Paddle Across America 2020: Paddle Board Spots From LA to NYC, The Southern Route

In Fresh Content, Paddle Guide, Spotlight by Daniel

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It was late 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic when I decided to outfit my work van - a Ford Transit medium roof - for car camping and take my 14-day quarantine on the road. When I planned the trip, I realized there were so many places to paddle board and so little time.

Through careful thought and a rough idea of what I wanted to see, I mapped out a plan following the southern route in the United States from Los Angeles to New York City. The route that follows, and the details contained within, came about for my need to explore but also to avoid as many people as possible and as many indoor settings as possible. And while this trip could have been completed in 5 days with 8 hours of driving per day, I had the chance to slow it down a bit and purposely get off the beaten path to explore the United States by paddle board.

I decided to bring three key pieces of equipment, my 10’6 iSUP, mountain bike, and some trekking poles. These are the three main activities I like to do most at home and being able to fit it all in my van and have room to sleep and cook was a first for me. I have done some distance blue water boating so I am used to small spaces and riding the line of having as much fun as possible while being safe at the same time.

Making do with what I brought with me actually benefited my whole trip, it kept me honest, and instead of hitting up Google to constantly search for the nearest place to grab a sandwich, I used most of my time to get out in the wild as much as possible. The whole trip felt like total freedom.

Before we get into the trip details, the places I stopped, and the recommendations I plan to give you future SUP adventurers, I first want to go over a few key details. When I read about SUP trips like these I always want to know more about the paddler’s size and ability. This always gives me a better comparison of what I can expect for myself and if I will be able to paddle in the same locations and do it safely.

All that said, here’s a brief about my SUP background: I’m an advanced flatwater paddler. I’ve paddled and taught SUP in up to 25 knots, heavy marina traffic with substantial boat wakes (the wave a boat creates underway as it displaces water), and I am an intermediate plus SUP surfer, advanced beginner white water paddler, intermediate plus downwinder, and a full-time SUP instructor for 10 years in flat water. In addition, I have limited river paddling experience with two lessons in what is basically class 1 and a little bit of class 2.

I’m 6’1 and 240lbs and teach most lessons on a 10’6x32” iSUP 360 Go Anywhere or 11’6 by 32” hard shell cruiser. I surf a 9’corban fusion, 10’ C4 Waterman sub-vector, or 10’6 Laird. Old school classic boards that I love! 14’ Bark dominator or 14’ Starboard all-star 28” for long, flatwater paddles or races.

It’s always fun to paddle somewhere new but makes risk assessments and local knowledge all that more important. Even if I did this exact trip again I’m sure I would have different conditions to deal with. I made the trip up as I went along but used the National Parks along my route (give or take a couple of hundred miles) as my waypoints and looked for paddle spots in them or close. I ended up paddling in 15knots of wind max, no surf, class 1 white water, tidal currents, and cold water.

Duration: November to December 2020 - 15 days total

Gear: I am a minimalist. One of the first things I fell in love with SUP is almost like a mantra I would repeat in my head - one board, one paddle, one stroke at a time. I’m over-eager to get on the water and get going and really because of professional training and learning the hard way I make myself slow down, think through my gear list, my plan A, B, and C’s before I rush out there. Over time I figured out what my absolute “must-haves” are and what my backup plan items are - extra jacket, a little more water, food, take the time to tell someone what, when, and where you’re going, and notifying them when you’ll be back.

Gear List:
Ford Transit Medium Roof 250 cargo van
10’6x32 360 Go Anywhere iSUP
Vesl carbon fiber paddle
coiled leash
USCG life vest
Dry bag
Cell phone
Waterproof socks
Flip flops
Hat
Long sleeve water wicking t-shirt, long sleeve hoodie
Board shorts
Coleman one burner stove - extra fuel
Kettle
Sleeping bag
Lights
Straps
Bungee
Towel
Duct tape

This story is about recounting the trip in the best way possible so that you are prepared to paddle, bike, or camp in each spot. What follows is a complete rundown of the places I stopped to paddle, and any advice I have for you to experience it on your own!

