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Queen Anne’s County: Gateway to the Maryland’s Eastern Shore
Thomas R. & Deborah A. Fletcher
We’ve done it. You probably have too. We’ve driven right through the "Gateway to the Eastern Shore" without a thought of stopping for a visit. We were headed to Ocean City and didn’t know that we were driving by adventures overlooked. Queen Anne’s County is the first landfall east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and like most gateways, it is often used simply as an entry point to other locations. Established in 1706 and named for England’s then reigning queen, Queen Anne’s County is worth a stop. Get off US Route 50 and explore the surrounding countryside, you’ll be glad you did. Discover what others are driving past.
Get your bearings at the Chesapeake Exploration Center in Kent Narrows. Kent Narrows has a long history, always tied to the water. It was the English settlement in Maryland, settled in 1631. It remains popular with boaters today. The center is a visitor information station with exhibits that delve into the legacy of living on the Chesapeake Bay. Interactive exhibits explore the formation of the bay, history and man’s impact upon the bay, and what it will take to save the bay for the next generation. The center offers an abundance of maps and brochures to guide one in exploring the county.
Up for a little easy biking? Try the Cross Island Trail that crosses Kent Island extending from Terrapin Nature Park on Chesapeake Bay to the Chesapeake Exploration Center in Kent Narrows. The paved trail is ten feet wide and six miles long offering cyclists a safe environment to explore the outdoors and enjoy the island.
Water is a constant on the Eastern Shore. Just minutes from the Bay Bridge in Grasonville is Winchester Creek Outfitters. Winchester Creek Outfitters offers kayak rentals, sales and guided tours of the region’s inlets, creeks, rivers, and coves. There’s the bay and a plethora of rivers that can be explored via canoe, kayak, sailing, or cruising vessel. Exploring the many marsh regions via canoe or kayak allows one to approach wildlife much closer than if approaching on foot. The animals don’t pay much attention to an object floating in the water. We drifted under nesting ospreys that continued feeding their young freshly caught fish. They paid little attention to us, as if we were simply another part of the landscape.
Stop by Tuckahoe State Park to explore its 3,800 acres that offer a variety of outdoor activities including cycling, hiking (15 miles of trails), fishing, horseback riding, and paddling (canoe or kayak). The 60-acre lake has plenty of bass, catfish, chain pickerel and perch for the anglers. The park has 18 campsites with electrical hook-up ($25/night), 15 without and four camper cabins that sleep four (they are air conditioned and go for $50/night). Give the fitness trail a try for a good physical workout.
Not into the physical thing? Take a cruise on the bay on the boat, Tuna the Tide. Whether just a sightseeing cruise to explore the bay, do some crabbing, or a fishing adventure, guests may choose from a variety of outings and price packages. If that doesn’t work, Captain Mark Galasso will arrange a custom trip to meet the guests’ desires.
Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area is a 2,450-acre chunk of land situated between the Wye and Wye East Rivers. Privately owned for more than 300 years, the management area was purchased by the state of Maryland in 1976 to ensure its preservation. The management area is a place where multiple management practices are used for maximum protection of natural resources. Wheat, corn, and soybeans are grown and harvested maintaining an agricultural and natural mix on the island. Thirty miles of shoreline offers plenty of space to explore via kayak–and plenty of wildlife to view, from whitetail deer to bald eagles. Twelve miles of hiking trails means plenty of land-based exploration as well. Take the Holly Tree Trail to see what will probably be the largest holly tree you’ve ever seen. The tree is approaching 300 years in age. If you’re like us, you probably didn’t know holly trees lived so long or grew so large. Take a walk through a stand of virgin timber. The island is an important habitat conservation site offering refuge to the endangered Delmarva Fox squirrel.
The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (formerly known as the Horsehead Wetlands Center) is an area not to be missed by the nature lover. Located on a 500-acre peninsula that juts out into the Chesapeake Bay (shaped like a horse head when viewed form the air–and thus the former name) the center is a prime wildlife viewing area with a boardwalk, six waterfowl ponds, observation towers, and observation blinds. There are several miles of walking trails and more than 200 species of birds have been documented at the center.
There’s plenty to see and do in Queen Anne’s County–especially if you like the natural side of things. Next time, don’t just drive through. Stop off, spend some time and see what you’ve been missing.
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Text and photos copyright Thomas R. Fletcher/ Prose & Photos