Baltimore Sun

Weekend events: Bay swim, Patuxent wade-in

Sunday brings a major two-fer: the annual swim across the Chesapeake Bay, and the 23rd annual wade-in on the Patuxent River.

The "Great Chesapeake Bay Swim," as it's known, begins at 8 a.m. Sunday from Sandy Point State Park. Waves of swimmers - 600 in all - stroke 4.4 miles across the bay to the beach by Hemingway's Marina on the Eastern Shore.


The event began in the early 1980s and attracts swimmers from across the country. Proceeds raised from the event benefit the March of Dimes. It's too late to get in on the swim, but you can watch - though parking is limited, so plan on car-pooling or arriving early. For more, go here.

There's no pre-registration required for the Patuxent River Wade-In, another bay event with a long history.  Bernie Fowler, then a state senator representing Calvert County, began wading into the river on a June Sunday 23 years ago to demonstrate concern for cleaning up the river - the only bay tributary entirely in Maryland. 

Fowler and friends (which is basically anyone who shows up) join hands and walk out into the water until they can't see their feet anymore - a rustic version of the Secchi disk test of water clarity that scientists use.  Bernie recalls that in the '50s he could wade out into the river up to his chin and still see his toes as he netted crabs.  Visibility has gone from less than a foot when he started his wade-ins in the late '80s to nearly four feet in 1997, but has slid back to a little more than two feet of late.


Bernie, a record-setting runner at 86, says he still hopes to live long enough to see his toes in chin-deep water.  Another lion of the bay, though, and one of his frequent partners in the wade-in won't be there this time.  Tom Wisner, known to many as "the bard of the Chesapeake" (seen next to Bernie in the 1992 photo) died earlier this year of cancer.

The wade-in begins at 1 p.m. at King's Reach in the Jefferson Patterson Park, 10515 Mackall Road, St. Leonard's.  That's a bit south of Prince Frederick.  For more info, go here.

Whether you want to swim, wade or just watch, they're both great events that celebrate the richness of the waters that define our state.

(Baltimore Sun photos: 2008 bay swim, by Amy Davis; 1992 wade-in, by George Holsey)