I am writing about an adventure from last year. I only just remembered the name of the park. Last year is when I decided it was time to get the canoe out a little more and discover new places. So after finding this page on car top boat launch sites in Anne Arundel County, I decided (after reviewing many of the locations), that Fort Smallwood Park would be the place to go. I’m wondering now if I was influenced by the picture on that web page, with a sand beach and a green canoe in it.
It cost $6 to get into the park. And there was a boat launch, not far from parking. And there were other people boating there. But they were all kayaks. I don’t have a lot of experience in boating on open water, but this was really open water. I am much more savvy this year after my experience last year. The web site says “Fort Smallwood Park is situated on the Patapsco River in Pasadena.” OK, technically it may be on the Patapsco River, but really it is on the Chesapeake Bay — open water.
It was not a particularly windy day, but a little windy. In our open canoe, by ourselves, Ron and our then 5 year old, Danny and myself launched on the beach. There were waves, but that did not concern me as much as it should have in hindsight. Because there were maybe one foot waves we had to canoe in such a manor as to not have the waves swamp us. We went out for a little bit, but couldn’t come right back in, because by then we had gotten near a jetty and had to canoe around the jetty. It took all of our paddling skills to get back to the shore without getting swamped from wind and waves.
Paddling in took longer than I had wanted because we had to be so concerned about the position of our boat in respect to the waves that we were not making as much forward progress as we would have liked. But we returned to shore, no one was hurt. Our boat did not swamp and we didn’t crash on the jetty. But we will not be returning to this place to canoe. Cross this off your list if you are in a canoe.
And I was especially concerned that I put our child in this danger. This may be a fine place for people in kayaks with older children, but this is NOT a place for canoes and young children. There is no swimming in the park (which I don’t understand). There were other kids who were playing in the sand and wading in the water, so we let our child wade in the water as deep as he wanted to. It is a really nice sand beach with lots of things to find in the sand and enjoy.
But even for kayaks, paddlers need to be familiar with paddling in open water. This is not the same as paddling on flat water or even whitewater. The waves were relentless and you can’t stay close to the shore because there are rocks and jetties and you don’t want to get washed into the rocks.
On the plus side, there was a nice playground and rest room which we utilized after we abandoned our canoeing.