reply from Phil P., a senior research scientist:
I have not been out to look at those rocks in detail, but I am a bit familiar with some of the lore behind those: being that they were dropped off of a ship (there was an article in the Pasadena paper about that at one point). I am going to speak off the cuff here, and I have not been to the rocks. Although the exposed rocks are limited in size, it has been reported that at depth, the rocks at depth cover about a square acre. If that is correct, it is more unlikely that they were dropped off a boat.
Locally, rocks around the Stoney Creek inlet are part of the Potomac Formation. Rocks that make up that formation are a mixture of white/gray/red sedimentary rocks that have a variable texture. From the photos, I would guess that may be the most likely answer. My opinion only. And the only way to get a better feel for sure is for me to take a kayak trip to the rocks to have a closer look, and I am happy to do so when the weather gets better.

I replied that I would be happy to accompany him on his journey if he wanted.

I was keeping an eye out for black-crowned night herons, which I have seen in this area. I saw none. But I did find a large nest. From a distance, I was certain I saw a really big bird in it. But once I zoomed in, I realized it was just a bunch of fluff. I wonder if a bird is planning to line its nest with it to make it more insulated.
Nest full of what looks like downy feathers

I paddled 7.6 miles and then took Daphne for a walk in the neighborhood.
Map of our route
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Pride of Baltimore II: March 22Open accordion icon
March 22, 2024 is World Water Day. It is also the start of the weekend prior to Maryland Day which falls on March 25, 2024. To celebrate the latter, the Pride of Baltimore II paid a visit to Annapolis. So did Daphne and I.

Almost all week, it had been very windy, which is typical in Maryland during the springtime. But on the morning of March 22, the winds were light. It was a Friday so I had to work but I decided to go in late to see Pride II. This ship is a topsail schooner built to the lines of an 1812-era Baltimore Clipper.

The temperature was 40 degrees with a wind chill of 34. I wore my 5mm wetsuit with a separate neoprene top.

We put in at Truxtun Park. There were signs up saying that kayaks and SUPs were not permitted. I assumed they referred to the beach, possibly because of excessive erosion. There was no explanation. So I launched from the ramp onto Spa Creek.

I paddled out to the ship, which was moored between Susan Campbell Park and the Naval Academy. Here's a view from afar.
Pride II with large American flag flying

There was a reporter from the Capital Gazette taking pictures. He took some of Daphne and me but we didn't make the cut for his article.

Folks could go on board for free. But unlike the B.A.P. Union which visited Baltimore on March 3, 2024, there was no wait. Hopefully they will get more visitors over the weekend.
Portside view of the Pride II

Here's Daphne and me. She's wearing her wetsuit which she hates.
Daphne and I on the SUP in front of the Pride II

I raced back to Truxtun, loaded up the SUP, took Daphne home, changed clothes, went to work, and worked late. It was all worth it.

Once I got home, I found out that kayaks and SUPs are indeed prohibited from launching anywhere at Truxtun. Supposedly, the reason is because of an electrical problem that leaks current into the water. I felt nothing.
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Farewell to S1-A: March 24Open accordion icon
On October 4, 2023, I wrote that that trip would be my final one on the S1-A because it is too hard on my left shoulder. I've been thinking about it ever since then. I could sell it but that may not be easy because it is so specialized. Instead, I decided to give it away if I could find the right owner. I posted the following in the "Surfski Annapolis" Facebook group:
It needs a very special owner:
  • The maximum weight capacity is 160 pounds so it needs to be someone who isn't very heavy.
  • The footrests are not adjustable so it needs to be someone with fairly short legs. I am 5'4". I have it padded out about an inch on the footrests and an inch on the seat so there is some wiggle room in terms of adjustment but not much.
  • At only 16.5" wide, this boat is very fast but also not very stable. If you've paddled surf skis or K1 boats, then you should be fine. Or, if you're a dedicated sea kayaker willing to put the time into developing your balance, then this would also be a good choice.

  • After paddling surfskis for 22 years, this was a big decision to throw in the towel but I knew it was for the best. Finding a good home for it was now my goal. Ideally, I want a competitive racer to own it. I am not; rather I am an explorer. A surfski can be good for covering the long distances I typically do when I am touring but it isn't good for getting into the shallow areas or taking photos.

