© Chesapeake Bay Program (Chesapeake)

Nanticoke River Conservation Corridor Initiative

Article by Chesapeake Conservancy

You launch your kayak and begin your adventure down the Nanticoke River. As you paddle beneath a crystal blue sky, your eyes are drawn to stands of ancient Atlantic white cedar and rustling tidal marshes. Bald eagles soar above you, rockfish swim along the river floor below, and, out of the corner of your eye, you see a heron catch a fish along the shoreline. You travel for miles before seeing anyone else, caught up in the natural beauty of this special landscape - still evocative of the 17th century when Captain John Smith first explored the Chesapeake Bay. It is this unspoiled river corridor that the Conservancy is actively working to conserve.

The Nanticoke River, named for the Nanticoke Indians whose lives were inextricably linked to the water, runs for 65 miles from central Delaware, through the Eastern shore of Maryland, to the Tangier Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. This river remains one of the most diverse and intact in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Home to hundreds of rare, threatened and endangered species, the Nanticoke provides some of few places you can find some globally rare plant and animal species, including Harper’s beakrush, Parker’s pipewort and box huckleberry, and unique plant communities - communities such as Atlantic white cedar non-tidal wetlands and xeric sand ridge forests.

This is one of the few places you can go to see the world as John Smith saw it 400 years ago, providing some of the last strongholds for these rare species and communities. Years of conservation efforts have protected thousands of acres along the river corridor, but gaps in protection threaten the corridor’s integrity. The Conservancy is working with partners to create an unbroken, scenic river corridor from Seaford, DE to Vienna, MD – preserving this haven of wildlife, plants and history for generations to come.

The effort began in 2008 when the Conservancy brought together the states of Delaware and Maryland and the National Park Service to sign a Nanticoke Partnership Agreement. The agreement commits the partners to work together to identify and implement best practices for the protection, restoration and enhancement of the Nanticoke watershed’s natural, historic and cultural resources. The partnership also seeks to enhance public access and land conservation along the Nanticoke and its tributaries, and to foster environmental education and stewardship opportunities.

Since then, the Conservancy has supported the extension of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail along the entire length of the Nanticoke, the conservation of 1,225 acres of wildlife and plant habitat at Blackwater National Wildlife and the building of new public access sites.

Through voluntary land protection, stewardship and public access, the Conservancy and partners hope to create an unbroken river corridor and connect people to the Nanticoke’s natural and historic resources.

New projects at Vienna, the Royal Property and the Webb Tractbegin to create a corridor of access along the river. These kayak and canoe access points will allow people to connect with the water, raise awareness of Delaware’s rare habitats and inspire visitors to support further conservation efforts.

Learn more about this initiative from our recent piece in the Bay Journal - The Nanticoke River: Partnership preserves corridor's wild beauty, heritage

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