Nanticoke River Water Trail


Nanticoke River Water Trail

The Nanticoke is about 63 miles long from its headwaters in Delaware south to Tangier Sound in Dorchester County, Maryland. The river possesses regionally and nationally significant natural, recreational, and cultural values. Significant acreage is protected by Wildlife Areas and natural heritage sites along the river in Sussex County, DE and in Dorchester and Wicomico counties, MD.

River edges are lined with marshland, sandy shores, and low vegetated cliffs. Much of the land along the river corridor is undeveloped and privately owned, but portions of private land are protected by non-profit organizations. As such, the river corridor is ideal for wildlife including migratory birds. Bass fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing are activities currently enjoyed on the river.

Visit for helpful hints and ideas on trip planning on and near the river.

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Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! 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 such trails. The Chesapeake Conservancy, 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 trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials.

Main image: Nanticoke River Water Trail


Access and hours of public launch sites varies; consult individual parks for current information as you plan your trip.


Many public launch sites have seasonal fees; check with managing agency for current information.


  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Bird watching
  • Fishing


There are over 25 public launches, boat ramps, and piers providing boaters with access to the Nanticoke River and nearby Fishing Bay.

Recreational boat traffic on the river is steady and tends to originate in the Seaford area and head south. Two boat launch access sites -- Phillips Landing and Seaford -- provide year-round direct access to the Nanticoke River. Each site has multiple ramps, portable toilets, and parking. A single, soft landing is located at the Seaford Canoe Launch. A floating ramp for access and temporary dockage is available at the Seaford River Walk. Fishing access is located at the River Walk and River Park (both in Seaford), and Phillips Landing. Picnic facilities are found at River Park, Phillips Landing and Blades Marina. Shared-use trails for hikers and equestrians are located in the Nanticoke Wildlife Area.

Newly-renovated and pedestrian-friendly, shops, business services, the Seaford Museum, and historic sites are located in downtown Seaford, just one block from the River Walk on High Street. Across the river from Seaford is the small town of Blades, host to the Nanticoke River Marina. This is the only recreational marina on this stretch of the river and is open Thursday through Sunday from 8am to 5pm during boating season, and currently offers limited services to the general public.


State and federal parks have ADA accessible facilities; other sites will vary.

Trail History

It was during Smith’s first voyage that he encountered the Nanticoke River and mapped this area as the territory of the Kuskarawoak, who were later to be known as the Nanticoke. Accounts of his foray into the Nanticoke River have been suggested by scholars using a combination of historical documents and modern technology.

The group arrived at the Nanticoke on June 8, and their exploration of the river took three to four days. During that time, Smith recorded and mapped 10 sites on the river, including Indian towns near both Lewis Wharf and Vienna. On his first day in the Nanticoke, Smith and his 14-man crew encountered a group of Indians on the eastern bank, most likely somewhere near Ragged Point. The Indians defensively fired a volley of arrows at the intruders’ 30 foot shallop. Smith anchored the ship out of range for the night. On approaching the land again the following morning, the English saw unarmed Indians with baskets motioning them in, and others hiding in the marsh, so the crew fired into the Indians, who subsequently retreated. That evening, the English found an unoccupied Indian camp and left trade goods there. The next day, Smith was able to befriend four Indians who had been away fishing and did not know of the previous encounters. With the help of these four men, he was able to meet the local Indians in trade, reporting later that they had high quality furs.

Last updated: October 05, 2021