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Monocacy River in Maryland

Trip Overview

Summer Already?

Monocacy River - Rte 550 to Monocacy Blvd (13.3 miles)

Paddlers: Topher, Brian Sill, c2g, Alan DNF04 Reid, Mike McCrea
Canoes: Nova Craft Supernova, Wenonah Rendezvous, Bell Yellowstone, Mohawk Odyssey 14, Mad River Freedom Solo

I had planned for one last day of on-water test paddling of the Royalex solo canoes, hoping to get them out again on some moving water. I had hoped to get on the upper Monocacy, starting just below the Mason-Dixon Line, but access issues shifted us south. Its been nearly a decade since Ive paddled the Monocacy and Id forgotten just how placidly lazy the middle section of this river can be.

Sooooo, I guess well just have to get the boats out one more time, on some faster moving water. Darn.

Meeting at a newly created take out sandwiched between athletic fields, a sprawling Walmart and Monocacy Blvd just north of Frederick we realized that the day promised summer-like heat, humidity and blazing sunshine. We might also have realized that Walmart sells sunscreen, an oversight that would be paid for with bright red legs later in the day.

Shuttle set we launched from Rte 550 and soon left the noise of the road and fishermens radios behind. And soon entered the bang zone. The shooting range adjacent to Hunting Creek provides an auditory oddity to this river trip with constant and cacophonous gunfire. Id love to see the range some day; it sounded as though there were firearms of all calibers in use, including one deadeye shooter with a semiautomatic pistol hammering away rapidly at a metal target bangclang, bangclang, bangclang, bangclang, bangclang, bangclang, bangclang, bangclang, bangclang, bangclang. Almost never a bang without a clang.

Once out of earshot of the firing range we stopped for the first of several pop-top, malt hop, f-stop, sweatshop, malaprop agitprop boat swaps. I dont recall the exact order of who paddled what, but our corp of test paddlers is really getting into the spirit of providing great boat review quotes, some of which will unfortunately never see publication. To wit:

  • The boat snaps into eddies and waits for me to figure out what else I read about eddy turns in "River Paddling for Dummies"
  • Boring but safe, like holding hands with an ugly prude at a drive in movie.
  • The hull is so full in the ends I could park it mid-river and create a four-boat eddy for my companions.

    One test paddler concluded his assessment by comparing each of the hulls to the offspring of friends or family, including these analogies:

  • A solid performer. This is the kid that went do dental school, and succeeded financially and emotionally in life.
  • This kid is also successful, but less practical. It went to NYC and consistently gets parts in off-Broadway productions. Lots of fun, but no house in the suburbs. Still the favored one who visits the parents and brings joy.
  • This one was a candidate for a CPA but never made it. A plodder, but inoffensive.
  • A stellar pedigree, a shining star with a lot of promise, this one went to private school but joined a sorority/fraternity and fell into ennui and dissolution as a result of alcohol abuse and drug dependence. We continue to hope for its success, but remain disappointed.
  • A one dimensional sprout, he/she has excelled at one exciting thing like rock-climbing or stripping. If you try to steer this child on the straight and narrow path, it will become balky and unresponsive.

    One of the best parts of these test paddling trips, besides spending a day on the water with favorite companions and calling it work, is reading through everyones comments the next day, especially since the cohort of testers varies wildly in their hull preferences but are consistent in wordsmithing delightfully descriptive prose.

    Rousing ourselves from our bankside respite we sought out the shady side of the river whenever possible, hearing a paraphrase of that Carter/Garett classic run through my head:

    Keep on the shady side, always on the shady side,
    Keep on the shady side of life
    It will help us ev'ry day, it will shaden all the way
    If we'll keep on the shady side of life

    Another stop and stretch below Links Bridge, another below Devilbiss and a lingering cobble bar snooze below Biggs Ford and we had successfully achieved the traditional Duckhead speed of two miles per hour.

    13.3 miles, 7 hours, baked by the sun. We need one more run with these boats, something faster and well-shaded. Yellow Breeches perhaps. Or maybe I can dig up some contact info to secure that $5 paid parking at Shoemaker Rd up near the Pennsylvania Line. What kind of test paddle outing is it when no one swims?

    A test paddlers work is never done.


    None beyond parking areas at the put in and take out.




    The Monocacy is a 70 mile long scenic river with multiple access points. Buy a copy of Gertler's Maryland and Delaware Canoe Streams and pick two bridges an appropriate distance apart.


    Edward Gertler's Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails

    • Skill Level: Beginner
    • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
    • Group Rates: No

    Locations on this Trip