Paddling West Point

A Hidden Jewel of Kayaking

My humble little town of West Point Virginia is not a magnet for kayakers.  One glimpse (or smell) of the paper mill makes most paddlers wish they could press their gas pedals a little harder as they head to more favored locations on the Middle Peninsula.  The Glass Island boat ramp is notorious for impolite boaters who invade the town on weekends cursing one another as they launch and return from the river.  I confess though I live here, I’d rather enjoy the peace and quiet of Winter Harbor rather than the noise and traffic of home.  But, it’s the end of the month.  I am broke, and gas is too darned high for me to go anywhere else.  Besides, with an incoming tide before noon and a 5 to ten mph west wind, I should be able to catch my first croaker of the year.  Alas, I got skunked in the fishing department (I rarely do well until mid June).  But, the trip was hardly a total loss.

We have Old Town Discovery canoes, Loon 111, Loon II, Voyager, and (recently acquired) Perception Prodigy 12 kayaks at York River State Park.  All are good recreational boats.  None of these watercraft compare to my Wilderness Systems Pungo 140.  It is way faster and more stable than any canoe.  I can turn just as efficiently with it as with an 11 foot ‘yak.  When I did a test paddle with it at Baytrails Outfitters in 2006, I knew this was the perfect boat for me.  Plenty of leg and gear room, comfortable seat, lighter than a sit-on-top, and great for touring as well as fishing.  So, any time I can paddle the Pungo anywhere is a worthwhile trip.

Among Marsh Grasses

I launched in the Mattaponi River from the end of 5th Street.  A couple of watermen leave their boats, crab pots, and other gear there.  There is no real parking lot or anything.  But, Glass Island on a weekend when the croaker are running is way too hectic for kayak launching.  It was nice cruising past the army of gulls that occupied the old Fisherman’s Wharf pilings at the end of 7th Street.  I remember the Wharf was a half way descent seafood restaurant that didn’t survive more than a few years.  It’s successor wasn’t very successful.  Hurricane Isabelle dealt the final blow to the structure.  There is talk of there one day being a marina, restaurant, river walk, and condos being built on the property.  I hope it will happen.  With good facilities, we can rival the likes of Urbanna as a boating and tourist destination.  But, that is in the future.  At present, the birds are the main residents here.  Cormorants  and pelicans can also be seen here during the cooler months.

There is a river walkway that is an extension of the bike trail along Chelsea Road.  The walkway has two observation decks with interpretive signs.  Joggers, bikers, and walkers appreciate the view of the river.  I especially like the sunrises which are spectacular along the bridge.  The remains of the old Lord Delaware Bridge are steadily being taken over by wild plants.  beyond the remains is the Glass Island boat ramp that is run by the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland fisheries.  There is a pier there as well that is either very productive or dead.  Anglers must keep in mind that from the bridge upstream, a fresh water license is required.  Downstream from the bridge requires a salt water license.

West Point Creek is certainly worth the trip as well.  Entering the creek on the left, it is possible to find a few different species of wildlife in this small town waterway.  It was a treat to see a green heron, a bird that I am familiar with at work.  I thought I heard one in the marsh beside my house.  Now, I have confirmation that they do live here.  Great blues are commonplace here as is the red-winged blackbird.  Don’t be surprised to see muskrat and snapping turtles as well.  One of the great advantages of kayaking is that the creatures are less wary of paddles than they are powerful engines.

Osprey Landing

Because of road construction and low clearance during high tide, I do not recommend paddling the creek under the bridge.  Instead, park at West Point Auto Glass and head upstream from the other side.  This is as quiet as it gets in this town.  But, there are more opportunities to see wildlife including deer and bald eagles.  Smaller kayaks are better here as the creek becomes more narrow.  At low tide, it turns into a mud hole teeming with fiddler crabs.

For a slightly longer journey, I recommend launching from Beach Point Park.  A small strip of shoreline at the end of Main Street.  It is right on the York River.  So, take extra caution about wind conditions.  They can change at the drop of a dime.  A more adventurous launch location is in King and Queen County.  Chain Ferry Landing is not far up river from Glass Island and is near Burnt Mill and Corbin Creeks.  Excellent wildlife viewing and less boat traffic.  Be mindful of the tidal currents which can be strong going around the bend upstream.

Because I want croaker on my terms, my next trip will probably be one of my more reliable spots (that I am not telling).  But, whenever I have a couple of hours to kill and shoot pictures, don’t be surprised to see me spending time at home along the Mattaponi and West Point Creek.

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