August 11, 2018
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The New Bodkin Creek Cartop Boat Launch At Downs Park

Mark Bange
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July 10, 2018

The Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks has done an outstanding job granting kayakers and canoeists access to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Indeed, with 533 miles of shoreline, Anne Arundel County is a prime area for paddlers. The county has obliged their interests with 20 designated launches from the northern part of Anne Arundel County to the south. Paddlers can now easily enjoy water adventures on each of the county’s major rivers and creeks.

One of the newest launch sites officially opened on June 27, on the west side of Downs Park in Pasadena. It provides direct access to Bodkin Creek and three other adjacent creeks via Locust Cove. With plenty of parking and a flat, paved path approximately 70 yards to the water, it provides easy access for cartop boaters. Its serene entry point belies the largess of nearby waters.

A pleasant half-mile paddle along a narrow channel through woodlands and past creek-side houses brings you into a large body of water that is actually the confluence of four major creeks – Wharf, Bodkin, Main and Back, each between one and two miles long. The creeks have numerous coves, tidal ponds and points of land to explore. And if they were not enough to occupy your interest, the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay itself are less than a mile and half from the launch. Big cargo ships and cruise ships make the turn for Baltimore or the bay at that precise point on their routes. The huge vessels are fun to spot and they provide enjoyable large rolling wakes to negotiate in your kayak long after the ships pass Bodkin Point.

I thoroughly enjoy paddling from the new Downs Park launch because of its scenery, both manmade and from nature’s hand. Bald eagles roost in old weathered trees near the launch or glide overhead. There are sandy beaches and natural shorelines hundreds of feet long with tall reeds of phragmites growing at the water’s edge. Redwing blackbirds cling to the reeds and sing their distinctive call as you paddle past. Ospreys soar on updrafts far above the water, seeking fish for their chicks.

In fact, there are three active osprey nests a short distance from the launch. The nests’ occupants whistle warnings as you approach them, but otherwise, they do you no harm. Year-round resident Canada geese are fearless and often will lead their lengthy string of progeny across your path or actually swim beside you for some distance. The large houses and estates on Bodkin Point provide more visual interest as do the many boats docked along numerous piers. Moving through the channels of the four creeks are large and small sailing vessels, charter captains taking fishing clients to big water or impressively appointed cabin cruisers traveling to and from the Bodkin Yacht Club.

As much as I like the scenery of this new launch site, I paddle it primarily because I am a kayak angler. I love to fish from a kayak. For me and many others, a kayak is the perfect fishing platform. In fact, kayaks are presently the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. fishing boat industry.

The new launch offers access to habitat that holds pickerel, white perch, yellow perch and striped bass. My preferred fishing method is to cast lures or flies in shallow water near structure (piers, downed wood, riprap and phragmites) for the species named above. There are miles and miles of such structure to target in the four creeks. In fact, one of the things I find humorously ironic is when I see fishing boats heading to deep water in search of striped bass. I know they are forgoing plenty of legal-sized stripers in shallow water as their boats speed past me to the Patapsco and then to the bay. But I’m not complaining. I wave and they wave back, undoubtedly never suspecting that my catch may equal theirs, at a cheaper financial cost, I might add.

While a double-digit north or northwest wind can build big waves in the open water where the four creeks meet, the creeks themselves provide plenty of leeside protection. Tucking into them allows me to continue fishing even when the wind is strong. I have yet to explore all the cuts and inlets of the creeks, but I have found many areas that offer calm water and fish-laden shorelines. I look forward to finding more of these spots in coming seasons. Clearly, it will take several years of paddling and fishing the waters reachable from the Downs Park access to locate them all.

Given the variety water it offers from calm wind-protected coves on four creeks to the wide-open Chesapeake, the new launch at Downs Park is sure to become a favorite Anne Arundel destination for paddlers. Touring kayakers and kayak anglers alike have plenty of room to share their respective desired waters.

With this new site, the county has provided a first-rate launching facility at Downs Park. Entry to the park is $6 per vehicle. Reasonably priced annual and senior passes are available for those who intend to make repeated visits. The parking lot provides ample room for loading and unloading your gear onto grassy areas for a soft landing of your kayak. Also, the paved path to the water has no steep grade to climb on the way back to your vehicle. In short, the new Downs Park launch into the Bodkin is sure to become a favorite location of paddlers for all the right reasons. I urge you to give it a try.

Mark Bange is a member of the Chesapeake Paddlers Association ( and is the current president of the Free State Flay Fishers of Annapolis ( He is a frequent contributor to Snaggedline (, an online community of kayak anglers. Additionally, he will co-teach a non-credit course in kayak fishing at Anne Arundel Community College starting in March 2019.

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