    Various people inquired about the S1-A. I reached out to the first person, Susanne V. Looking at her Facebook page, it was obvious she was a competitive racer. I saw that we had a common friend, Neil so I reached out to him. He spoke very highly of Susanne and felt she would make an excellent owner for my S1-A.

    On March 24, Susanne and I met at Homeport Farm Park. She brought along her friend, Kevin L., who brought his Epic surfski. I brought my SUP and the three of us, along with Daphne, paddled upstream.

    Susanne fell out several times. While she has raced very narrow SUPs, single-person outrigger canoes, and six-person outrigger canoes, she has little experience on kayaks and none with wing paddles. So I gave her a crash course. Fortunately, her strength to bodyweight ratio is high so getting back on the surfski by herself was not an issue.
    Susanne on my S1-A, now hers

    What Susanne lacks in experience, she makes up for with discipline. She is extremely fit and goal-oriented. I am confident she can master this boat. I wish someday she races it and wins. That would make me very happy. I never gave the S1-A the home it deserves. I hope she can.
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    Lyons Creek: March 31Open accordion icon
    Back in 2021, Greg W. told me about a great blue heron rookery on Lyons Creek. I figured it was finally time to investigate it. Would it still be there? I loaded my SUP and took Daphne to go find out.

    I drove to the launch site, Selby's Landing in Prince George's County. From the top of the hill, I saw lots of muskrat mounds across the Patuxent River. I should have taken a picture but I was in a rush to make use of the high tide. I did, however, stop to take a photo from my SUP of an osprey that was posing very nicely.
    Osprey perched in tree

    I paddled across the river to Anne Arundel County then up Lyons Creek. This is the dividing line between Anne Arundel and Calvert Counties. I explored every paddleable tributary. Quite a few areas were very shallow. I did a couple of portages.

    I saw lots of beaver activity but no beavers.
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    Beaver dam
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    Beaver lodge

    Daphne and I eventually saw the rookery on the Calvert County side. I went ashore and shot the following pics with my camera. I had morning light which was not good because that put the sun behind the rookery. I might return in the afternoon on a later date.
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    Single nest with two herons
    Single nest.
    2 / 3
    Over a dozen nests with at least five herons, one in flight
    Several nests.
    3 / 3
    Almost three dozen nests
    All the nests.

    Paddling back downstream, I spoke to an old timer in a kayak picking up trash. He said a few years ago, there were about 60 nests in the rookery!

    What little sunlight I had quickly disappeared as the clouds rolled in.

    Here is my 6.6 mile route.
    Map of my route with the location of the rookery marked

    Afterwards, I took Daphne for a little hike.
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    Conestoga River: April 16Open accordion icon
    On June 10, 2023, I paddled out to Indian Rock Island and saw a cormorant rookery and a great blue heron rookery. But since it was June, there were a lot of leaves on the trees so it was difficult to see the birds. I figured I'd return in the early spring while the trees were still bare to get a better look. That was my plan today.

    I figured putting in at Pequea would require me to paddle further but I could approach the island from downstream. This would be safer because the current from Safe Harbor Dam outflow would be weaker than if I approached from upstream. Unfortunately, the Pequea site was closed. There was no sign explaining why.

    Plan B was to do the same route as last year, launching from Safe Harbor Park. Before driving out, I checked Safe Waters - Safe Harbor which said
    Estimated Levels of Lake Clarke at Safe Harbor Dam
    Elevation: 227.2
    Normal Top Level at Safe Harbor Dam is 227.2. Estimates are made assuming normal load conditions and no subsequent changes in river flow.
    The forecasted average daily river flows into Safe Harbor for the next three days are 138,000, 120,500 and 97,500 cubic feet per second.
    For today, the river flow was 120,500 cubic feet per second. But what does that really mean?

    I walked to an overlook to see how much water was being released from the dam. It was quite a lot.
    Safe Harbor Dam with water being released

    The river was very high and I'm guessing the Susquehanna River current at the mouth of the Conestoga River was six mph. Further towards the island, it was all whitewater. Clearly, it was not safe for me to make this trip. It might be difficult to find a time when there are few leaves on the trees, the birds are in their rookeries, and the water is low enough to paddle out to see them. The issue is that in late March and early April, the water is often high. A dry spell might give me my window of opportunity.