The Start

Malibu - Escondido Beach, Paradise Cove

Perfect Paddles Travel Brief for Escondido Beach:

Map Coordinates
33.124722, -117.080833

Parking
Free parking on either side of the Pacific Coastal Highway

Restrooms
No public facilities

Wifi/Cell Service
Fairly strong cell service throughout the area

Safety - Urgent Care Nearby
Malibu Urgent Care

Local Pro/Shop to Contact
Hana Paddleboards
Paddle Method (Member Discount)

Paddle Environment
Ocean with a beach launch. The location has clear water, smaller waves but is subject to high wind events - see Santa Anna winds. Expect to see whales and dolphins as they frequent the area. There are beach break waves with swell from 0-1 to upwards of huge swell given it is the Pacific Ocean.

Note for newbie paddlers: There are three ways to approach the ocean. First, you are highly skilled to get through the waves head-on. Two, you have a flexible schedule and if the waves are too big you can return on another day, or third, you can get lucky and reach there on a day when it is flat. Always take into account your skill level, experience, and if you are paddling in an unfamiliar environment.

Best Time of Year to Paddle
Fall/Winter. The water is still warm, the waves are not as big, and the area is not as crowded.

Paddle Gear Recommendations
An average cruiser SUP (10'6''-11'4'') or a SUP surfboard. It is important to dress for cold water immersion in the winter, spring, and early summer. Wear a full wetsuit or at least a wetsuit top. And be prepared for heat stroke and sun exposure in the summer.

This is an epic shoreline to explore on a SUP so enjoy your time there!

______________________

Escondido Beach is definitely the best spot to launch a SUP into the ocean if you too are starting a trip or ending one here. The entry point is very beginner-friendly and on a flat day, it is the perfect spot to launch from, head into the ocean, and take in the views.

This is close to home and was of course the beginning spot for my journey to the east coast. I began this sojourn during the beginning of the pandemic and found the beaches here to be eerily quiet. While battling crowds is not my favorite activity to undertake, the reasons for the sparse beaches gave the beginning of my trip an odd feeling. Yes, I was lucky enough to fit enough gear into my van and explore on my own. But it was also an odd feeling knowing what was happening across the country.

However, given any time of year, Escondido Beach is a must-visit site for any avid paddler and a highly recommended spot to begin or end any cross-country trip.

The West

Black Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada

Perfect Paddles Travel Brief for Back Canyon:

Map Coordinates
35.8055409 (North), -114.7116442 (West)

Parking
Willow Beach Marina

Restrooms
Can be found at the marina

Wifi/Cell Service
Still fairly strong cell service here - no need to hunt for free Wifi

Safety - Urgent Care Nearby
Plenty of places in Las Vegas

Local Pro/Shop to Contact
Las Vegas SUP and Kayak Club
Aquaholic Yoga

Paddle Environment
Flatwater - great for beginners, just watch out for the wind speed and direction

Best Time of Year to Paddle
Fall/Spring - if you do decide to visit during the summer months, be prepared for high temperatures. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and wear a hat/long sleeves.

Paddle Gear Recommendations
Since this is mostly a flatwater paddle your average SUP will work great here. If you plan on paddling long distance a touring board or race board will work great as well. The water here tends to be cold in the spring/fall so dress appropriately - either layer up or wear a wetsuit top/full suit.

______________________

I live in LA 4 hours away so my stop here was more for recon for future visits but still had about 4 hours of paddling up and down the river which was a great spot. Not far out of Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam and the Black River. This is a GREAT spot even if you’re just visiting Vegas and can take a day for paddling. Or even better, plan for a several-day overnight paddle adventure down the River for camping with hot springs along the way. Plus the Willow Beach Marina is set up for easy car camping with RV hookups so this was a no-brainer.

I had mellow conditions with some current but the good thing here is that you paddle upstream and turn around when you're ready. This is a slot canyon so you can get winds so be sure they’re going to blow you in the right direction as well. Also, this water is COLD and it’s very dry so dress appropriately and stay hydrated.

I paddled about 2 hours up the canyon in super clear water, stopped at a little beach for lunch, and cruised home. This was a mellow day and an easy paddle. Most of my paddling experience happens in the ocean so having super steep canyons on either side was the highlight of this paddle. Plus, it was my first paddle stop on a great big adventure!

After this fun stop, I headed to Zion National Park for some mountain biking - this worked out really well because the only way into the park was via bus (not the case the last time I was there) and since I wanted to not share air space with people having my bike at the ready, it was perfect. If you have never been to Zion before, I highly recommend it as a stop. The beauty here is almost unmatched. And to experience it on a mountain bike was a pleasure.

Bryce National Park was my next stop. It was cold so I passed on paddling. Instead, I used my trekking poles and walked along the Navajo loop. This park has to be one of my favorites and I would highly recommend trekking along the loop. The views are incredible.

