100 Shores Photo Journal (Spring, 2022)
It's been some weeks since I really started hitting the shores on a regular schedule. I've travelled a few hundred miles, taken thousands of pictures and have collected plenty of water for the 100 Shores project along the way.
I've mentioned certain themes briefly throughout the development of the project. At this point, I've narrowed the project down into ten recurring themes which catch my attention as I'm scouting or researching. Does it have to be ten themes? No, I guess it doesn't. I guess the nice round numbers help to structure the project in a more organized way. Are these ten themes set in stone? Again, no. While there will always be stories to tell connected to these themes, I'm almost anticipating that other topics will get worked into the fold in the future.
But for now, I've been categorizing the shores into the following areas. Of course, there is plenty of overlap. "Oh, I thought you would have included _____ in this topic." Yep, that's true too. Every shore I've visited tells stories from multiple perspectives, in fact. In the future, there's no reason I can't loop back around to consider a different spot and story on the shore. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, after all. Hope you enjoy these ten photos which capture the ten themes to date!
Newtowne Neck State Park- Newtowne Neck is one of the newer state parks in Maryland. Purposely undeveloped as a natural area, Newtowne Neck is one of a select few state parks which don't charge an entrance fee while also providing free access to miles of sandy shores and trails. It became quite popular in 2020, with park staff working hard to add some additional parking and maintain the trails which had previously seen little use.
Sometimes barriers are physical, sometimes they take other forms. But that doesn't make them any less real. Before the iconic Jefferson Memorial was built in this location, the Tidal Basin Bathing Beach was a public access swimming hole with a man-made beach- for white people only. A separate, unfunded section of the basin was designated for people of color. When African-Americans began lobbying for equal access to recreational facilities on the waterfront, the area was completely shuttered for all instead of integrating the location for universal public access.
Until 1810, a ferry connected Talbot and Caroline counties near this landing. The 6th (and what looks like most likely the most permanent) version of this bridge over the Choptank opened in 2018. Pictured above is the older swing bridge which would open to allow boat traffic to travel through. The swing bridge is still in place, set open in the middle. The approaches to the swing bridge (including this one, from the Caroline County side) are now accessible as fishing fiers.
Elms Beach- I previously wrote about the Elms in relation to how it's changed for me over the years. But that entire conversation begins with me at environmental camp each summer. Those early experiences were some of my first opportunities to explore the Chesapeake and learn about it beneath the surface.
The Rebecca T. Ruark Skipjack. Originally built in 1896. The oldest surviving skipjack still in service on the Chesapeake. It's been through many a storm, and has been extensively rebuilt, but still serves it's original purpose- dredging oysters under dredge license #29 out of Tilghman Island. The vessel along with a few more of the oldest skipjacks are listed on the National Registry of Landmarks. Speaking of which...
Landmarks & Icons
USS Wisconcin, Norfolk, Elizabeth River- The Wisconsin is one of the last (and one of the largest) battleships commissioned by the Navy. It is still as impressive seeing it for the first time today as it must have been when it sailed into the Chesapeake for the first time in 1944 for training. It's now operated as a museum ship by the private Nauticus museum, under the agreement that it must be kept battle-ready should it ever need to be recommissioned as a naval vessel. Pity the fool that gon' test.
Blackwater Refuge- I always like to take note of experiences which create sensations for multiple senses. Blackwater hits 4 of the 5 without trying, and with a little effort you can zero in on the sense of taste too. There's the obvious sights- an impossibly complex network of marshland, with an impressive roster of wildlife above and below the water. But there's also the ambient sound of rustling cordgrass, the unmistakable smell of Blackwater muck, and the feeling of the cool refreshing water which the fishfinder registered at ~65 degrees. A couple of fried snakehead nuggets would be the cherry on top. Unfortunately the refuge is losing acreage at a rate that's hard to keep up with. Restoration and climate resilience efforts are ongoing. Speaking of which...
Resilience & Restoration
What's noteworthy about this particular stream? We forget these little runs cut across our backyards so often. Their non-descript similarities are what make them so important. I'll only speak for myself by admitting that I often turn the opposite direction to the big shoreline sunset, but these little capillaries tell so many stories. Just a few yards under a highway overpass. A discarded washing machine and a length of ancient corrugated pipe now part of the ecosystem. We all know the scene. But look under the surface and there's minnows schooling alongside signs of life all around. Are there brook trout? Maybe not here, but there's a resilience about these little runs which continue to pump water despite bulges, blockages and headcuts. A bulge in one of my own capillaries would make me take notice.
*Thanks to Kate Fritz to turning me on to the term "Headcut". Stream morphology may not be my expertise, but at least I won't call it a waterfall anymore.
First piece of advice for anyone planning a kayak or water trail: Best to check the tides. My first attempt at a water trail for this project was an admitted failure due to low tides on the Mattawoman. Nevertheless, Mattawoman Creek remains one of the most impressive tidal tributaries and makes for an excellent paddle in either direction. It is also a certifiable hot spot for pretty much every theme in the 100 Shores project. Not the least of which is the abundance of wildlife. Which brings me to...
One of the first signs of spring (if you're looking in the water, at least). Yellow perch runs get me and other anglers into a frenzy once water temperatures creep into the mid 40's.