Saturday, April 20, 2013

Calvert Cliffs

The Calvert Cliffs Park beach is located at the shaded stream valley 150 yards north of the north end of the LNG platform. It is not marked in any obvious way, but it will be the only beach west of the LNG terminal with people. Signs a the north and south ends of the beach indicating the range of public access are visible with binoculars from several hundred yards (latitudes given in text). Note that post 9/11 the LNG terminal has a 400-yard security zone and they do enforce it.

Calvert Cliffs State Park. Described in the text, “Day 1—Deale to Solomons Island”, there is a nice beach and the most convenient fossil hunting on the Bay.  We found a number of dolphin vertebrate near here a few years ago. The beach is identifiable by the presence of bathers and fossil hunters—since all other nearby beaches are government or private property—a low treeless marsh in the background, and small white signs posted at each end of the beach (you may be able to spot these with binoculars) reminding visitors to stay on the main beach and not wander under the cliffs. Good pictures of the approach and beach.
There is another fossil hunting cliff and beach just south of Chesapeake Beach. It is more exposed and requires anchorage 300-400 yards offshore. It is also unstable and I have witnessed minor avalanches.
Main beach 38º 24.27N. Nicer boat access-only beaches are at 38º 24.46N and 38º 24.56N.

From our first visit:

"The primary strength of a shoal draft sailboat is the ability to make stops in places and ways the guidebooks don't recommend. Between Solomons Island and Deale there is a row of cliffs packed with fossils from the Miocene period, Calvert Cliffs State Park being the best known area. Though I had visited the Calvert Cliffs with family when I was small, only sketchy memories remain: a box of fossil scallops and snails, and some photographs. There is a notch in the cliffs where a small creek comes down to the Bay (about 38º 24.3’ north, 76º 24.5’ west), and nestled there is a small beach. You are free to collect whatever you can find on the sand and in the shallows. Small shells, fragments, and sharks teeth reward a few minutes’ search. When I was small, it was a different time. We were allowed to walk the beach, to climb on the cliffs, and to dig at will. Digging is of course no longer allowed, for sound reasons of erosion control, resource preservation, and safety. About 10 years ago a mother and her daughter were killed while walking on the beach, when a large section of cliffs collapsed after a stretch of damp weather. The result was the unfortunate closure of the remaining beach areas in the park.
There are 2 nicer boat access-only beaches, also within the park: The larger is at 38º 24.46’ and has a small pond behind the beach, suitable for kayak exploration; the smaller is at 38º 24.56’; the fossil hunting is better and the only footprints will be yours.
 There is no distinct cove for harbor, only a slight indentation in a straight line of cliffs, just enough to reduce the fetch of the waves on this day. I nosed the boat into waist-deep water without difficulty, but found the holding ground horrendous. Very hard clay and oyster shell. My light weight anchor, a Fortress FX-11, only skipped over the bottom despite repeated efforts. My 13-pound Danforth imitation would bite, but not sufficiently to trust leaving the boat unattended in an exposed anchorage. I dove on the anchor and confirmed that it was only hooked on a lump, the marine clay being far too hard for a light anchor to penetrate. Still, I couldn't cheat Jessica of her visit and playtime. I would have to wait on the boat, within safe earshot. Jellyfish were predictably heavy for late August, and she has bad memories or prior encounters. Fortunately, Bay nettles can't sting through much, and even a pair of pantyhose will keep them safely at bay. Armored with tights, a turtleneck, and socks, she was prepared for her swim to the beach… and quite a sight for mid-August. Note: on later trips I learned that reasonable anchor holding is available if one wades around and seeks out the scattered patches of hard sand. The holding ground further out in 6 feet of water, where most sail boats will anchor, is good consistent firm sand, without the hard clay patches."

Kayak the cove and pond at the northern beach.

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