Virginia and Maryland – A Kayaker's Paradise

Discovering Secret Waterways

Today is a rare offering from Mr. Cygstarz. My wife is the prolific contributor of all but a handful of the articles here, but I share her love of writing and sometimes get the urge to share with the world too. So let's get to it!

There's something to be said for shaking up your comfort zone and going to explore places you've never bothered to explore before. For all the time that I've lived in the Maryland and Northern Virginia area, I've always looked west. I was hiker and climber and west was where all the good stuff was. I didn't think much about what the aquatic options were until a bug bit me several years ago and I decided I'd like to go sea kayaking.

Kayaking seemed like an occasional distraction, something I'd do maybe once a month or so, that would let me see my world from a different perspective. What I didn't realize was just how rich a playground I had surrounding me. Now, with literally thousands of miles under the hull of my Wilderness Systems Tsunami, I sometimes find myself wondering how I could have been so oblivious. I've paddled in surf, flat-water lakes and marshes, creeks and rivers all through the area and I feel compelled – almost driven – to share the wonders with the rest of the world.

While I dove headfirst into the sport and bought all my equipment before even knowing for certain it would be something I'd enjoy, there are a great many places that rent kayaks in the area so you can save some cash and try before you buy. Wonderful destinations like Fountainhead Regional Park, Jack's Boathouse or Thompson Boat Center on the edge of Washington DC for some incredible Potomac paddling with views of the monuments, The Patuxent Adventure Center for a variety of Maryland destinations... the list goes on.

Hopefully the bug bites you and you find yourself in love with the joy of exploring the myriad waterways of both of these amazing states. To get you started, I highly recommend two books in particular – Sea Kayaking Virginia (by Andrea Nolan) and Sea Kayaking Maryland's Chesapeake Bay (by Michael Savario and Andrea Nolan). The latter book got me started and you can read my review of it on my fledgling Kayaking website. As a quick summary, the book is filled to the brim with 30 destinations in Maryland, lovingly described with just the perfect mix of detail and respect for giving you the opportunity to discover things on your own. I owe my addiction to Mr. Savario and Ms. Nolan.

Virginia's Great Blue Heron

A Heron shaking off water after hunting: Photographer: Dave Hobbs
A Heron shaking off water after hunting: Photographer: Dave Hobbs | Source

Discovering and Photographing Wildlife from a Kayak

For you shutterbugs out there, kayaking offers a unique perspective on wildlife. I've spent 3 years shooting (growing list of articles on kayaking photography on my site) from my kayak and have never enjoyed as much success with animals in their natural settings as I have while sitting in a boat. In fact, prior to taking up kayaking I thought Blue Herons were some mystically rare critter you'd only see a few times in a lifetime in this area. I now think they're as prolific as pigeons, but their prehistoric calls and majestic forms still catch my eye every time I see one.

There's just something about being in a kayak that puts wildlife at ease. Or, at least, it puts them far more at ease than a human on foot ever will. You need to take some obvious precautions to protect your camera gear, of course. And I don't recommend bringing your expensive DSLR equipment with you until you've developed good proficiency and balance in your kayak, but once you're there, you'll bring home some of the best photographs of your life.

I've already made my first outing of the 2013 season. As much as I enjoy the quiet and solitude, I sincerely hope I see more of you out there this year. Whether you're just poking around in the guts and channels of the marshes or stalking an Osprey, camera at the ready, stop and give a wave if you see a guy in a red kayak with a camera floating by. It might just be me!

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