A safe and enjoyable paddling adventure begins before you ever launch your boat. Preparing and equipping yourself ahead of time can mean the difference between a fun and relaxing trip on the Nanticoke and a dangerous situation. Would you be prepared in the event of an accident? Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and being prepared before you go out on the water is the first step to a memorable paddling excursion. Remember to always check the weather and tides before launching. Portions of the Nanticoke are fairly wide, making them susceptible to high winds and strong tidal currents. Most importantly, always wear a US Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.


  • File a Float Plan with a Friend or Contact Person
  • Always Wear your PFD!
  • Watch the Weather
  • Carry a Whistle or Sound Producing Device
  • Bring a Map and Compass
  • Cell Phone/VHS Marine Radio
  • GPS (recommended)
  • Bailer or Bilge Pump
  • Carry a Spare Paddle
  • Carry a First Aid Kit with Matches
  • Carry Extra Clothing in a Dry Bag
  • Sunscreen and Bug Repellent
  • Plenty of Drinking Water (One gallon per person per day)
  • Plan for an Overnight Stay, Just in Case!


NOTE: If you are visiting from out of town and forgot an important piece of safety gear, visit our Recreational and Hunting Opportunities page for a list of equipment providers and outfitters. 

Other paddling resources

For further information on paddling, including safety information and how to minimize your environmental impact, please visit the following links:

Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics

Chesapeake Gateways Paddling Safety

American Canoe Association


For information about the health of local waterways, please visit the EPA’s interactive website, How’s My Waterway.

You can also check the status of the conditions at local beaches by visiting the MD Healthy Beaches interactive map, or by installing the MD Healthy Beaches smartphone app, available in your phone’s app store.

To learn more about the region’s beauty, history, heritage, and relaxation from on the go, be sure to download the Chesapeake Explorer app, created by the National Park Service.


NRWT imageFor further information about access sites in DE, please reference the following map segments from DNREC’s Nanticoke River Water Trail Map and Guide Set:

Map Segment 2 – Seaford Canoe and Kayak Launch

Map Segment 3 – Seaford Boat Ramp, Seaford Canoe and Kayak Launch, Nanticoke River Marina (“Blades Marina”)

Map Segment 4 – Phillips Landing

Map Segment 5 – Phillips Landing, Ed Koch Fishing Area, Roger C. Fisher (“Laurel River Park”)

This interpretive set of maps and guides is also available for purchase from DNREC for $7.00. The Map and Guide for the Nanticoke River Water Trail covers 26 miles. A set of 4 complete maps – 18″ X 24″ – is included. A guide to the area’s history, heritage and culture is on the back of each map. The set is tear and water resistant. The price includes shipping/handling. The set can be purchased here.

Additional information about exploring the Nanticoke River and surrounding areas is available in the Explorer’s Welcome pamphlet, which is available here: Nanticoke River Explorers Brochure

To get you started on your adventure along the John Smith Water Trail, sample trip itineraries have been included on the Visit the Trail page, which can be accessed via the menu above.