After my trek, it was time to move on...

I had been to Zion and Bryce on previous trips so I would be breaking new ground from here on out.

I had a loose idea of where I wanted to go - Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park - but really didn’t know how long it would take or what stops I might find along the way.

Lake Powell had been on my SUP bucket list forever but to be prepared to paddle there I planned to go visit the guys at Lake Powell Paddles for some tips.  It is always the best practice, I feel at least, to get some local knowledge on the area before paddling solo.

I called in to ask about paddling in Antelope Canyon this time of year and they cautioned me to take a kayak because of the wind and cold water. I decided to wait until morning and go see them in person.

Solo Rock

This is where taking a random dirt road really paid off. From the highway, I turned onto a dirt road to Solo Rock. No idea what to expect and I hadn't really researched this area yet so I was stoked to see car camping spots right on the water edge of Lake Powell’s most western tip. Plenty of spaces available and got a spot facing the water.

Lake Powell, Arizona

Perfect Paddles Travel Brief for Lake Powell:

Map Coordinates
37.063969, -111.236816

Parking
Free parking on the water's edge of Lake Powell's most western tip

Restrooms
There are floating restrooms/pump-out stations on Lake Powell. They are marked with a special icon on the park map. There are also boat pump-out or dump stations at many of the marinas.

Wifi/Cell Service
Fairly strong cell service here

Safety - Urgent Care Nearby
Canyonlands Urgent Care

Local Pro/Shop to Contact
Lake Powell Paddleboards

Paddle Environment
Flatwater - great for beginners, just watch out for the wind speed and direction

Best Time of Year to Paddle
Fall/Spring - if you do decide to visit during the summer months, be prepared for high temperatures. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and wear a hat/long sleeves.

Paddle Gear Recommendations
Since this is mostly a flatwater paddle your average SUP will work great here. If you plan on paddling long distance a touring board or race board will work great as well. The water here tends to be cold in the spring/fall so dress appropriately - either layer up or wear a wetsuit top/full suit. Also, make sure you get a heads up on the conditions before heading out. Contact Joe at Lake Powell Paddleboards for information.

______________________

This would be the easiest camp and launch spot of the trip but decided to head for the Lake Powell Paddleboards shop and get to the Antelope Canyon Paddle instead. The morning was cold and windy but I really wanted to make it there. Joe was great and super informative. He’s listed on Perfect Paddles and having never paddled in this neck of the woods it was super helpful to get his insights. There was wind predicted for later in the day but an early start would be fine so I followed his directions to the launch spot.

When I got there, luckily there were tons of parking spots. It was a bit of a walk down the boat launch ramp, but a super easy launch and about a 30-minute paddle (downwind but super light) to the white buoy that marks the entrance to the canyon.

THIS Paddle should not be missed! You have probably already seen this on thousands of IG posts but it's super cool to do it in person. Definitely want to get the heads up on conditions. I brought an extra warm jacket on Joe’s advice because the slot canyon gets very little sun so it can be refrigerator cold especially during this time of the year. That said, there were lots of kayakers in groups coming and going while it feels like you’re on another planet. If you have the chance to paddle here - do it.

After paddling Lake Powell I planned to head towards the Grand Canyon but it was getting dark so I decided to save it for the return trip. Instead, I headed to Saguaro National Park pretty much due south. At this point, I was five days into a trip that could be done in five days so I felt like I should try and make some progress even if it was southeast instead of the northeast where my final destination was.

That said, as I passed the sign to Sedona, I turned around and reminded myself that Sedona is AMAZING and that I might as well spend the night. Glad I did. Beautiful morning and got out of the mountain bike for a couple of hours ride around one of the four main vortexes in the area and hit the road for Saguaro National park.

The Midwest

Saguaro National Park to White Sands New Mexico to Caverns National Park

Perfect Paddles Travel Brief for White Sands:

Map Coordinates
32° 46' 46.9920'' N and 106° 10' 18.0084'' W.

Parking
There isn't much around the actual park where you will be able to stay overnight. The closest town is Alamogordo. THre you will be able to find plenty of RV parking at a KIA or other options. There is a fee to enter the park, but once inside there are plenty of places to park and explore the sands.

Restrooms
Facilities are located inside the welcome center as well as peppered throughout the park itself.

Wifi/Cell Service
No cell service inside the park - there is some a the ranger station and of course in Alamogordo.

