Wicomico: Bushwood Wharf East to Chaptico Wharf

The Essentials

Put-In: hard surface boat ramp or sandy beach area nearby
Distance: 6 miles roundtrip
Water Type: open river’s edge, flat creeks
Difficulty: easy to moderate depending on wind conditions
Cautions: powerboat traffic

Bushwood Wharf is a public boat ramp and pier, near the mouth of the Wicomico River where the Wicomico enters the Potomac River. The facility was renovated in 2005 and is popular with sport fisherman and power boaters.

The opposite shore of the Wicomico is Charles County, with Cobb Island being the southernmost point of land. A crossing to Cobb Island from Bushwood Wharf would be over 2 miles one way. Be advised that the entire crossing would be across a waterway that is very popular with motorboats captained by amateurs.

The distant shore, almost ten miles away across the Potomac, is Virginia. You can see the cliffs of the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Westmoreland State Park. If you are contemplating crossing to Virginia from here be advised that you will be crossing the Kettle Bottom Shoals danger area, an active target area for not-small bombs fired from Dalhgren testing facility a few miles upriver.

There is a store and small-engine boat rental business at Bushwood Wharf. The store sells prepared food, some groceries, and fishing gear.

Bushwood Wharf was in important port facility for St. Mary’s County into the 1920s. Passengers and goods were transported to and from Baltimore and Washington on regularly-scheduled steamships. Remnants of the original steamship pier are visible at the lowest tides.

Directions to Bushwood Wharf: TK

The pier and boat ramp are designed for trailered boats. There are a couple of step-down platforms on the pier that, depending on tide height, might be used for launch, but the facility is all hard surfaces.

A better launch is from the beach past the store. Unload your boats and gear near the beach then return your vehicle to the public parking area. The front of the store is private property but the proprietors will not object to a quick unloading of a boat, especially if you come in and buy something. On this trip the store is your only opportunity to top off your liquid and food needs; there is no opportunity for reprovisioning on this trip.

Trip One: To Chaptico Wharf along the east shore of the Wicomico

Distance: Approximately six miles round trip not counting side explorations.

Paddle north along the eastern shore of Bushwood Cove. You will pass Chickahominy, a ca. 1900 estate house. About a quarter mile from Bushwood wharf is White Point. Thirty years ago there was a spit of land extending from this point to the middle of the river. It eroded away but at very low tides a paddler will encounter the remains and they will form an effective barrier, forcing a detour farther out into the Wicomico to find deep enough water to make passage. Behind White Point is Mill Creek which after a few hundred yards terminates in a reedy. smelly backwater.

After White Point you pass the waterfront side of Longview Beach, a resort community built by and for African Americans in the 1950s. Black middle class and professional Washingtonians built these vacation/weekend bungalows when access to other waterfront communities was denied to them. Recently one of the homes on the shoreline was replaced with an imposing modernist structure of concrete and glass. You can’t miss this unique structure.

After Longview Beach, about a mile from White Point, you will see a length of low cliffs. A beach is present, tide-willing. The “cliffs” end at the inlet to Bramleigh Creek. This is a backwater that can be explored in a half-hour. It is picturesque, unspoiled, and full of avian and aquatic life. All the shoreline here is private property.

Continuing along the Wicomico River shore another inlet soon presents itself. This is Manahewic Creek, a multipronged version of Bramleigh Creek, similar in all respects except a good deal larger. A bald eagle would not be an unusual sighting here; an osprey or heron almost a certainty.

To the left of the opening to Manahewic Creek is another, narrowrer opening. There is a decent-sized backwater behind this opening, altho it contains nothing of real interest you wouldn’t find in either of the two previously-mentioned creeks. It is worth calling your attention to the fact that under certain conditions of tide and rainfall this entryway can be sluice-like. As much fun as it is to have your boat accelerate as it is sucked into the opening it can be a real struggle to fight your way out again.

Resuming northward along the Wicomico the shoreline becomes more populated, bulkheaded and revetted. You are about a mile from Chaptico Wharf, another popular public boat ramp and fishing pier. There is a small sandy spot to the immediate right of the pier that is your best landing spot.

The next point of land northward is Mill Point, and around that the entrance to Chaptico Bay. The town of Chaptico is at the head of that silted-in bay, about three miles away, but unfortunately there is no public, and very little private, access out of Chaptico Bay. Chaptico Run goes to Route 234 from the bay but requires frequent and strenuous portaging.

You have come three miles from Bushwood Wharf, not counting whatever tributaries or beaches you explored. Turning back now could, depending on tide and wind, make for an arduous round trip. Think it over before starting out. Maybe you planned ahead and left a vehicle at Chaptico Wharf to carry you back to Bushwood. Or maybe you chained some bicycles to a tree and can now chain your kayaks and take the bikes back to Bushwood Wharf to retrieve your vehicle. If not, start paddling.