Mathews Blueways Water Trails

Mathews Blueways Water Trails

Mathews Blueways is an interconnected system of five separate water trails spanning Mathews County. The 90 miles of trails are particularly suited for small hand-powered craft such as canoes and touring kayaks.

Mathews County is located on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and offers more than 200 miles of shoreline. There are three tidal rivers and 50 navigable creeks with dozens of access sites, offering a scenic network of water and land trails to explore.

Captain John Smith's shallop passed southward along the coastline of Mathews County in the darkness of the night, on July 18, 1608, staying close to the coastline to avoid the rough waters of the open Bay. Smith was injured. The previous day a cownose ray speared his wrist at the site he named Stingray Point (near Deltaville, Virginia) A few days later the shallop arrived in Jamestown, concluding Smith's first voyage of exploration of the Chesapeake, but Smith returnedin August to explore the Piankatank and other rivers he had missed.

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Hours

Different launch sites may have varying hours of operation, research the location that you plan to use and proceed accordingly.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

There are 17 launch sites that offer free access to the water trails, as well as one commercial marina that charges a small launch fee.

History

Captain John Smith's shallop passed southward along the coastline of Matthews County in the darkness of the night, on July 18, 1608, staying close to the coastline to avoid the rough waters of the open Bay. Smith was injured. The previous day a cownose ray speared his wrist at the site he named Stingray Point (near Deltaville, Virginia) A few days later the shallop arrived in Jamestown, concluding Smith's first voyage of exploration of the Chesapeake, but Smith returned in August to explore the Piankatank and other rivers he had missed.

Activities

By canoe or kayak, you can view many natural and historic attractions along the Blueways...including the third-oldest lighthouse on the Bay, the oldest tide mill at Poplar Grove.

Piankatank River Trail - 11.8 to 18.5 miles
This trail extends from the Gloucester/Mathews County line at its northern tip down the Piankatank River - the county's northern boundary - to Milford Haven. The river varies in width between ½ mile at the Twigg Bridge (Rt. 3) to about 2 miles near its mouth and is salt water throughout. Much of the trail outside the creeks is relatively open water. 

There are five beautiful creeks for exploration - Wilton, Cobbs, Healy, Chapel, and Queens Creeks.

Gwynns Island/Milford Haven Trail - 14.1 to 20.5 miles
Milford Haven, the body of water separating Gwynns Island from the mainland, is an area of sheltered water about three miles long. It is about half a mile wide up to Cockrell Point and then opens up to about ¾ mile beyond Cockrell Point as you go east towards the Chesapeake Bay. There are numerous creeks that can be explored as side trips.  Milford Haven is open to the Bay in the southeast. The southeast portion has sand islands and bars.

Winter & Horn Harbors Trail - 15.5 to 22.1 miles
This trail has at least two stretches of open bay cruising, protected paddling in several estuaries, innumerable marshes to explore, and several side trips. Sections of this trail are in the open Chesapeake Bay.  All in all, this is probably the most varied trail of the Blueways.  Pleasure craft are few due to the shallow waters; only watermen use these channels.  Wildlife, especially marine bird life, is abundant in these natural areas.

The trail heading south follows the eastern shore of Mathews County in the open Chesapeake Bay until it turns out of the Bay into a sheltered refuge, Winter Harbor. It then traverses the northern basin of Winter Harbor, winds through a series of passages through marshlands, and then opens into the southern basin of Winter Harbor. Upon exiting Winter Harbor to the south, it briefly reenters the open Bay, and then enters Horn Harbor at its northern tip. It proceeds inward along the northern shore of Horn Harbor, and then outward along the southern shore of Horn Harbor before exiting.

New Point Comfort Trail - 10.7 to 15.2 miles
This trail has most of its paddling in open waters. It first proceeds south in the open Chesapeake Bay to the southern tip of the county, and then it swings northwest into Mobjack Bay, also a large, open body of water. An outstanding feature of this section is the New Point Comfort lighthouse, the third oldest lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay. It is often used as a symbol of the maritime heritage of the county.

The trail continues up Mobjack Bay across the mouths of several creeks, each inviting an exploratory excursion. It ends at the mouth of the eastern-most of the four rivers of Mobjack Bay - the East River. The others are the North, Ware, and Severn Rivers fanning out like the four fingers of a spread hand.

East River Trail - 11.7 to 13.8 miles
This is the smallest of the five Blueways trails. It naturally divides itself into two pieces - a lower river trail and an upper river trail. The dividing line is at Williams Wharf, which is on a peninsula jutting into the river from the east.

The shores of the whole river are filled with small bays, coves, and creeks. Allow extra time to explore these for they are a large part of your reward for paddling, unless you just want to get from here to there quickly.

River Classification

Class I. (Read more about the different levels of River Classifications)

Water Trail Map & Guide

A nicely designed Mathews County Blueways Water Trails Guide provides trail information and waterproof maps on over 90 miles of paddling routes. The guide is available from Mathews County Blueways.

Facilities

You can access a kayak outfitter, local campsites, a motel, bed & breakfast inns and guest cottages from the waterways.

There are no restrooms or trash facilities on the trails; plan to use services in local communities or carry appropriate sanitary containers.

Visitor Center.

Main image: Mathews Blueways Water Trails
Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail
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