Safety - Urgent Care Nearby
Champion Urgent Care

Local Pro/Shop to Contact
Nothing located close by.

Paddle Environment
This isn't a paddle stop, rather a must-see activity when passing through NM.

______________________

Hiking in Saguaro is like walking through a classic Arizona landscape with cacti lining the trail. It is so quiet and peaceful. A couple of hours in any National Park is better than nothing but really each one deserves at least a year to see it in all seasons which I am saving for another life. After Saguaro, I felt I needed to see the white sands of New Mexico.

White Sands is the only place on planet Earth where white gypsum sand continually forms. It’s all dunes like a mini Sahara but totally white. The park is easy to enter though it is isolated and near a missile range that is still in use so don’t be surprised if you hear a detonation while visiting.

In 1945, according to the National Parks website, “White Sands Missile Range was also one of the key locations of the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb during World War II. The first atomic bomb testing took place in 1945 at the Trinity site on WSMR, 65 miles north of White Sands National Monument.” While the history is cool to consider, the sheer beauty of the rolling white sands is a must-see on any road trip. Plus, there are great places to camp nearby to spend the night.

After White Sands, I continued my journey east in New Mexico. This is Area 51 country and you can see lots of signs for Alien gift shops and local fascination for extraterrestrials. Honestly, just by looking at the expanse of land all, you can see is massive amounts of open space and geologic features where you can see the strata of time...no wonder why space, time, and thinking logically about alien visitors is a major preoccupation. None of that for me on my brief drive-through.

As I approached the caverns it became clear relatively quickly that they were closed due to COVID. My trip was taking place during a national lockdown, so no surprise there.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Perfect Paddles Travel Brief for Big Bend National Park:

Map Coordinates
29°15′0″N 103°15′0″WCoordinates: 29°15′0″N 103°15′0″W

Parking
There are some great places to park and camp for the night outside the park. Check out some resources from NPS here.

Restrooms
There are restrooms at the ranger station and at the nearby campgrounds.

Wifi/Cell Service
Available at the Chisos Mountain Lodge, Rio Grande Village Store, Panther Junction Visitor Center. There are no public-use computer terminals in the park

Safety - Urgent Care Nearby
Medical Access Urgent Care

Local Pro/Shop to Contact
Epic SUP
The Expedition School

Paddle Environment
Flatwater - with some current

Best Time of Year to Paddle
Fall/Spring - if you do decide to visit during the summer months, be prepared for high temperatures. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and wear a hat/long sleeves.

Paddle Gear Recommendations
Since this is mostly a flatwater paddle your average SUP will work great here. We also recommend using an inflatable SUP. There are rocks in this body of water and having that extra bit of durability will keep you stress-free when paddling.

______________________

Made it into Texas! Now, I’m headed the farthest south and still east of my destination. By miles, I should be at my final destination but really I’m still about as far away as possible. In the southeast corner of Texas is one of the largest National Parks, Big Bend, and when it’s a new moon the darkest place in America for stargazers. I’m here to check out the Rio Grande and it happens to be a full moon.

This park is big so I camped outside of it. It’s about a 45-mile drive just to get into the park and then another 20 miles to Wild Cat Junction and the ranger station.

As they say - everything is bigger in Texas. And this park is no exception. I’m excited about possibly paddling in the Rio but also feeling guilty about just having enough time for a day and night. This was a common theme on the trip. The constant need for more time.

As I pulled into the park, I was greeted by a friendly ranger. I told her I wanted to paddle and get a site for the night. Again, the COVID lockdown helped me out with availability. I’m sure all the spots would normally be taken but I got lucky and the ranger really loved the idea of me exploring and paddling in the eastern part of the park and the western part tomorrow and she found me a perfect campsite in the middle. She even inspected my van to be sure it had the clearance and checked the river CFU's (volume of water flowing) to see if paddling the Rio was even possible.

It’s heavily damned above the park and water flow is tricky. This is where having an iSUP was a huge benefit. My 360 Go Anywhere iSUP has three 4-inch indestructible fins (low draft) and I’ve been down the LA river which is about 70% rock - so I knew it was durable.

Inside the park, there are two places to put in. I chose the one down the river so I could see a little current. The water level was very low but still needed to have a high-speed stroke to make sections, and had to portage around several sections. I made the big mistake of being excited and not looking for my water shoes. This ultimately worked out but on a big note - don’t do what I did.

