Pocomoke River – Goat Island / Byrd Park (Snow Hill)
Byrd Park, Market Street, Snow Hill, MD 21863
Byrd Park is a quaint little park nestled on the banks of the Pocomoke River, in Snow Hill Maryland. The waterfront park features include 2 paved boat ramps, several piers, basketball courts, and picnic areas. It is a lovely park to spend the day in, with ample amounts of canopy cover to keep you cool in the summer months. There is a small field, a concession stand, and modern bathrooms in the middle of the semicircular park.
The Pocomoke River wraps around the perimeter of the park with sandy, grassy banks that any fisherman would appreciate. There are picnic tables all along the banks of the river, which offer unobstructed waterfront views of the peaceful river and neighboring Goat Island. Goat Island is a small island directly across from the park, and there really are a few goats that roam on it. You will see lots of birds and water fowl, and if you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the lonely goats of Goat Island. Don’t stare too long, despite their adorable friendly nature, goats are known to steal your soul and chew up your shoes. The park is also home to the annual Return to Goat Island Paddle Sports Race, where kayakers and paddle boarders race around the island and down the river.
The Pocomoke River is a very calm, slow-moving river. On most days, you can easily paddle up and down stream with little-to-no resistance. The river has loads of lily pad fields, which are beautiful to look at and photograph, but don’t try to paddle through them. Not only are the lilly pad fields very dense, they are also very shallow and muddy. The river also has loads of Bald Cypress trees growing from within the river and on the river’s banks. The cypress trees’ roots often curl and rise out of the water like stilts, and at times give the river a swampy look. Parts of the Pocomoke River are actually known as “the Great Cypress Swamp!” Don’t let the cypress trees fool you, though. The river water is far from swampy in the Snow Hill area, although the water itself is quite dark. Local tradition says that the river’s Native American name means “black (or dark) water,” with the dark water being attributed to tannin present in the cypress trees’ roots. Beware of fallen trees in the water. They pose little risk to kayakers, but paddle boarders may run into trouble if their fins bang into sunken trees, or worse, their leashes get tangled in them. The trees are usually easy to spot, but due to the dark water, some may be lurking just below the surface.
When launching your vessel from Byrd Park’s boat ramp or the shores nearby, Goat Island will be directly in front of you (North). If you head up river, to the East, after about a half mile you will reach the town of Snow Hill and the Pocomoke River Canoe Company (located right on the river). If you head down river, to the West, you will meander around several small islands and snaky turns, and will eventually reach Pocomoke State Park, which is approximately 3 miles down river from Byrd Park. The park offers a variety of options for tent and cabin camping, as well as general recreation. You will also pass Nassawango Creek, just before reaching Pocomoke State Park. Nassawango Creek meanders through a nature preserve and another beautiful cypress swamp that are maintained by The Nature Conservancy and The Nassawango Creek Stewardship Committee. There’s also a bridge (Nassawango Road) that crosses over the Nassawango Creek, which can provide a fun obstacle (duck!), or it can block passage in high water.
Byrd Park and the Pocomoke River make for a great day on the water for the entire family. Pack a picnic, grab a blanket, and your favorite paddle craft and take advantage of any opportunity to explore this hidden gem. If you’d like to see a short video of the park and area, check out my Return to Goat Island Race video on Youtube. It is a short video showing part of the race, but you can also see the park and Goat Island, which the race circled around.