As the weather warms, people across the region are getting out on the water, taking to boat ramps, fishing piers and other sites to fish, swim, paddle and more. Last year, our partners opened dozens of new public access sites as part of their goal to create more opportunities to put people in touch with the rivers, streams and open spaces that surround the Chesapeake Bay. Below, take a closer look at just a few of these new sites that you can enjoy.
1. Sleepy Hole Park in Suffolk, Virginia
On the outskirts of Suffolk, Virginia, sits Sleepy Hole Park, a 66-acre natural area that runs alongside the Nansemond River, a tributary of the James River. Visitors can walk along a nature trail that passes by a 30-acre freshwater lake before looping along the shore of the Nansemond. Last year, the City of Suffolk worked with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Land and Water Conservation Fund to open a 371-foot-long pier, complete with a fishing platform and floating canoe and kayak launch. The pier offers the first direct public access to the 20-mile-long Nansemond River since the closure of a previous boat ramp in downtown Suffolk several years ago.
2. Fort Hunter Park in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Located just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Fort Hunter Park is home to a historical mansion and settlement that includes buildings dating back to the early 1800s. The more than 40-acre park runs alongside the Susquehanna River and offers open fields, wooded areas and a riverside trail where visitors can take a nature walk, bird watch or simply enjoy the outdoors. In 2016, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission partnered with the National Park Service to provide access to the river at sites along the Susquehanna and on nearby Fishing Creek. The sites provide accessible canoe and kayak launch areas as well as opportunities for fishing and wildlife viewing.
3. Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena, Maryland
For years, the only public boat ramps in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, were at Sandy Point State Park, near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and Truxton Park in Annapolis. Last year, a third ramp was added, one of the largest boat ramps in the state and the first public boat ramp owned by the county. The ramp, located at Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena, offers access to the Patapsco River and joins the park’s other amenities, which include a 380-foot fishing pear, walking trails and beaches. Fort Smallwood Park also opened for public swimming last year—only the second public beach in the county that allows swimming—although visitors should be aware no lifeguards are assigned to the beach.
4. Keyser in Mineral County, West Virginia
Nestled among the mountains of West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands is Keyser, a small town bordered by the North Branch of the Potomac River and just across the water from Maryland. Straight through the middle of town runs U.S. Route 220, and below the Memorial Bridge where the highway passes over the river is a new launch for canoers and kayakers to access the water. Traveling the region by boat offers impressive scenery, with towering cliffs and abundant wildlife. For those who prefer to stay on shore, the Keyser site also provides fishing access in an area that boasts some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the Potomac.
Where is your favorite place to boat, swim or fish? Let us know in the comments! And make sure to visit the hundreds of new and existing public access sites to enjoy all the Bay and its rivers have to offer.
To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program's Flickr page.