We think that the greatest thing about kayaking is the ability to go places where other boats just can't get to. Thorne Gut Marsh in Maryland is one of those magical places where the sounds of powerboats on the Potomac River disappear and are replaced by the swish of your paddles, the cries of bald eagles, and the rush of escaping Canada geese. The entrance to the Thorne Gut Marsh is approximately 3 miles from the launch point at Aquia Landing. This small county park is at the confluence of the Potomac and Aquia Creek, a prime fishing spot. Parking is free and the launch point is a sandy artificial beach that is well protected for any wind or current. We started on a beautiful Saturday morning; it had already hit 80 degrees at 10:00 in the morning when we finished building our boats and headed across the Potomac. The water was glassy smooth and only interrupted by the occasional wake from a passing fisherman. The paddle didn't take long and we were at the mouth of the Thorne Gut Marsh waterway, which looks like a rushing stream. You have to get out of your boat and do a quick portage (no more than a few feet) depending on the tide. After hopping back in our boats, we paddled against the strong outflow of the marsh into the Potomac and were out of sight of civilization in about 3 minutes. There doesn't seem to be much information on the marsh out there, and the Badger came across it by accident, but it has a winding channel up it that ranges from 6 inches to 2 feet deep. Basically plenty deep for a kayak, and we had no trouble paddling at any point. The marsh is absolutely crawling with wildlife: we were shadowed by 5-10 redwing blackbirds the entire time, kept coming up on a large flock of Canada geese that weren't happy to see us, saw two massive bald eagles (one a huge immature brown and the other with the classic coloring), kildeer, very large snapping turtles, large golden fish, deer drinking from the channel, and a myriad of ducks that I'm still flipping through my bird guide to figure out. The channel is navigable for about 3/4 of a mile until you get to a point where the lillypads choke the channel up and the chances of getting stuck in mud get very high. Although it's a short paddle, you'll feel completely isolated and get a chance to practice your sweep stroke; its mostly too shallow for a rudder and the bends in the channel make it feel like a kayak slalom. Chances are you'll also forget about time as you look around to spot the wildlife, or look down into the water to see what's swimming below. Definitely bring binoculars and a bird book; you won't regret it. We basically let the outflow take us back to the Potomac and paddled back to our launch point against the ebbing tide, which slowed us way down. Since it was slow anyway, we practiced our towing techniques, dragging each other back.
Another wonderful paddling spot in this area is the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve (http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/natural_area_preserves/crowsnest.shtml), which is replete with bald eagles, great blue herons, ospreys, and several types of raptors. I saw at least 5 pairs of eagles in a very short time span during one paddle, which was amazing. Overall, a protected and beautiful place to paddle with great birdwatching. Accokeek Creek is another unspoiled area and adds large turtles splashing into the water to get away and large longnosed gar swimming underneath your kayak.
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