There was plenty of water where I put in but after paddling only a few hundred yards I had to get out and walk. The rocks were smooth and I had no cuts by the end of the day but the risk of infection in the Rio is big and I think I just got lucky. That and I pretty much sacrificed my carbon fiber paddle blade. I hit so many rocks I could feel it splintering as I went but undeterred I kept going. I finally made it to the mouth of the slot canyon.

The canyon is basically a crack in the Earth that you paddle into and the only way out is the way you went in. These walls are massive. And the primary launch spot is right at the opening which is very convenient on every level. It was weird, no one was around at the first launch spot and I felt like I was getting away with something by launching there. But on the water, there were tons of people, none of whom had an iSUP and I was the fortunate one who got to paddle straight into the towering canyon.

Paddling up a very mellow current, the water is still murky and I could see and mostly avoid the sand bars. This can be done as a multi-day paddle from the most eastern edge and I think an iSUP is the way to do it. Hire a guide or take your time, or just hope to get lucky when the conditions are right and this is a very doable and awesome paddle experience - I highly recommend it! Paddling the Rio Grande is another spot not to be missed.

Moving along the southern coast of Texas, there are tons of paddle spots on the coast or inland lakes, all of which are great van camping spots. Up until Austin, finding camping spots and places for outdoor adventure is easy. As I’m heading diagonally up through Texas, increased traffic makes it harder to plan on the fly but Austin is on the route so I decided to shoot for that.

It was my first time in Austin and it’s as cool as they say - city life is definitely low-key due to the pandemic and I decided to check out Epic Paddlesports on the Austin river.

The staff there were super friendly and acted as an ambassador for the city. It was a grey, overcast and windy day but they’re open and ready to help me with whatever I need. At first, I was ready to jump right into the water with my board and paddle. But the staff there told me to slow down and instead recommended a bike ride along the river path to give the sun some time to come out and the wind to drop. Great tip. Plus, I always love to explore a city the way I enjoy my own city - either biking, walking, or paddling - it makes me feel like I get to know the city the way I want to know it.

After my bike ride, the sun came out but there was still a headwind. Undeterred, I was ready for work out and the attendant suggested a paddle that’s about a 6 mile round trip under the bridges past the city down a tributary where the slider turtles are hanging out by the hundred. I rented an 11’6” cruiser but duct tape my paddle and I’m off to see Austin from the river.

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

After Austin, I hit up Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Surprisingly to me, there are tons of lakes to paddle in Arkansas (the Natural State) and Hot Springs National Park is not to be missed. There are plenty of freshwater paddle spots but I needed this stop to be quick because the next spot has been on my paddle to-do list for a long time and I was stoked to get there.

Mammoth Caves National Park, Kentucky

Perfect Paddles Travel Brief for Mammoth Caves National Park:

Map Coordinates
37° 11' 13'' North , 86° 6' 4'' West

Parking
There is parking and campsites inside the park itself. Check out Mammoth Cave Campground and spots inside Mammoth Cave National Park.

Restrooms
There are restrooms at the ranger station and at the nearby campgrounds.

Wifi/Cell Service
Free public wifi is available at the visitor's center.

Safety - Urgent Care Nearby
Best Care Medical Clinic

Local Pro/Shop to Contact
SUP Kentucky (Member Discount)

Paddle Environment
Flatwater - the tour I went on is inside the caves, it's very calm water but definitely a new environment to keep your attention high.

Best Time of Year to Paddle
Spring/Summer - the temperatures are high enough during this time to have a plant camping experience and paddle

Paddle Gear Recommendations
The team at SUP Kentucky will take care of your paddling gear. Make sure you bring an extra jacket, it can get cold inside the caves depending on the time of year.

______________________

The three highlights of this stop: bike trails, hiking, and a cave tour.

If you’re on FB and you paddle you’ve probably seen the pics of a subterranean paddle all aglow with multi-colored lights. It’s not every day that you get to paddle below the surface of the Earth and Heather at SUP Kentucky has managed to find the perfect spot to do it.

Honestly, I was worried that this might be a one-room, let’s get on board and paddle into one cave space, light up the boards, and take a pic, but this is not the case! Heather has dialed this into a world-class SUP experience. She leases and maintains the cave and even stocks it with fish. Not for eating. Just to have some fishy friends when you’re deep into the limestone mining caves.

