Where’s the best place to paddle on the Middle Peninsula? Depends whom you ask because this rural coastal Virginia region overflows with waterways of all sizes, each with enchanting nooks and crannies filled with natural treasures.
We’ve cobbled together 10 cool spots to paddle that you don’t want to miss. Don’t forget your life jacket, and always check the tides before you begin your kayak trip.
See you on the water!
Glide along the Severn River off John’s Point. Launch at the Free School Creek, named for the school that educated Gloucester’s poorest children until after the Civil War. Down toward the mouth of the Severn, relish the spot where you can stand up and stretch your legs for a break. You can stop and gander at the Inn at Warner Hall, where George Washington’s grandmother resided. If you book a stay at the Inn, complimentary kayaks are available.
Launch from Tanyard Landing into the unsung Poroptank River in northern Gloucester where it feeds the York River. Once you paddle past a handful of houses, you’ll wonder if you somehow turned into a national state park thanks to the tall trees, some that hold bald eagle nests. You might even spot bald eagles and ospreys going through their mating rituals. If your group is small (and quiet), you keep an eye out for otters where the Poroptank spills to the York River.
From State Road 14, turn onto Potato Neck Road and launch where it ends at Winter Harbor Landing. Go birding while you kayak amid the loblolly pine and red cedar. You’ll come across The Beach House, which used to accommodate patrons from the steamboats that traveled the Chesapeake Bay. It’s updated now and available for an overnight stay.
Launch at Hallieford Beach in Mathews, and go left to Chapel Creek, where you’ll spot foxes, king fishers and anglers. The creek, more wooded than most, also showcases how important oysters are to this coastal community.
Dragon Run is a treat if you love swamps and Cyprus trees, many with their tops removed from storms. Access the blackwater stream from the Mascot bridge parking area but be aware that this is a tricky waterway even for advanced paddlers given the plethora of beaver dams. For guided trips on different parts of the Dragon, contact the Friends of Dragon Run, which has concluded its summer season of paddling tours but will start back up again in October. Money raised from these trips goes toward further preservation of this pristine watershed.
Put in at Town Point Landing or Williams Wharf in Mathews to enjoy the scenery on the East River, a showcase for a number of Maritime Heritage Sites, including an old mill. If you’re an advanced paddler, consider kayaking up and back to the entrance of Mobjack Bay. You can also start your journey at Put-in Creek (what’s in a name?), adjacent to the historic Mathews Courthouse with shops and dining. If you choose this route, it is preferable at high tide.
Launch at Payne’s Landing onto Wilson Creek in Gloucester and head north to see the Great Blue Heron rookery. Have your camera handy but be as quiet as possible as these beautiful birds spook easily. Their wingspan is enormous, and they can be as tall as 5 feet. Head south and east to reach the Ware River.
Drive down Guinea Road to the end of Maryus Road to access Big Island, a special place to kayak given the Guinea heritage still prevalent in this community. The marshy peninsula was once home to generations of watermen who practiced a revered way of life on the Middle Peninsula. It’s probably best to reserve an ecotour for this one as accessing Big Island can be a challenge, and you really need to be aware of the tides and parking.
Don’t overlook Beaverdam Park, particularly with fall approaching. The boat ramp at the Roaring Springs Road entrance is handicap accessible and waters are calm, though you will have to pay a $3 fee to launch if you don’t have an annual pass. To the right, the stint is short, but kayak left and you’ll be paddling for a while, inhaling this majestic landscape. A picnic area and gazebo are close to where you launch, but you can also kayak out to the Boy Scout camp site across the lake to a dock or to the other end of the reservoir for additional picnicking areas.
Launch at the road ending adjacent to the Twig Ferry Bridge on the Piankatank in Middlesex to access beautiful Wilton Creek. Go left to savor the unspoiled wooded waterway full of fingers to explore. This trip is especially colorful in the spring when the Mountain Laurels are in bloom. Additional access with more parking are available at Stampers Bay Landing, which is farther up the river to the west, but still not too far of a paddle from Wilton Creek.