New to the kayaking world, we sought a day trip that would be more challenging than our usual weekend haunts on the Magothy River's inlets, itself a grand watershed to the Chesapeake Bay. Wye Island seemed just the place and convenient, being slightly more than 30 miles from the Annapolis area on Maryland's eastern shore. The island itself is a vast, state maintained natural resource management area as well as a private conference facility of some 2,800 acres. It is essentially uninhabited with several small private parcels to be found. Local history abounds with stories of the island's previous inhabitants, some say pirates used Wye as their hideout, and others say that the seeds of the Revolution were sown here as William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and early governor of Maryland, owned a large portion of the island. These days, it is inhabited by deer, fox, ospreys, eagles and White Swan or Tundra Swan. The state allows no overnight camping, although, you may put in to any of the many small beaches to be found on the island's shore. Just be sure to leave no trace, and perhaps, if others before you have been less inclined or if storms have left their mark, do a bit of housecleaning before you depart.
Our trip began at the boat ramp found at the end of Wye Landing Road. This is both a public-use ramp with a private marina adjacent. There is a large parking area at the ramp, but it quickly fills in the summer months with local boaters and watermen. Overflow parking is found along Wye Landing Road. The marina parking lot is reserved for those renting boats and is not for general parking. Both lots sport porta-potties and the marina store offers last minute sundries. Others have recommended and we would concur, that your best put-in is the very small sandy beach next to the ramp. Very small means two kayaks can safely and comfortably load and depart. Watch for powerboats coming and going from the ramp.
We left the beach heading almost due south on the Wye East River. Several hundred yards from the beach, you'll see a tributary to your left which is the Wye Narrows. Continue on and you'll enter the Wye East River proper which heads west. We choose the latter and proceeded through a rainstorm (fortunately no winds) that lasted several hours. We stopped for lunch at a convenient beach some four miles from the put-in just as the rains stopped. We, being novice paddlers, brought along a hand-held GPS and a waterproof nautical chart of the island area. Do yourself a favor and do the same. This is a 13 mile plus trip and will take you some eight hours at a casual 3-mile-per-hour pace. If you're unfamiliar with the waters and the many small inlets along the island's shore, much time can be saved bypassing the larger coves in favor of an open water passage. Additionally, an up to date chart will show navigation aids and physical features that will assist you in circumnavigating the island.
One word of caution. At about the six mile point, you'll see in the distance a prominent lighthouse. We (well, I) mistakenly assumed this to be Bordley Point at the island's southern tip. Here the value of a good chart can save the day. In line with Bordley Point is a Red marker "2". Make a left at this landfall and you'll enter the Wye River. Continue on towards the lighthouse and you'll cross Bennett Point and enter the Chesapeake. In real terms, that's a two mile mistake.
Once back on course, we followed the northwest shore of the island toward the prominent landmass of Drum Point. Water temperatures were in the upper 80's and many sections of the Wye were filled with jellyfish. Tempting as a swim might have been, the prospect of paddling the remaining distance with jellyfish stings was a strong inducement to remaining aboard. There are many developed properties along the opposite shore and consequently, a number of powerboats transit in and through the Wye River. Some are courteous to kayakers, others consider it a public service to provide you with a sporting wake. Time of the year and day of the week will dictate. Weekdays find the river populated by local crabbers while weekends find far more recreational boaters and jet skiers.
The rain returned about this time and brought with it a strong breeze. The portion of the trip from Drum Point to Grapevine Point was a prelude to what awaited us after turning into the Wye Narrows. The rain stopped, but the breeze continued directly into our faces and progress slowed considerably. After this turn, you can see the Wye Island Road Bridge in the distance. This bridge marks the start of the home stretch and seems tantalizingly close. To be sure, the Narrows offers an easier paddle as its narrow width affords some protection from winds, but poor timing brought us into both a stout breeze and an outgoing tide.
Reaching the bridge marks approximately two miles remaining to the start point. A very good benchmark (also found on the chart) is a dark red boathouse found on the island's shore. From this point, you can hear boaters at the public ramp and realize the end is near. Once again, use caution returning to the beach near the ramp as boat traffic can be heavy late in the day. It was nearly dusk when we returned and several boats arrived on our tails without running lights.
In all, a very worthwhile trip for defining your abilities if a novice paddler or honing them if more seasoned. We would recommend that you make several trips in the five or six mile, out and back category before attempting this trip as a novice. Know your limits, make a plan, and get an early start on your trip and you'll enjoy all that this area has to offer kayakers.
The public boat ramp can be extremely busy in the early moring with local boaters and watermen. The adjacent marina and store can provide you with snacks and some limited gear you may need.
Use of the beach is free. There is a fee to launch from the ramp.
From the Annapolis area, take Route 50 east crossing the Bay Bridge to Route 662 towards Wye Mills. Approximately one mile after turning onto Route 662, turn left at Wye Landing Road. The public boat launch ramp is at the end of the road. From points east of the bridge, follow Route 50 west and make the same turn onto Route 662 towards Wye Mills.
In addition to previous trip reports, we used a Garmin GPS (bring extra batteries!) and the ADC Chesapeake Bay Chartbook which is waterproof. The chartbook has a large scale map of the island which is indispensable and very accurate.