There really is no way you could explore this cave and find your way back on your own. Heather knows it like the back of her hand and has even had geologists come out for safety checks and also to learn about all the features in the caves. One major highlight of the paddle is the chance to see a fossilized outline of a mega-shark on the cave walls (in Kentucky of all places!). You can also lookup and see tiny bats, look in the puddle for salamanders, and find traces of rock used to make arrowheads. This is not your everyday paddle. They also offer river lessons and above-ground lake tours. This is a major stop on any SUP road trip across America.

After that amazing tour, I began to drive along the New River in West Virginia. Driving this route I quickly concluded that this is one of the most beautiful drives of the entire trip and I’m blown away at how beautiful the river is. I haven’t been to West Virginia before and this was a suggestion by one of my paddle instructors who went to Virginia Tech. This river is super scenic and looks like a fun paddle at least 100 miles of it I saw. I was super stoked to hear that as of January 2021 the New River has been designated as the USA’s newest National Park. I will most certainly be back!

Assateague Island Wild Horse Nature Preserve, Virginia

Perfect Paddles Travel Brief for Assateague Island:

Map Coordinates
37°58′35.07″N 75°18′17.12″W (MD)
37°58′35.07″N 75°18′17.12″W (VA)

Parking
There is parking inside the park.

Restrooms
There are restrooms at the ranger station and at the nearby campgrounds.

Wifi/Cell Service
Public WiFi is ONLY available at the Assateague Island Visitor Center in the Maryland district. There is no public WiFi at any other building, beach, or trail. Cellular service on the island can be spotty and may depend on the carrier you have. In case of emergency, Visitor Centers and Ranger Stations have a landline. However, the service there is not that bad.

Safety - Urgent Care Nearby
Eastern Shore Rural Health

Local Pro/Shop to Contact
Tula Adventure Sports

Paddle Environment
Bay/Ocean - I mostly stuck to the bayside and the tide/currents there can be tricky especially with a strong wind. Pay attention to the direction and strength before heading out. And also be aware of the tide. There are a ton of oyster beds in the area and on a low tide can be dangerous.

Best Time of Year to Paddle
Spring/Summer - the temperatures are high enough during this time to have a plant camping experience and paddle

Paddle Gear Recommendations
An average SUP or iSUP will work great here. If you want to paddle long distances, a touring board or race board would be easy to dump in and get a distance paddle in.

______________________

Matt, my instructor buddy who suggested the drive through New River also helped me with a paddle problem. I planned on going through Chesapeake Bay. I had never been and it’s one of the most important waterways in the US. But it’s huge and I have no idea where to start. Matt suggested the state parks and easternmost island of Assateague to see the wild horses. This was perfect. Easy to find a place to stay and new paddle territory - estuary’s, east coast islands, tidal flats with lots of wildlife.

Assateague Island is known for wild horses that have the run of the place, super charming coastal towns, and beautiful wildlife refuge.

I got in late afternoon to scope it out and while I didn’t see any horses I did see several red foxes and a snowy owl! This was a highlight of the trip and pretty rare for this part of the world.

The next morning I decided to get an early start before the wind picked up. Again, I couldn't find my waterproof socks and the water was cold but luckily I got pretty used to it.

The boat launch area is easy to find. It was grey, overcast but a little rosy red sunrise peeking through. The beginning of the journey starts on an easy flat water paddle over the tidal flats and oyster beds and I‘m wishing I had my water shoes or socks already. In case you are unfamiliar, oyster beds are sharp and dangerous. You can very easily cut yourself open on them and they are full of harmful bacteria that make the risk of infection very high. Always be prepared with proper foot coverings when paddling near them!

As I paddled along, I realized it was pretty tough to even know where to go and could be miles to paddle around the marshy area on either side and I'm resigned myself to not completing the challenge but still enjoy a morning paddle. I take one more look around and see, way across the tidal flats a white shape. It definitely doesn’t match the landscape and could be the horses.

At this point, I’m on a mission more than anything and after poking around I see there is a channel going up through the oyster beds pretty much in the direction of the white spec. It’s shallow, muddy, with lots of broken shells and the low tides are rushing out so I know I don’t have a ton of time.

This is where I get to dig in and crank it out and slowly but surely make progress into the back corner of this marshy lagoon. Sure enough, there are several horses, white, and brown milling around staying out of the breeze that’s picked up. Pleased that I got close enough to see them and get a picture I realize that the tide is really moving out and I keep running aground. It’s cold and there are a ton of oyster shells. This would be a disaster to get stuck out here and have to barefoot it back.