    I settled on plan C, which was to paddle upstream on the Conestoga, something I had never done before. Here is where I put in.
    Paved walkway by the Conestoga River

    It was sunny and the winds were low. As I started making my way upstream against a two mph current, I noticed a bald eagle in a tree. I pulled ashore to take its picture. It didn't pose for long but it was just long enough to get a crystal clear shot.
    Bald eagle perched in a tree

    The scenery reminded me a bit of the Monocacy River.

    Making my way further upstream, the current got stronger. I only made it about 2.5 miles upstream from the mouth before I could go no further.

    Turning around, I kayaked through a tunnel and up Witmer Run for a very short distance.
    Silhouette of me kayaking through tunnel

    I found a scenic, sandy area on Witmer Run and pulled ashore. I did some exploring on foot and then tried to take a nap. I searched for morel mushrooms but found none.
    Kayak on sandy area with Witmer Run behind

    I continued downstream on the Conestoga River until I was at the mouth, where it empties into the Susquehanna River. I was hoping the dam had stopped releasing water but that was not the case. Testing the strength of the current, it was obvious that venturing to Indian Rock Island was not safe.

    Here is a map of my route. I got in 5.2 miles of kayaking.
    Map of my route

    I told my phone GPS to take me home. In this area, it is hard to get a GPS signal so I had to drive around a bit before it would pick up anything. I don't think I was heading back via the most direct route, but since I don't know the area very well, I figured a longer route that would take me to my destination was better than guessing.

    The circuitous route ended up being a blessing in disguise. I saw signs for the Enola Low Grade Rail Trail and the Turkey Hill Trail Nature Preserve. These are both places I've been wanting to explore. I followed the signs to a huge parking lot. Both the rail trail and the nature preserve trailhead meet at the same place. The two of them appear very inviting. I look forward to returning with Norma and Daphne.
    Enola Low Grade Rail Trail

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    Key Bridge ruins: April 16Open accordion icon
    After kayaking on the Conestoga River, I drove out to Jaws Marine and launched my kayak onto Curtis Creek. Normally, I prefer to launch for free at Solleys Cove but after doing one kayak trip and a long drive, I felt justified in paying at a location to put me closer to my destination, the ruins of the Key Bridge.

    Recall that the Francis Scott Key Bridge fell on March 26, 2024 after the container ship Dali struck one of its piers.

    I started my trip by stopping at the Curtis Creek Ship Graveyard.
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    Me on my kayak on the port side of one of the bigger wrecks
    Big wreck.
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    Me on my kayak in the burnt out hull of a wreck
    Burnt out hull.
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    Canada goose perched on bow of wreck
    Goose at bow.

    Kayaking north, I saw an American coot.
    American coot bird on water

    As I rounded Sledds Point, I had an eastward view of the bridge ruins. I was still pretty far away but the damage was clear. I paddled closer to get a better look, but made sure to stay out of the 2,000-yard radius safety zone established by the Coast Guard.
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    Dali ship among ruins
    Dali and ruins.
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    Bridge ruins on southwest side with tug boat in front
    Southwest ruins and tug.
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    Another view of bridge ruins on southwest side
    Southwest ruins.
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    Bridge ruins on northeast side with small boat in front
    Northeast ruins.

    Here is a zoomed out view that shows both ends of the bridge that are still intact.
    Wide view of bridge ruins that shows two ends still intact

    I pulled ashore at a view places to get a different view. In one location near Thoms Cove, I saw what is likely a swarm of carpenter ant alates.
    1 / 5
    Lots of ants on a stick
    On stick.
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    Hundreds on end of a board
    On wood.
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    Dozens on a log
    On log.
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    Hundreds on piece of rotting wood
    On rotting wood.
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    Closeup of dozens

    I kayaked back to where I started, having completed six miles, or 11.2 for the days total.
    Map of my route
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    Raccoon Island - April 20Open accordion icon
    On April 20, 2024, Norma, Daphne and I circumnavigated Raccoon Island via kayak at the southern tip of the Virginia eastern shore.

    Return to rookery: April 26Open accordion icon
    Recall that on March 31, 2024, Daphne and I paddleboarded out to a great blue heron rookery on Lyons Creek. I took pictures in the morning light which created silhouettes. Today, we returned to take photos with the late afternoon light.

    We launched from Selby's Landing. It was a little windy but not too bad.

