Old Mill Creek in Delaware
This stream, as you will note at the put-in (headwaters), is partially fed from Red Mill Pond via a spillway that runs underneath Rt. 1. Nice sandy/rocky bottom, looks like a freshwater stream, but don't be fooled: it is a tributary of the Broadkill river, and it's mouth on the Broadkill is only a mile upstream from that river's mouth into Delaware bay via Roosevelt Inlet. The stream is therefore tidal to the tune of about a three foot + change in level, meaning you do have to check the tides if you don't want to run out of water (like I did on my last trip, had to "walk my baby back home" the last quarter mile!). Tidal currents can also be a factor, especially at mid-tide (*see NOTE below).
Like most streams in slower DE, because of its flatness, this one snakes back and forth continually, so if you have any wind, you will experience it from all directions for nearly equal stints. Between the wind and tidal currents, the sharpest bends can sometimes provide a challenge for even the most accomplished paddler, often complex and not easily read. Swinging your aft-end around can be a workout!
The scenery is consistent: marsh grasses with mostly distant tree-lines, too distant to block winds or sun. Dozens of duck blinds break the monotony, from abandoned wrecks to some recent ambitious efforts. As the tide lowers, and you get closer to the Broadkill, the more clam and oyster beds you will notice, as well as the spider crabs scurrying into their holes as they spot you passing by. That's the plus to low tide, but the minuses are many: it stinks, it's buggy, and you can't see much over the rising mudbanks (which will also make it nearly impossible to disembark enroute).
The day of my last paddle, I saw plenty of black ducks, a scolding kingfisher, and one of the largest great blue heron I've seen lately (stood 3+ feet tall)... he let me get very close, and was still in the same exact spot on the return leg, although he did walk behind some marshgrass but was taller than the grass. You will usually also see snowy egret & turtles (plop, plop!) This would be a good fishing stream, saw & heard plenty of them jumping.
Until you get to the Broadkill (at Prime Hook Beach), there is very little powerboat traffic, but once on the Broadkill use caution; you will see plenty of boat traffic in all seasons. At the confluence, you will see the waterfront homes of Prime Hook Beach to your right (notice the one that looks like a lighthouse) & equidistant to your left is Oyster Rocks Rd. (will usually be a few vehicles with boat trailers parked there). From here you can paddle the harbor behind these bay-front homes or head down the Broadkill along "Pea Patch Island" to the Lewes-Rehoboth canal, or through Roosevelt inlet into the mouth of the DE bay (with the ocean just around Cape Henlopen point). Therefore, the public boat ramp in Lewes harbor or even Lewes beach or Cape Henlopen SP would be alternate shuttle locations.
Going the other way (past Oyster Rocks Rd.) the Broadkill is a pleasant river to paddle... to the charming town of Milton, DE is ten miles.... an annual race is held on this stretch each August.
*NOTE: You will be able to find tide data for Roosevelt Inlet... this should be close. If you want to "ride the tide" both ways, a round trip beginning from Oyster Rocks Rd. is preferable, just make sure you "hang a right" when about halfway to Prime Hook Beach. USGS 7.5m topo map is the "Lewes" Quadrangle.
Many options within a few miles, closest is Red Mill Inn (302-645-9736)
or for camping Eagles Nest CG (302-684-4031)
or Steamboat Landing (302-645-6500)(right on the Broadkill just a few miles upstream from Oyster Rocks Boat Launch).
Sussex County DE, about a mile north of Lewes off northbound Rt. 1 (look for a very dilapidated red barn right along the road and park there; put in behind the barn. This barn is collapsing & if no longer standing, just look for an unmarked, unpaved road across from Red Mill Pond). I don't know who owns this land but I didn't notice any "No Trespassing" signs.
For doing a shuttle, leave vehicle at the dead-end of Oyster Rocks Rd., which begins about 1.5 miles north of the put-in. This is an offical (but unpaved) boat launch, just park off to the side. Appx. 6.5 mi one way, 13 RT.
- Trip Duration: Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)