This page is meant to serve as a reference for local paddlers as to accessible locations to paddle. I will continue to add locations as I personally paddle them.
Merritt Point Park (Dundalk)
Merritt Point Park is a small park conveniently located off the 695 / Merritt Blvd exit. The park is home to several rec leagues, and is a local favorite for family fishing. There is a playground, pavilion, and a public restroom. There are always people nearby enjoying the park in the afternoons and on the weekends, which makes this park feel a bit safer for solo paddlers. During the warmer months, park employees can regularly be seen driving around and maintaining the park, especially during baseball and football season. The park has a dual-lane boat ramp with ample boat parking. Paddlers can even park on the grass directly next to the boat ramps to minimize the distance they must carry their gear.
As far as the water goes – the water quality is on par with other creeks along the bay. 2016 Chesapeake Bay Report Card ratings gave this area a D- rating. Now, before you jump on the Dundalk-bashing-bandwagon, you should know that Annapolis, Gibson Island, and other ritzy areas along the bay also received D ratings. The overall bay received a C, which is the highest rating it has received in 29 years. The water in this area has some pollution, as does most of the bay, however the waters have been deemed safe for swimming and recreational activities.
Water conditions range greatly due to the relatively close proximity to the mouth of the Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay, but for the most part, the water conditions are generally mild and calm within the long channel and creeks. There is minimal boat traffic along Merritt Park’s channel for about 3/4 of a mile, until you reach the more open waters of Bear Creek, as you approach the Peninsula Highway drawbridge, where boat traffic becomes slightly moderate, with a boat passing through every few minutes, but at a slow 6 knots speed.
Launching at Merritt Park gives you access to numerous small, scenic creeks. The waters are often surrounded by either marinas, homes, or lush swaths of cat tails and green plants. If you continue up the channel, passing the piers of Merritt Park and Chesterwood Park on the left, you will approach the Peninsula Highway drawbridge. If you make a right here, you will be heading towards the Patapsco River, Key Bridge, and Chesapeake Bay. If you make a left, just past the drawbridge you will find several Osprey nests on pilings in the water (don’t get too close), and a large, rusty CSX railroad swing bridge. The bridge always seems to be in the open position, and it is a very cool landmark to explore and photograph. Just past the swing bridge, on the left hand side is the Hard Yacht Cafe and BMore SUP. During the weekend evenings you can paddle up near the Hard Yacht Cafe and listen to live music. You could even dock your board and grab some food and drinks. Continuing past Hard Yacht you will find Sparrows Point Country Club on the right hand side. There is a small creek that wanders into the country club where you can explore the golf course and grounds. There are endless creeks to explore along Bear Creek. The quietness of the waters, the safety of the park, and the convenient location make Merritt Park one of my favorite places to launch.
Mariner Point Park (Joppa / Abingdon)
100 Kearney Dr, 1, Abingdon, MD 21085Mariner Point Park is located just off Route 40 in Joppa. Turn onto Joppa Farm Road (Redner’s and Farmer’s Market on the corner) and follow that road down about 2.5 miles. Make a right at the Royal Farms onto Kearney Drive, which ends at the park. As you pull into the park, drive past the first lot, which will likely be overflowing with boat trailers. After you pass the first lot, you will see a smaller lot on the right hand side. Pull into this lot, and you will find a small put-in alongside the right-hand side between the trees. Unload your vessel here and park. There are a few relatively steep steps at the put-in, so be careful if you have bad knees or a heavy board. Take your time and set your board down as you step. The steps are not treacherously steep, but steep enough to need to take your time. There is a small sandy shore for you to launch from.
Mariner Point Park is a wonderful park to spend the day in, even if you aren’t paddling. There is a large covered pavilion, a nature filled walking path, canopy cover, picnic tables, grills, and loads of fishing piers. The fishing piers are amazing. Each has a covered pavilion where fishermen and spectators can escape the sun, but still enjoy the water and fishing. This is especially great for those with limited mobility, as they are wheelchair accessible. From the pavilions, you can step down onto a traditional fishing pier, as well. This park is home to an abundance of black squirrels. This may sounds trivial to you, but I have never seen a black squirrel until I stepped into this part, and they are seemingly everywhere. It turns out that they are actually regular, ol’ Eastern Grey Squirrels with a recessive gene, the same recessive gene that is responsible for black panthers. Pretty cool to see!As far as the water quality goes, Mariner Point Park is a great location. The park is located on Gunpowder Basin, where the Gunpowder River and both Gunpowder Falls merge and widen, and it neighbors Bird River. The water is clean and clear with lots of sea grass and plants in the shallower areas. This area received a C on the 2016 Chesapeake Bay Report Card, which is about the highest score you will find anywhere on the bay. Due to the park being so popular, there is a moderate amount of boat traffic in the channel, however, boats are limited to 6 knots. The channel is relatively short, and once the boats reach the wider, more open area of the Gunpowder River, they quickly speed off out of the area. That is likely because many of the waterways around the channel are narrow, or have high sea grass. There are endless coves and water trails to explore here which makes for a new adventure every visit. Once you launch your vessel, you can go westward (to the right) and head into a residential / marina area, or you can paddle eastward to head into more open waters of the Gunpowder River and/or the quiet trails and coves of the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls. Continuing straight out of the channel (east), you will be heading under a large Amtrak train bridge and into the open and popular waters of Gunpowder River. If you make a right turn once you are out of the channel (southward), you will see the various water trails that you can explore. Some paths dead end in lilly covered coves, while others will carry you along the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls rivers. There is minimal current and chop within the coves and smaller water trails, making it an ideal, relatively flat water paddle. There is an abundance of wildlife to be seen from the water. During one visit, I saw a mid-air “dogfight” between a heron and a bald eagle. The birds swooped and zig-zagged only a few feet over my head as the eagle tried to steal a fish from the heron, mid-air!