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Paddling is Better at Betterton Landing

Betterton, at one point a lively resort town, is now a quiet locale on the upper Bay that offers a variety of recreation opportunities. Once a small fishing community, Betterton grew with the arrival of tourists brought by the steamboat lines in the early 1900s. Spurred by the economy of heavy tourism (mostly middle class families from Baltimore and Philadelphia), Betterton saw the construction of piers, hotels, and other recreational structures. Tourism slowed due to the decline of the steamboat lines and the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1951.

Betterton’s beach has since been restored as a public park operating in the now quiet community that once saw a vibrant heyday. The public landing at Betterton puts paddlers at the mouth of the Sassafras River. This is open water that should only be explored on calm days. Paddling downriver, the Sassafras yields to the open waters of the upper Chesapeake. The relatively low salinity here and at Betterton makes for excellent fishing and a lower chance of encountering sea nettles while swimming. Paddling upriver offers a scenic trip past wooded bluffs on the way to Lloyd’s Creek.

Image Credit: Chris Cerino

Things to Know

From the landing, it is a 2.4 mile trip upriver to the mouth of Lloyd Creek. Heading downriver for about the same distance toward Howell Point puts paddlers in open Chesapeake waters. Paddlers are urged to use caution on large, open waters. 

Navigational Hazards

The water at the end of the ramp is shallow, and those with larger vessels should launch with a high tide.

This site puts paddlers onto large, open water. Paddling here should only be attemped on calm weather days.

Water Safety

Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Water trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate rivers. The National Park Service, Chesapeake Conservancy and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of water trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials. Learn more about water safety.

Marine Forecast

We STRONGLY suggested that you review the marine forecast ahead of heading out for a paddling trip. To review the forecast for this paddle trip, visit:

Emergency Information

Betterton Beach address: 1 Idlewhile Ave, Betterton, MD 21610

Nearest hospitals: UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown (100 Brown St, Chestertown, MD 21620; 410-778-3300) and Chester River Hospital Center (6602 Church Hill Rd #300, Chestertown, MD 21620; 410-778-3300).

Parking & Shuttles

The launch includes plenty of paved parking for cars, trucks, and trailers across the street from the launch site. There is also ADA accessible parking onsite. 


There is a bathhouse with restrooms on site. 


  • ALWAYS wear a properly secured personal flotation device (PFD) when participating in paddlesport activities. Make sure that your PFD has a readily accessible safety whistle.
  • Bring a paddle float and water pump for self rescue.
  • A spray skirt is recommended for cold/foul weather.
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing that shields you from the sun (sunglasses, sunblock, hat, and a long-sleeved shirt that can get wet) and is safe to swim in. Water shoes with closed toes will protect you from abrasive hazards at launch areas that can cut your feet.
  • Bring water in bottles than can be secured to your craft. Bring more water than you think you’ll need and drink regularly throughout your journey.


Camping & Amenities

Betterton Beach offers classic beach amenities such as a picnic pavilion, public beach, benches, a boardwalk, fishing jetty, and public pier. There is handicap access at this site. 

There are no camping amenities available at Betterton Beach. 

Trail History

On July 31, 1608, John Smith and his crew came into tense contact with members of the Massawomeck Indian tribe nearby present-day Betterton. Smith feared a violent confrontation, but the meeting ended with trade and the indication that the Massawomecks had been fighting previously with the Tockwogh tribe. 

On August 1, 1608, Smith's shallop moved cautiously into the Sassafras River, wary of the Tockwoghs after learning of them from the Massawomecks. However, Smith and his men were welcomed by the Tockwoghs sent to attack them, who assumed that the English had battled successfully against the Mattawomecks because Smith's men carried their weapons. The crew was taken seven miles upriver where they feasted and relaxed before heading back down the Sassafras the next day, escorted by a Tockwogh Indian who would lead them to the Susquehannock tribe.