I’m doing a little research on where to canoe camp in the mid-Atlantic area. I’m not strict that you have to canoe and put all your stuff in the canoe and go camping. I’m also going to include places which are nice to canoe and you can camp close-by. It is surely easier to car camp and canoe nearby than canoe up to your campsite.
This information is not exhaustive, but the start of my research.
Potomac River and C&O Canal (Maryland)
There are places along the Potomac River, hiker/biker campsites which you could presumably paddle to some of these or paddle for a couple of hours and then car camp at some of these. This is the link to read to find out where the camp sites are and what the regulations are. Facilities along the canal and Potomac River are provided by RideTheCanal.
Swains Lock – they allow tent camping at Swains Lock in Potomac. There is no drinking water until further notice. But presumably you could canoe on the C&O Canal and then set up your campsite after an afternoon of canoeing. I would not try canoeing on the Potomac River at this point, because it is extremely close to Great Falls. I believe there are signs to warn paddlers to take out before Great Falls, but why risk getting to shore in time.
Paw Paw Bends – Potomac River. The flat water section of the Potomac River at Paw Paw Bends is supposed to be nice. There are several campsites. Paw Paw Bends campsite is a first come first served group campsite, but this link can give you ideas of where else you can camp if that site is occupied.
White’s Ferry – I noticed that you can put in at White’s Ferry, camp at Chisel Run and take out at Edwards Ferry. Of course I have no idea what the paddling is like, but these access points are 5-6 miles apart and could be an overnight trip. This page of C&O Canal maps is most useful, especially the one labeled “C&O Canal Map“.
The Park Service offers advice about where to camp along the Potomac River on multi-day river trips on this page. Of course you don’t actually have to do a multi-day trip, but this information is invaluable.
Tidal Potomac River (Maryland and Virginia)
The National Park Service has an informative website on locations to paddle (and camp) on the Tidal Potomac River.
Patuxent River (Maryland)
There are some campsites on the Patuxent River. Patuxent River Trail gives information about the camp sites and who to reserve them through. Members and non-members of Patuxent Riverkeeper can rent canoes and kayaks along this stretch of the river.
Pine Barrens (New Jersey)
There are a series of rivers in south central New Jersey in the Pine Barrens which are perfect for canoeing and camping. But these are small rivers so you need to make sure there is enough water in the selected route to paddle it. This link has a list of all the local state parks you can camp in. You certainly don’t need a guided trip down the Batsto or Mullica Rivers, but you will probably have to hire a local company to run the shuttle because the put-ins and take outs are in the back woods (pine woods) and impossible to find unless you are a local. I’ve camped at Wharton State Forest twice when I was canoeing the Pine Barrens. But it was never really canoe camping, as we were really car camping after canoeing all day. But still a nice place to camp. Canoeing the Jersey Pine Barrens is out of print, but available used. It is an interesting read as it contains the history and natural history of the area too.
But the river you will be able to canoe will be dictated by how much water is in any particular river at the time you want to paddle. (These are very small rivers.) The Pinelands Preservation Alliance has information on canoe and kayak rentals as well as river trips. You are going to need to set up a shuttle with one of these companies since there is really no way to find put-ins without local knowledge. This keeps these local families in business. These four rivers are the main rivers for canoeing: Batsto, Mullica, Wading, Oswego Rivers. I think the last time I canoed the Pine Barrens, I used Bel Haven Canoes for my shuttle. It looks like there are many more kayak/canoe rental places now than there used to be.
Hammonton is the “big” town near the Pine Barrens. It is also the “Blueberry Capital of World”. If you look at where the blueberries come from in early July, they come from around Hammonton, NJ.