While those who live in and around Maryland know something about the water-based diversions in the Free State, chances are they haven’t explored a fraction of what there is to see and do—especially in summer, when tubing, kayaking and whitewater rafting peak in popularity.

“We’re unique that way in that we have such a variety of waterways,” says Lisa Gutierrez, who heads the Public Access, Water Trails and Recreation Planning Program for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “We can offer any experience you are looking for—whether you are angling, paddling, surfing or rafting. You can do it all in one day.”

Off to the races

This fall, the attention will be international in scope. In September, Maryland will welcome athletes from more than 35 countries for Deep Creek 2014, the IFC Canoe Slalom World Championships.

The event will be held at the Adventure Sports Center International (250 Adventure Sports Way, McHenry; 1-877-300-2724), located in the Fork Run Recreation Area. It also boasts the only mountaintop recirculating whitewater course in the world (manmade, of course) and it’s perched atop Wisp Mountain. It’s only the second time in its 25-year history that it’s been held in the United States.

“To have it in Western Maryland and bring that international spotlight is great, because the Deep Creek Lake area is popular all year round,” Gutierrez says. “In the winter, skiing takes place, and the summer you’ve got boating and waterskiing.”

While Deep Creek 2014 will draw spectators from everywhere, the rest of the summer tourists at Adventure Sports can also take part in whitewater rafting, kayaking, and land-based activities such as rock climbing, hiking and biking.  “It’s all in one county—and it’s only a short drive away from Baltimore and Washington, D.C.,” Gutierrez says. “We border West Virginia and Pennsylvania all at that one juncture, so you get a lot of people coming to Western Maryland for the recreation opportunities.”

Rivers run

Garrett County is home to three other waterways that vacationers love: the Youghiogheny River, Savage River, and Jennings Randolph Lake. For those who want a more laid-back experience, they might want to consider the flatwater guided paddling excursions.

“Flatwater paddling is especially nice for a family looking to get out on the water,” says Connie Yingling, a spokeswoman with the Maryland Office of Tourism Development (866-639-3526). “Plus, a guide can talk about the history and heritage of the area, as well as the ecology and wildlife.”

Foot traffic

As for trails, it’s hard to beat the towpath that runs along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (301-582-0813). It winds throughout the state, beginning in Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood and ending in Cumberland, almost 185 miles away. Designated a national park in 1971, much of the canal is popular with bikers, hikers and campers.

“It’s so diverse both in terms of its historical standing and its beauty,” says Maryland-based historian and writer Charles W. Mitchell. “Like all the sites in Maryland, the topography changes as you go west. You go away from the metropolis of Georgetown and you see how picturesque it is.” It also connects to the Great Allegheny Passageway, allowing you to bike from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C., if you feel so adventurous.

If you’re looking for some historical perspective, Maryland’s lockhouses offer a unique glimpse into a time when people worked and lived along the canal. Visitors can stay overnight in a lockhouse, enjoying the chance to experience life on the canal during the previous two centuries. Thanks to C & O Canal Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the memory of Maryland’s canal era, (http://www.canaltrust.org/trust/), visitors can choose from one of six lockhouses, all meticulously rehabbed and carefully refurnished to reflect life during different eras along the canal, including lockhouses 22 and 28, which provide a glimpse into the construction of the canal in the 1830s. Other lockhouses reflect canal life during the Civil War, at the turn of the century, at the onset of the New Deal and during the 1950s.

And if you’re curious what you can do along the Potomac—or anywhere else within the state where there’s water—DNR has a website (dnr.maryland.gov/boating/mdwatertrails/) that lists it all. “It’s every water trail guide and map,” Gutierrez says. “It shows every public launch site in the state—all the areas where you could launch a boat or a kayak.”

Natural elements

Yingling recommends highly the Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague Island State Park. The National Seashore occupies a special spot in Maryland history. With an entrance eight miles from Ocean City, it’s one of the few places in the United States where you can view wild horses. The Maryland portion is on the upper two-thirds of the 37-mile barrier island and is open year round, 24 hours a day (7206 National Seashore Lane, Berlin; 410-641-1441).

Not far away, of course, is Ocean City, an Atlantic Ocean tourist destination with its boardwalk restaurants, shops and rides and a place where you can also get in your share of fishing. Assateague and Ocean City are known for some of the best inshore and surf fishing opportunities along the Atlantic Coast. Flounder fishing is usually good from April through October with some of the best months being April to May and September to October. Many popular game fish concentrate in the waters near Assateague, including croaker, bluefish and sea trout.

And it’s impossible to overlook the potential activities in Chesapeake Bay area. “Equipment and lessons to master windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and sailing are all a short drive from the downtown of Baltimore,” Yingling says.

The urban areas of the state have water-based fun, too. “Even in the Inner Harbor, you can rent a paddleboat or go on a water taxi,” Gutierrez says. “There are lots of opportunities to interact with the water.”


—By Lou Carlozo, Brand Publishing Writer