Of battles and rivers
Date Paddled: November 17, 2017
Nearest City: Harper’s Ferrry
Put-In: Boonesboro – Antietam Canoe and Kayak
Take-Out: Route 38 Bridge
Duration: 4.5 hours
River Miles: 8.25
Shuttle: Gary from Antietam Canoe and Kayak, 12 miles
Weather: Sunny 48
Difficulty: quickwater, class I-II
The Antietam Creek played a significant role in the Civil War where Major General George McClellan launched attacks on General Robert E. Lee from defensive positions behind the creek. With 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing this was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. McClellan was relieved of his command and many speculate that the war would have been won with more decisive leadership.
Fortunately, thoughts of battles past were not in our heads as we headed out from Antietam Canoe and Kayak. We had spent some wonderful time exploring the Americana and antiquities in the old power generating structure with Gary, our gracious host and shuttle driver. He regaled us with stories of days when this was a hub of electrical production, the solid wooden beams and floor witness to the weight of both equipment and responsibility.The river was flowing at its near low, but still at a surprising rate for only 180 cfs. Sycamores of all shapes filled the shores in true bottom-land tradition.
Birds were still very much in evidence with ducks, geese, herons, kingfisher, pilated woodpeckers, and songbirds.
One of my great pleasures while paddling is finding old railway or road bridges. The quality of these old structures is a real testimony to the care with which they were built. My dad did all the stonework on our house, while instilling a love of stone and appreciation for the difficulties of working with such a substantial material.
Bridges also fire my imagination – What places did it connect? Who built it? What were the people day-dreaming about as they crossed the river? Perhaps the deer we saw had similar thoughts as we scooted past.
Paddlers get hungry. In the warmer weather, we’ll often find someplace to stretch our legs for lunch or we’ll eat moored someplace pleasant, other times like on the Antietam, we eat on-the-wing.
This adventure to kayak Delaware and Maryland came on the heels of my breast cancer reconstructive surgery and by mile six or so, I was up to 14.5 miles with the previous Broad River paddle. I started fading with the sun as it hid behind the ridge and the temperature dropped. I was getting a bit panicky thinking of the next couple of miles. While I saw the need to keep warm with paddling, one of the surgery sites was complaining.
After a while of trying to tough it out, I popped some Ibuprofens and resigned myself to being towed and clipping/unclipping through the rapids- a tedious process. While no one would fault me for being towed under the circumstances, it’s still a humiliation! Peter cheerfully helped me out.
Not even exhaustion, cold or humiliation could dampen my appreciation of the Antietam Bridge (in the park by the same name).
Since our blog focuses on paddling, I won’t elaborate on Harper’s Ferry – all the history, restored village, great restaurants in historical buildings, the Potomac River and the Appalachian Trail Headquarters. All I’ll say is – go there – paddle and enjoy!