The Pocomoke: Exploring the Twisting Beauty of this Eastern Shore River
". . .The 1950s brought birders to the Pocomoke to observe the warblers that nested in the cypresses. Anglers also came to fish for largemouth bass. Maryland established two extensive parks between Snow Hill and Pocomoke City—Shad Landing and Milburn Landing. Snow Hill and Pocomoke City developed riverfront parks with launch ramps. As we began to recognize the value of the swamps and wetlands, The Nature Conservancy’s Maryland Chapter began an extraordinary forty-year effort to conserve land along Nassawango Creek and to restore the natural channel of the river above Snow Hill.
The guiding spirits of this effort were Joe and Ilia Fehrer of Snow Hill. Joe had been a National Park Service executive involved with establishing the Assateague Island National Seashore, but in retirement, he and Ilia spent countless hours advocating for conservation and guiding fellow canoeists along Nassawango Creek and the river. Since then, TNC’s volunteers and staff have built the Nassawango Creek Preserve into 9,953 acres of the watershed. Joe and Ilia are gone now, but their son Joe carries on the work as TNC’s preserve manager.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Maryland Conservation Corps, and TNC have built a partnership with Worcester and Wicomico County schools in which sixth-grade students raise Atlantic white cedar seedlings in their classrooms over the fall and winter, then plant them in an area of the creek’s headwaters where old drainage ditches have been plugged to restore the original soggy hydrology. Since 2009, the partnership has planted more than 36,000 Atlantic white cedars.
In a separate project, a broad partnership of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, TNC, the Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the France-Merrick Foundation, and local landowners began in 2012 to “free the river” by carving more than one-hundred breaches in the banks of the nine-mile channelized section. These cuts are gradually restoring the Pocomoke’s natural flooding cycle and the swamp’s natural ecological functions. Over time, the river will feel the project’s benefits all the way down to Pocomoke Sound.
Today, the Pocomoke is a true Chesapeake jewel. The small scale of the river makes it especially appropriate for paddling canoes and kayaks. In the Pocomoke River State Park, Shad and Milburn Landings offer access, with Shad Landing providing canoe and kayak rentals and a short itinerary on Corker’s Creek. In Snow Hill, by the Route 12 Bridge, the Pocomoke River Canoe Co. offers rentals and shuttles (including for private boats). There is plenty to see in the immediate vicinity of their landing, but two favorite one-way itineraries are the easy run from Porter’s Crossing down the main river to Snow Hill (5.5 miles) and the trip from Red House Road to Snow Hill (6.5 miles) on Nassawango Creek (the Fehrers’ favorite.). . ."
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