Kayaking “Slower” Delaware’s Inland Water Trails

Kayaking “Slower” Delaware’s Inland Water Trails

Heading into Jefferson Creek from Bayshore Drive canal in South Bethany, Delaware.

I start kayaking north along Bayshore Drive, navigating passed stately homes and more weathered mid-century cottages. When I turn west, a steady breeze off the Atlantic hits my back. It’s about 65 degrees (cool for late May) and mostly sunny but much of the wind is tunneled down this section of the narrow canal. I know from experience that once I get away from the development, the tree-lined waterways are shielded from most wind and make an ideal day of canoeing or kayaking, especially on colder days when the beach is too uncomfortable.

Homes along Bayshore Drive canal.

Almost every home in this South Bethany neighborhood in Lower Delaware boasts its own water access and dock. Boats of all sizes and types are hoisted over the canal in lifts or nod in the current. Algae is everywhere since the water through the tighter canals receives less oxygen. In a few weeks, crab pot floats bobbing up and down will become a common sight.

Bayshore Drive canal drops me into Jefferson Creek. I have my choice of passages. I could go south toward Fenwick Island near the Maryland border, even as far as the Ocean City inlet or Assateague Island where I had just spent a night camping. But I decide to head north toward the Route 26 bridge close to Indian River Bay, first with a short detour up the creek.

A blue heron along Jefferson Creek awaits a meal.

Light splashes of cool water hit my bare legs as I paddle. The hightide makes pulling the water easier. A blue heron stands along the bank waiting for frogs or small crabs to eat. I leave behind most of the dense beach development as I ease my way down the narrower portion of the creek. About midway through my kayak begins to drag on the bottom. I turn around and head to Assawoman Canal.

Wind and sun now lessens with the aid of pine trees that rise above the canal. Kayaking becomes even easier now that I’m completely protected from coastal winds. The temperature also seems to warm. Side passages, some barely the width of my kayak, lead into more rugged terrain and developments deeper inland.

Kayakers heading south toward Fenwick Island.

I paddle under Kent Avenue bridge next to an outfitter. The Route 26 bridge looms ahead. An egret wading on the banks takes off in flight once it spots me. For a while I follow the bird down the slimming waterway. At the second bridge, I turn around as I notice the water is beginning to ebb out to sea.

Map of the area of the Assawoman Canal near Bethany Beach.
“Rest stop” along Assawoman Canal heading to the Route 26 bridge.
The canal is wider where it meets inland bays, but becomes narrower through dense pine tree forests.
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For a short distance, an egret acts as my guide down the canal.
The best part of the journey is where the trees close in on the canal.
Protected by coastal winds, the canal allows for some nice spots to let the kayak drift and enjoy the scenery. The Route 26 bridge lies in the distance.
Sign above the Kent Avenue bridge encourages more environmentally friendly boating.
Street markings along the residential canal help let boaters know they aren’t far from home.

I eye my way to Bayshore Drive using site markers I listed in my head. There’s the big ocher house with seven balconies and an impressive view of the open inland water. Next I spot the bright yellow port-a-john used by construction workers where another house is being erected.

One of my “trail markers” so I can navigate back to home base.

Finally, I’m on the right canal and I find my way back. I would like to have stayed longer navigating the Delaware and Maryland inland waterways. I noticed along the creek a few coves where people had obviously camped. Some of the waterways and Little Assawoman Bay lie in Delaware wildlife refuges, so these areas would be off-limits to overnight camping. I drag my kayak ashore and for now feel satisfied with my excursion.

Easing into home base.


Assawoman Canal

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