    Arriving at the destination, I spent quite a bit of time ashore, wading through the swampy areas to get the best views. Sometimes clouds rolled in but the wind kept them moving.
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    Great blue heron on nest
    On nest.
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    Two herons at nest
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    Heron at nest with one inside
    At nest with one inside.
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    Feather at the back of a heron's head sticking out horizontally
    Horizontal head feather.
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    Great blue heron on nest

    Here's Daphne and me near the mouth of Lyons Creek.
    Daphne and I on SUP

    Not every bird we saw was a great blue heron.
    Osprey on nest

    I took Daphne on a short walk in the park before they closed.
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    Gwynnda: May 11Open accordion icon
    Back on March 8, 2024, I went paddleboarding and came across Captain Trash Wheel. This is one of four of Baltimore's trash wheels. These are semi-autonomous trash interceptors placed at the end of a river, stream, or other outfall. Together, they
    collect approximately 500 tons of trash and debris from the Baltimore Harbor each year.
    - from Mr. Trash Wheel - Trash Interception.

    The only Trash Wheel I had yet to paddle to was Gwynnda: the Good Wheel of the West. Gwynnda was installed in 2021, making her the newest of the trash wheel family.

    I've paddled this area a few times and have always found it frustrating because the water is so low. But on this day, I timed my route with high tide AND coastal flood warnings. So water depth was not an issue. Launching from Broening Park, I paddled the entire shoreline north of the Spring Garden Swing Bridge and some of Gwynn Falls. I'm not much of a city person but I do enjoy them if I can visit the lesser-seen parts and get a point of view that few get to see.

    Towards the downstream section of the falls, I saw Gwynnda.
    Daphne and I on the SUP next to Gwynnda

    She resides next to Wheelabrator Incinerator.
    Gwynnda next to Wheelabrator Incinerator and its big smokestack

    Wheelabrator Technologies, which owns property next to the new trash wheel project, will assume the cost of offloading trash from the wheel to Wheelabrator's incinerator.
    - from Baltimore Fishbowl - Baltimore's newest trash wheel, Gwynnda the Good Wheel, will be installed next month

    Trash enters the opening in the below pic and is pulled up a conveyor belt, operated by a waterwheel and solar power.
    Front of Gwynnda

    It's estimated that Gwynnda will pick up 300 tons of trash each year, which is more than the other three wheels combined. Like her family members, Gwynnda runs fully on hydro and solar power, boasting 72 solar panels that sit just behind her googly eyes.
    - from Chesapeake Bay Program - Gwynnda the Good Wheel works her magic on West Baltimore

    There was a good bit of trash but not as much as when I first kayaked in this area ~20+ years ago. Despite the litter, I still found the area rather scenic.

    I saw this black-crowned night heron. I used to never see them, but over the last couple of years, I have been finding quite a few in the Baltimore area.
    Perched black-crowned night heron in tree

    I turned around at 39.26997928574512, -76.64115037502063, which is 1.2 miles upstream from the mouth. I would have kept going but I started encountering riffles.

    South of the railroad bridge that connects to the Spring Garden Swing Bridge, I saw the foundation of something on the west side of the Middle Branch Patapsco River at 39.264117534247355, -76.62822561961342. Any idea what it could be?
    Daphne standing on old foundation

    We spotted one and a half radio towers at Middle Branch Marina.
    A full radio tower and one where the top half broke off or was removed

    Near the launch site, we stopped at Hanover Street Bridge. Also known as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, it is a double-leaf bascule bridge (drawbridge) that opened in 1916.
    Hanover Street Bridge

    In the above photo, there are two towers, one at each end of the portion of the bridge that hinges to lift up. I paddled up to the leftmost tower and peered inside. This is what I saw.
    Inside the Hanover Street Bridge that hinges to lift up

    I paddled under ~16 bridges. At least one was a non-functioning train bridge.

    I was going to take Daphne for a walk in the area but there are too many chicken bones that people throw off into the grass. She loves chicken bones, but of course they are not good for her. So she didn't get a walk until we got home.

    Daphne and I got in 8.2 miles. I tried to download my route from my GPS but was unable to do so. I upgraded the software and then the download feature quit working.
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    Daphne and I on SUP with giant boulders behind
    Paddleboarding at Conowingo Islands on May 18, 2023