The Potomac River has some surprisingly diverse vistas.  The cliffs that line the Potomac in Westmoreland County, Virginia, are a beautiful example.   A great place to launch from to view the cliffs is Westmoreland State Park.  This well manicured park, with excellent protected beaches charges three dollars as an entrance fee.  The best place to launch a kayak a protected beach next to the park's own large quiver of kayaks.  This area of the Potomac is broad and a slight wind generates waves that make paddling a pleasure, removing some of the monotony that is possible when paddling a broad river.  A plethora of ospreys feeding chicks in their large nests and large numbers of mature and immature bald eagles that nest along the cliffs make for excellent bird watching.  A friend and I started at the launch point and began moving downriver to look at the impressive cliffs.  Some of the cliffs are completely sheer and run directly to the water, while some portions have small beaches.  I wouldn't recommend landing on any of them, however, since the chances of being hit with falling debris is very high.  This is evidenced with many large trees resting at the bottom of the cliffs.  After making an initial survey of some of the cliffs we turned towards the Maryland side of the river to explore Saint Clements Island.  Saint Clements is the site of the first landing of Maryland colonists in 1634 and contains a lighthouse, a massive cross commemorating the first Catholic Mass conducted by English colonists in the New World.  As we turned towards the island a brisk 19 knot wind caused some fun medium-sized quartering waves that kept us cool by splashing us as we made our way northeast.  As we paddled past the mouth of the Wicomico River the chop became larger rollers due to the longer fetch offered by the inflowing river, but even with a good breeze blowing, the waves were easily handle-able.   There were several large sailboats plying the waters as the cross and lighthouse became visible above a small pebble stone beach.  We landed and made our way up a decrepit wooden ramp up to the re-built lighthouse and explored the island for a few minutes, which was replete with ospreys, red wing blackbirds and mockingbirds.  There are well-equipped bathroom facilities as well as a pier and picnic areas on the island, and it would certainly be a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.  After stretching our legs for a while and reading the various plaques describing the history of the island, we made our way back towards the cliffs, paddling along them and watching the bald eagles fish.   This area of the Potomac River bears further exploring and there are several protected coves and beaches reachable only by kayak or canoe that will bring me back to continue kayaking the area.

On a subsequent trip I launched from Shymansky's Marina, just on the other side of the Cobb Island Bridge on a hot summer day.  I had decided to paddle past some of the small islets in this area, all of which seem to be privately owned, but offer some nice site-seeing. The first island, Saint Margaret's was occupied by an impressive mansion.  It looks like it's privately owned and there's only once place to land on it since it is ringed by rip rap or seawall on all sides.  I pushed on past several crab boast pulling their traps to take a look at Bullock Island.  Bullock is a strange site and appears to privately owned, but abandoned.  There is a decrepit house on perched on the rapidly eroding islet, which is surrounded by what appears to be many iterations of construction to shore up the sides of the island against the river.  These have been unsuccessful and what must have once been a great spot now looks like it's barely hanging on.  There must have been an long and impressive dock at one point, and the remnants provide a way station for cormorants and nesting for ospreys (Movie).  Even though I'm careful to give wildlife plenty of room, you can see the osprey at the end of the video didn't think I was far enough. Saint Catherines Island was next.  This is a larger islet (about 50 acres with and interesting history).  It was once a 150-acre corn, tobacco, and alfa-alfa farm, but erosion has whittled it away significantly.  It is now owned by the Jefferson Island Club and looks like it's open to members only.  The northeastern part of the island is replete with ospreys, great blue herons, cormorants and other birds.  On the way to Saint Clements I came across several areas with abundant wildlife and was able to capture some of it with my Contour Roam camera, which, after the disaster of the awful Epic Action Cam (don't buy it, worst product ever), has been a real pleasure.  When I arrived at Saint Clements Island (Movie) the cupola of the lighthouse keeper's building was open and I got some nice photos before heading back to Cobb Island.

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