Back Bay Wildlife Refuge to False Cape Park

The only way into this waterway is to hike, bike, or paddle, so it’s peaceful and pristine. The 3 or 4 power boats (or jet skis) we saw were locals in Sandbridge, because there’s no public boat ramp. It was relaxing to paddle without a lot of boat wakes.

The day was very warm, so we were thankful for the breeze, or we would have baked. Paddling 12.6 miles on open water had my body saying, “whaaaaat?!” It was worth it. We saw two old brick hunting lodges tumbled down (one 19th century where President Benjamin Harrison and his friends liked to duck hunt.) It was a strange feeling to float over old foundations.

Morris Creek, Charles City, VA

We camped Saturday night at Morris Creek Landing so we could be on the water for sunrise Sunday morning. The thunderstorm that was supposed to roll through for an hour Saturday night lasted several scary, tent-quivering hours. Morning brought cloudy skies and drizzle, so the event didn’t go as planned, but was nonetheless a beautiful couple of days spent paddling on a pristine creek.

We were on our paddleboards Saturday afternoon and our sea kayaks most of the day Sunday. The creek is a nice combination of wide and narrow passages, protected Wildlife Management Area on one side, a few houses on the other. Wildlife sightings included eagles, herons, ducks, cormorants, a turtle, a water snake, and evidence of beavers, but no actual sightings.

We enjoyed talking to one of the residents and his dog on his dock, who shared several recollections of reckless powerboat operators and disrespectful hunters, so do keep alert. Stay off the creek during hunting season (a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving through January) – best not to be mistaken for a large duck on the water.

Wormley Creek

We put in at Wormley Creek boat landing, Yorktown, VA at about 11:00 today and enjoyed 4 hours of exploring on both of the main branches and a number of side coves. The only place I’ve seen more egrets is on the Poquoson River. They and the herons were plentiful today, letting us get fairly close for photos.

This is an interesting place to explore for several reasons: a variety of homes, from small and older to large and new. The Coast Guard Training Center is there, as is a marina and the old Amoco refinery. If you feel like venturing out into the York River, that’s an option – we only played a little in the surf coming into the creek today, preferring the serenity of the coves.

My paddling friend is an experienced sailor and pointed out to me the odd characteristics of the channels there. Because of the way the Chesapeake Bay tides push the currents and sand into these creeks, the deepest parts are near the land and the shallowest parts are in the middle. Larger boats must follow a zigzag pattern to navigate it and no wake is allowed. This made for relaxed paddling conditions with no interference from jet ski or power boat wakes.

Whilcox Wharf to Westover Church

Varying wind, tide, and currents made this stretch of the James River and Herring Creek interesting, as did the eagles, osprey, cormorants, geese, turtles, and a muskrat. Our goal was to get close to Westover Church and we could see it from the bank of Herring Creek, but chose not to trespass on the private dock that may lead up to the rectory. There was a takeout spot in a clearing nearby, where we enjoyed a lunch break before the return trip. The other manmade highlight was Evelynton Plantation.

The creek foliage was lush and green, with lots of blooming marsh flowers. We very much enjoyed taking our time, exploring side alleys and watching the eagles. There were several mature eagles criss-crossing the creek, as well as an adolescent and a younger one venturing from tree to tree.

We didn’t know if we had the creek mostly to ourselves because it’s lesser known than the popular Queens Creek to the left of the wharf, or due to social isolation during Covid-19, but it was a very enjoyable, tranquil trip on a Sunday afternoon.

Warm Air, Chilly Water SUP

Nine weeks into the social distancing period of the Covid-19 pandemic, it still seems very strange to see Jamestown Beach empty when conditions are perfect. Today I saw three cold-water swimmers, a lady and her dog, a family with their SUPs like me, and a couple of power boats.

The breeze and temperature were perfect while standing on the board, but when I laid down on it to soak up some sun, I admit that the water lapping against my side was still on the chilly side. My admiration goes to the swimmers!

Quick Trip on the Pagan River

Inspired by photos of friends in a local kayak enthusiasts’ group, I enjoyed my first exploration of the Pagan River near Smithfield, VA with two friends. It was one paddler’s first voyage of the season, so we kept it to about 5 miles this day.

I haven’t been a fan of roller kayak ramps because they can scratch fiberglass boats, but this park’s ramp was excellent! Instead of the common use of PVC pipe for the rollers, which can develop spurs over time, this ramp was a deluxe model with conical rubber rollers. We eased right into and out of the water.

This area is a pretty combination of old and new Tidewater houses, a lighthouse, pretty pleasure craft, and nature. Definitely worth a return trip.

One photo shows a goose sleeping on her nest in the marsh grass – first time I’d seen one “at home.”

First Trip to Deep Bottom Park, Henrico County, VA

I had long admired the photos shared by one of my Richmond paddling friends and am grateful that she didn’t mind visiting this location again. She enjoyed testing her handmade wooden boat on its second voyage. I benefited from her experience reading wind and current conditions on this varied journey. We paddled the gentle James River in the oxbow, enjoyed flat water and peaceful sounds of the birds in the tidal pool, and got a bit of a rush as waves (mostly power boat wakes) broke over our bows in the straight channel. It was fun to navigate a few ripples where the manmade channel joined the natural flow of the river.

This was during the Covid-19 social distancing period, so it was very quiet – almost surreal in the tidal pool. Normally, I’m told, this area is in the Richmond airport’s flight path, so it might feel very different on our next trip.

Up and Back on Powhatan Creek

My paddling friend and I were looking for an easy afternoon paddle out of the wind, so we chose to put in at the James City County marina. We rode with the tide up the creek, then let the current help us back down.

We were amused to see the mother goose nesting on top of an abandoned dock house.

First Paddleboard Outing of 2020

Couldn’t resist this unseasonably warm day to get out on Powhatan Creek, putting in at the James City County marina. Water temps were still cold, of course, so my 3mm wetsuit was in order. I’m a big proponent of water safety and preach the necessity of a PFD (personal flotation device) worn at all times on the water … so imagine my chagrin when I got to the dock without mine. After some minutes of debate, I ventured out, realizing that I would be tethered to my board in calm water on a creek within sight of houses along the 1-mile stretch of my planned route. Lesson learned … keep a written check list and refer to it before leaving the house.

Saw heron and eagles, but the eagle enjoying his fish in a pine tree was not lined up right for my camera – especially wobbling on a paddleboard – but that’s a good memory from this short trip. The wind picked up on the open section of the creek, so I had to make myself as small and paddle low to get back to the marina.

2020 New Year’s Day Paddle

With air temps in the mid-50s and water much colder, we nonetheless “dressed for the dunk” and enjoyed circumnavigating Jamestown Island, a treasured way to “start the new year right” for our paddling club.