This is not high adventure paddling but it does remind me and part of the purpose of this article is to remind you that it doesn’t take much to make a bad situation. Let’s see, I have cold water, no shoes, oyster beds, and outgoing tide, and about a mile and a half up this marshy area. I’m over my hazard limit.

This is probably the most harrowing part of the paddle trip and I'm right across from a super quaint little coastal town, little red foxes are jumping around, but I gotta hustle or risk having to tear my feet up. I find the channels and walk to the nose of the board to lift the fins out slowly and make it back to deep water. Thankfully, nothing crazy happened, but a great reminder that paddling alone in new places in off-seasons requires extra caution.

Back in the van, I take a little detour to see the town of Annapolis and downtown Baltimore. Both have a very ingrained east coast city vibe with cobblestone streets right on the water’s edge. And I love it.

I stop on the northern tip of Assateague where I see more horses and a chance for another paddle now that the weather has warmed up.

My plan for my last leg is along the Jersey coast and I love New York so driving up through the city is the last stretch.

Having grown up about 90 minutes from NYC I’ve been there a bunch but have never seen it from the New Jersey side. Scoping out my route I see that Liberty Park is on the way so I head for it thinking I’m in for a great view of the city skyline. And possibly if the wind is right, might get one more paddle in.

Liberty Park, New Jersey

Perfect Paddles Travel Brief for Liberty Park:

Map Coordinates
40°42′15″N 74°02′57″W

Parking
There is parking inside the park.

Restrooms
There are restrooms near the parking areas.

Wifi/Cell Service
Plenty of cell service here as it is very close to NYC.

Safety - Urgent Care Nearby
PromptMD Urgent Care Jersey City

Local Pro/Shop to Contact
Urban Paddle (Member Discount)
Long Island SUP (Member Discount)

Paddle Environment
Bay/Ocean - The water can become very rough here. The current moves fast and can be dangerous for the inexperienced paddler. Either stick to the shoreline or paddle with a buddy if possible. Especially under colder temperatures.

Best Time of Year to Paddle
Spring/Summer - the temperatures are high enough during this time to have a plant camping experience and paddle

Paddle Gear Recommendations
An average SUP or iSUP will work great here.

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My first thought is I can’t believe I’ve never been here before! This park has the BEST views of one of the coolest city skylines on the planet and it’s only about 3 hours from where I grew up. Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and all those skyscrapers - this is a perfect way to wrap up a trip.

The Statue of Liberty isn’t that far away from the park and there’s actually a super easy beach launch area right next to the public parking. But the wind was blowing 15-20 with gusts and I’ve heard about the washing machine effect where the ocean meets the outflowing rivers. It's supposed to drop before sunset. If I can hang on until then, I will be able to reassess. There’s a bike path along the park that goes parallel to the city and that’s calling my name so I opt for the ride.

A couple of hours later, the wind has actually dropped to about 8 to 10 knots and it’s blowing offshore, which isn’t ideal. This is where it gets tricky. This is totally in my wheelhouse but it's cold water and conditions can change. But the good news is I can launch in a little inlet and test it out. By the time I get geared up and on the beach, I see a kayaker out there already with fishing gear. Feeling better, I launch and paddle over and say hello. This pretty much always pays off. Just another person who loves the water and before you know it I have a paddle buddy willing to paddle out with me.

Again, I’m leashed up and life vest on, in conditions I can handle with a new paddle buddy but not exactly dressed for immersion. There’s wind. It’s cold water so we paddle only about a quarter of the way to the statue, mainly sticking to the leeward side of the park. It’s an epic view and I get to paddle in the Atlantic. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to turn and snow is headed our way - the first big snow accumulation of the season. I’m glad I waited for the wind to drop and super stoked to find some paddle company. There are endless paddle opportunities in the world and I'm stoked I got to check out what I could on this trip.

Conclusion

Don't miss out on a paddle board trip across the United States. There are so many beautiful spots across the country that are perfect to see, explore, and experience from the platform of a SUP. I feel so lucky to have been able to go on this trip and immerse myself in wild nature. Of course, conditions, environment, and skill level all go into making the most out of any paddling trip. And having fun while pushing yourself to see and explore new things while staying safe is the key to all of it.

About the Author
Daniel

Daniel

Daniel is a travelling author with a passion for exploring new waterways and sharing his experiences with the world.

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