Monie Bay is a large and relatively undisturbed region which provides excellent habitat for wildlife and numerous opportunities for extensive wetland research. Tidal creeks including Monie Creek, Little Monie Creek, and Little Creek flow through the marsh and together constitute an estuary a body of water where freshwater mixes with saltwater. The resulting marsh habitat is rich in natural resources, which numerous animals and plants rely on for food and shelter.
The Monie Bay Water Trails, a network of three trails offer paddlers a unique view into the wildlife, plants, and maritime history of Monie Bay. These trails were created by the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Maryland (CBNERR-MD), part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. CBNERR-MD protects and manages over 6,000 acres of natural lands and waters in Maryland. These areas serve as living laboratories and classrooms to address key Chesapeake Bay issues. CBNERR-MD motivates students, teachers, and decision-makers to restore the Bay, with the knowledge and tools needed to do so effectively. Public and volunteer programs provide opportunities for all Marylanders to enjoy and understand the Bay.
Open dawn to dusk
(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.)
All trails begin at the Dames Quarter boat ramp, a no-fee public boat ramp open year-round.
Early human history in Monie Bay began about 13,000 years ago, when the Monie chiefdom of the Nanticoke tribe occupied the region. Colonial settlement began about 1665 with the movement of Quaker groups from the eastern shore of Virginia across the state line to Maryland seeking refuge from Virginia laws which prohibited their religious practices. The Monie “Hundred” or District was settled by both Quakers and members of the Church of England.
The plantation economy of Somerset County centered on tobacco in the early 18th century but diversified and prospered later in the century. Deal Island was the site of major water-oriented communities full of small businesses and watermen; sailing vessels brought seafood to the Baltimore market. Shipbuilding was an important supportive industry during the 19th and 20th centuries. Following the introduction of the steam boats, the steamship wharf was built and became the center of the watermen community on Deal Island.
A hurricane in 1933 significantly impacted Deal Island’s local seafood industry; the main bridge to the island was washed out, the steamship wharf was destroyed, and a large number of commercial boats and oyster and crab houses were badly damaged. Although the industry did not recover to its prior state, Deal Island today still supports a strong maritime culture and hosts the Labor Day Skipjack Races and Land Festival. A celebration local heritage and Maryland ties to the Chesapeake Bay, the festival includes a parade, competitions for boat-docking and fishing, local arts and food, and the highlight of the festival: the racing of the graceful historic skipjacks.
Monie Bay Water Trails include three trails of varying difficulty:
The Orange Trail: This is an all-level, 2.7 mile round trip trail that follows Dames Quarter Creek only.
The Yellow Trail: This trail traverses Fanney's Gut. This is an all-level, 2.3 mile trail.
The White Trail: This is an intermediate to advanced trail for experienced paddlers. Round trip to Marsh Gut is 5.56 miles; round trip to Bay Point is 8.64 miles. Plan an all day trip.
The Monie Bay Water Trails includes three trails of varying difficulty. Each trail is equipped with signs indicating direction, trail color, and a number which can be used as a location reference with the trail map. Although signs can be used as navigational aid, a map or GPS-device is strongly recommended when paddling the trails. Signs also refer to points of interests discussed in the trail descriptions below. Wind conditions have a strong influence on the difficulty of all trails, as there is open water to cross in parts of these trails. Be mindful of weather and tidal conditions before undertaking a trail to ensure a safe and enjoyable paddling experience.
All trails begin at the Dames Quarter boat ramp, a no-fee public boat ramp open year-round. To get there take Deal Island Road (363) from Route 13, and follow for 10.8 miles until you reach Messick Road. Take this road until the end to find the ramp. The county provides a portable restrooms onsite from May 1st to November 30th.
Dames Quarter Creek Trail: All Levels (Orange, 2.7 mi. round-trip, 1 hr + to explore)
A friendly trail for novice paddlers, Dames Quarter Creek meanders widely across the marsh; in early summer when the vegetation is still low the paddler can see past the switchbacks to the trail ahead. Although short, this trail is a great introduction to the local wildlife: loud clapper rails call but stay hidden; marsh wrens and seaside sparrows dash among the grasses. The trail ends at the Deal Island Road Bridge; underneath are nesting barn swallows that will boldly swoop over your head. Past the bridge stands a water control structure installed by the Wildlife
Administration in the 60’s to control the flooding of the man-built impoundment south of the bridge.
Fanney’s Gut Trail: All Levels (Yellow, 2.3 mi., 2 hrs + to explore)
Head across Dames Quarter Creek to one of the entrances of this loop that takes you deep into the marsh. Find yourself secluded in calm narrow creek, with nothing but the marsh grass and the blue crabs to disturb you. This narrow zigzaging trail is great for sighting elusive wildlife: if you paddle stealthily around the trail’s numberous bends, you are bound to encounter unsuspecting fauna. Find the muskrat lodge located around sign 3, and view the patch ofsalt meadow hay by sign 7, a grass once used by local farmers to graze cattle. Visit at the right time and you might spot black-crowned night herons from the rookery near sign 10. Notice the barn owl box near sign 17. Be respectful to any nesting birds and admire them from afar. Make sure the wind is in your favor at the exit of the trail if you take it North to South, it can be difficult to make the treck back across open water if the wind is blowing against you.
Marsh Gut & Bay Point Trail: Intermediate/ Advanced (White, 5.56 mi. roundtrip 1st loop, 8.64 mi. 1st & 2nd loop, plan all day trip)
Looking for a challenge? Test your endurance with this long distance trail across Monie Bay. Along the way are multiple white sand beaches ideal for lunch breaks. Beginning with the northern section of the yellow trail, take a left to follow the white trail. You will pass a peregrine falcon tower. Paddle to the first loop for a half-a-day trip, or push to the Bay Point loop for a whole day trip. If the weather is friendly and the wind is tame, you will get to view a widevariety of landscapes formed by the meandering creeks. Look out for shorebirds such as sanderlings and willets along the beaches and sandbars you pass.
Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Water trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate rivers. The National Park Service and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of water trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials. Learn more about water safety.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources provides a map that includes all three trails as well as information about local history, saltmarsh ecology, and flora and fauna that you may encounter on the trails. All maps are provided in a pdf format that can be easily printed or viewed on a smart phone. There are also individual maps for the Orange Trail, Yellow Trail and White Trail.
The county provides a portable restrooms onsite from May 1st to November 30th.