A sultry summer afternoon sent us beach hunting on the Choptank-but the beach we wanted wasn’t where we left it.
It was stinking hot. We were grumpy. We needed to go for a spin on the good ship Escort and find ourselves a swimming beach. So Clint and I rounded up the neighborhood kids, packed up some food and made for the boat.
We were moored temporarily at BachelorPointHarbor on the TredAvonRiver just outside Oxford, Md. There are plenty of likely swimming spots to choose from in that neighborhood. Upstream is Flatty Cove, but you can’t bring a boat all the way in to the beach. Even farther up is Deepwater Point, a popular anchorage. On the other side of the river, there used to be a terrific swimming beach just above Peck’s Point, but riprap has effectively put an end to it. On the other hand, if you head for the Choptank, you’ll find one of the Chesapeake’s premier swimming beaches-and a dozen or so other boats-inside the mouth of La Trappe Creek.
But we didn’t want company, and we weren’t looking for an overnight anchorage, so we headed instead for Castle Haven, almost directly across the Choptank from the mouth of the Tred Avon. We remembered a long sand spit that stretched nearly a half mile into the river from Castle Haven Point. Fed by sand eroding from the flimsy downstream shoreline, the bar marked the edge of a broad swath of shoal water (loaded with all that eroded sand) that pinched the Choptank channel between Castle Haven and Chlora Point. Strong river currents had gouged out the upstream side of the sandbar, giving boats as much as eight feet of water along the inside edge of the spit. It was a simple matter to nose onto the beach, disembark and frolic in the shallows on the sandbar’s downstream side.
But it wasn’t there! Landowners have riprapped the downstream shoreline, stopping the sand supply that so richly replenished the sandbar. While the shoal itself is still very real, the backbone of hard sand that used to stand out at low tide has vanished. Gone. Kaput. Another Bay beach bites the dust.
Fortunately, we had an alternative. Chlora Point lies between Island and LaTrappe creeks on the Choptank’s north shore. Deep water runs nearly to the beach; we anchored in 14 feet, but within a yard or so of our transom, it was shallow enough that we could easily walk ashore.
We weren’t the only ones there. Small runabouts and a traditional workboat were anchored nearby, and two sizable groups had congregated on shore with full picnic regalia. But this is a long stretch of shoreline, and there was plenty of room for everyone. From the number of masts we could see over the treetops around La Trappe Creek, we had definitely chosen the shore less traveled.
The kids on our boat immediately began jumping off Escort’s top deck, and before we knew it, they had been joined by some kids from the nearby boats.
Meanwhile, Clint and I went for a walk along the pebbly beach and explored the banks of a rushing creek that poured out of a nearby marsh. Here were raccoon and heron tracks crosshatching the muddy trail. We spotted a copper-striped snake (the northern water snake, according to our snake book) and watched it jet easily through the creek water. We may as well have been on another planet, it was so still and quiet. Although someone clearly owns and occupies the property-a good-size dock juts into the river at one end of the beach and a wonderful little bridge crosses the marsh creek-his or her house is well hidden behind mature summer foliage.
This is a nice spot-plenty of water, plenty of room, not a single speck of trash or broken glass to be seen. You wouldn’t want to spend the night here-much too exposed. But if it’s an anchorage you want, just slip around the corner and take your pick on LaTrappe Creek, or go the other direction and try to work your way into Island Creek (the entrance is tricky). For a marina, head up the Choptank to Cambridge or swing into the Tred Avon to Oxford.