Coastal Paddling Map

paddlers at lighthouse.jpeg

When Community Development Specialist Ed Lewandowski used to work at the Center for the Inland Bays almost 15 years ago, his morning commute took him past the surf shops in Dewey Beach. He remembers one morning seeing a proprietor set up brightly colored kayaks outside of a store and he thought to himself, “Nobody kayaks. Nobody’s going to use those.”

Now, after working to create a free Coastal Delaware Paddling Map and companion website that details the best paddles along the First State’s coastal resort area, Lewandowski laughs while recalling just how wrong he turned out to be.

“That was kind of the beginning of the interest in the industry, and it just blew up,” said Lewandowski, coordinator of the University of Delaware’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative (SCCI).

The federal government-defined metropolitan statistical area (MSA) that includes Delaware’s coastal resorts hosts around 20,000 paddlers every year with an annual growth rate of 6.9%, according to a 2015 study of the sports and leisure market potential for the Salisbury, MD-DE MSA conducted by ESRI, an international supplier of geographic information systems software.

Lewandowski said those 20,000 people are “just residents. That’s not counting the countless people that you see with car tops with kayaks or truck extensions with kayaks in the back, or paddle boards. So paddling as a recreational activity here has just exploded over the past two decades.”

The map was designed to serve those people already paddling in the area and to promote paddling activities to the millions of visitors who flock every summer to the southern Delaware coast, hopefully generating additional local economic and tourism growth in southern Delaware.

The map includes 16 unique trips that range from 1-10 miles—from Milton down to Fenwick—and offer excursions through marshes, woodlands, bays and the ocean. The map includes seven designated paddling zones:

  • Prime Hook Zone

  • Broadkill River Zone

  • Cape Henlopen Zone

  • Lewes-Rehoboth Canal Zone

  • Rehoboth Bay Zone

  • Indian River Zone

  • Little Assawoman Bay and Canal Zone

It is designed for beginners and experienced paddlers using kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. It was funded by SCCI and designed by some of lower Delaware’s most experienced paddlers, tourism professionals and outdoor guides.

Other partners in the effort included Delaware Sea Grant, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Delaware State Parks (DNREC), Southern Delaware Tourism, Quest Kayak and Conservation Community Consulting.

Lewandowski serves on the board of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association, whose mission is to improve the appearance and functionality of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal corridor in order to best serve residents and visitors to the Cape Region, and he said the idea for the map came up at one of those meetings.

Originally, Lewandowski proposed to make a paddling map and website just for that area, but when approached by Scott Thomas, the director of Southern Delaware Tourism, to see if he thought the idea could be expanded to other parts of coastal Delaware, Lewandowski agreed.

In early March, Matt Carter of Quest Kayak took Lewandowski and others on the project to look at several locations throughout coastal Delaware, starting along the Broadkill River.

The group took notes on access points, launch facilities, bathroom facilities and parking fees. From there, a local contractor, Conservation Community Consulting, put it all on a map. The map and companion website were both officially launched on Tuesday, July 30 at the Cape Henlopen State Park Fishing Pier.

Lewandowski said that those using the map should take their time to read the descriptions because not every site identified offers public access in terms of launching their trip.

“You might be able to pull up there, get out and stretch your legs, but you may not be able to drive your car to that site, park and launch,” Lewandowski said. “So just pay attention to those specifics.”

The website will be regularly updating details and finer points on the map such as launches, paddling safety, routes, providers and partners.

Mark Jolly-Van Bodegraven