To say I'm a obsessed with kayaking is a bit like describing water as damp. It's an understatement. My wife refers to herself as a kayakers widow. When Monday rolls around, people at work don't as me what I did for the weekend, they ask me where I went paddling. It's just assumed that I took my kayak somewhere. If I'm writing anything these days, it's almost certainly related to something having to do with kayaking. Even my other favorite hobby, photography, is done almost exclusively from within the cozy confines of my kayak. If I could fly, I'd be a duck. But I can't, so I'm a kayaker.
Over the last few years I've explored most of Virginia and Maryland's waterways, both coastal and inland, and I now have a personal short-list of favorites based on what I want to accomplish on the water. Sometimes I'm in it for the exercise and I have locations that allow me to pursue marathon length trips in my kayak. Other times I'm after wildlife pictures and I have a small selection of locations I've learned inside – going so far as to even name some of the animals I've come to recognize. Other times I like to play in the surf, or poke around in narrow, marshy channels of water were others seldom tread.
There are places I go for solitude with rarely another soul around despite hours of time on the water. There are places where I'm bound to find like-minded souls for a pickup trip, just a growing flotilla of kayaks, with folks joining or peeling off at various times. Some destinations are only suited for day trips, others for extended weekends and overnights in the wilderness.
The thing is, you usually have to pick or choose. A single destination usually only affords you one or two of the things you're after, rarely more. So when you find a destination that caters to a greater variety of interests, it really stands out. Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary's county, Maryland, is one such destination and if you have to paddle in just one place this year, kayaking Point Lookout State Park is the way to go.
If you've never been, here's a list of just some of the things Point Lookout has to offer:
- Open water paddling
- Light surf paddling
- Flat-water marsh kayaking
- Canoe rental
- Concrete launches
- A soft sand beach to launch from
- 300 species of birds depending on season
- Camping right by the water
- Beaches for sunbathing
- Civil war trails
- A museum
- A haunted lighthouse
- and more!
Imagine arriving late in the afternoon on a Friday and setting up camp with your friends and family. You cook hotdogs for dinner and smores for dessert over an open fire and then crawl into your tents, camper or RV for the night with the symphony of nocturnal birds and insects accompanied by nearby surf lulling you all to sleep. In the morning, you and your buddy head to the launch (concrete or beach – your choice) while your other friends and family take a stroll along the trails.
In our scenario, you spend your first day paddling in the open water, getting great pictures of terns, plovers, sandpipers, gulls, pelicans, cormorants...just a never ending variety of birds and a picturesque lighthouse to boot. You land at a beach to safely stow your cameras and then have a little fun riding out into some light waves and surfing them back in to the beach before recovering your gear and paddling back to the put-in, exhausted and thrilled with your day.
That night, more ghost stories around the campfire, more delicious food cooked in the great outdoors. Your non-kayaking friends share their discoveries on the periwinkle trail and the civil war museum and you share your experience on the water and promise them some incredible pictures when you get home. Then, spent from the day, you all call it a night again.
Sunday dawns and you're off for the water again. Some of the group rent canoes and join you for at least part of your trip before breaking off to go fishing. This time you're all on flat water, enjoying the relative calm of Lake Conoy and the Point Lookout Creek. Your kids, meanwhile, hang with their moms at the beach, shop at the camp store and enjoy a reenactment at Fort Lincoln. While paddling you spot several Bald Eagles, watch an Osprey dive out of the sky and plunge into the water before struggling back into the air with a fish in her talons and spot a muskrat slinking through the marsh grasses. It's all you can do to force yourself back to camp to begin packing up for the trip home where you'll reminisce about a fantastic weekend spent together and apart in one of Maryland's many watery gems.