Paddle Mackay Island

Mackay Island Wildlife Refuge is right here on Knotts Island. Here is a paddle of about two around a canal that loops around deep in the marsh from a point we call the dike gate. Be aware that this area of the refuge is only open to boaters from March 16th through October 14th. Activities in the marsh are restricted after sundown till sunrise.  It is strongly recommended that you go to the the visitor's center at the north end of the causeway road to find information on the regulations governing use of the refuge. 

To get to the dike gate, come to Knotts Island and bear right at the first fork in the road. At the market, bear right at that fork. Continue until you pass Ward Road on your left and then slow down to take a right at the brown sign for the refuge. Follow the dirt road back for a while until you come to a barrier. You're at the dike gate.

The refuge recently installed a bulkhead in the canal along the road. At the dike gate, they made a small gravel ramp that will help you. It's easy to put in at the bulkhead as well.


Here is a paddler about to embark on a relaxing trip through the miles of canals. She has been told what we are telling you now. Remember that you are in the wilderness. There is a possibility that water moccasins could approach your boat. Stay alert and stay in your boat. Do not approach animal trails and do not reach into the reeds. Stay to the center of the channels and enjoy the scenery. We're not trying to scare you but you need to use common sense when you're this far from help. Many days of outdoor activity have been enjoyed without any mishaps because people listened to our advice.

Take the canal you see behind her for the easiest navigation. When the canal offers you a choice of directions, take lefts.

If you decide to head off to the left from the ramp, take your first canal right and any rights after that.

This is typically what the canal is going to look like for most of the trip. It gets a little wider in places and on the back side of the loop, it narrows out quite a bit. It also gets shallow in places. If you come aground, just use your paddle to push through the mud. If you try to get out you'll be up to thighs in the stuff. We don't recommend that.

All along your voyage there will be fish jumping around and birds making racket. The species depend on the time of year you go. We recommend you bring a small anchor and sit still for a little while. You never know what may come sneaking up on you. Did we tell you about the bear?

The ever present cat tails.   Wood duck houses are installed along the canals.   This is a sedge bloom. Other flowers include asters, irises, and mallow..

From this canal, it is possible to get to Cory's Ditch and out into the North Landing River. If your energy allows you to, take a turn into the bigger water and explore them. Pay attention to your turns and you shouldn't have any trouble getting back to the canal and the dike gate.

Many thanks to Sarah Kane of Southern Maryland for the images you see on this page. She frequently makes the trip down here to enjoy the waters surrounding Knotts Island. You come too.

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