By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer
As the weather warms up, students are encouraged by Waterfront Director Ben Armiger to take advantage of the Hodson Boathouse’s recreational activities and spend some time away from exams and papers that loom ahead.
The boathouse is home to the men’s and women’s rowing team and the co-ed sailing team in the early hours of the morning for practice and home competitions. However, at noon, kayaks and paddleboards are available for use by the Washington College community for an afternoon on the Chester River.
“I really feel strongly that every student should get familiar with the river while [they] are here,” Armiger said. “It really is a whole other world out there.”
Students who choose to kayak or take a boat on the Chester River can paddle a mile up the river under the bridge that merges S. Cross St. and N. Cross St. to Radcliffe Creek, an undeveloped area where students are guaranteed sights of bald eagle nests and other wildlife such as river otters.
According to an article published in the Kent County News, dolphins were spotted in the Chester River back in 2019. Though dolphin sightings are not guaranteed when students decide to take a trip, Armiger says these sightings are a good sign that the river is healthy.
Many students prefer the Radcliffe Creek route due to the sights, its proximity to the campus and Chestertown community, and because the creek spans from close to where 98 Cannon stands to Suds N’ Soda, a local convenience store on Washington Ave., according to Armiger.
Armiger allows students to go on three-to-four-hour adventures up or downriver, but he needs to know where students are going on the map.
“My job is to promote the Boathouse, get everybody out there [on the Chester River], but also make sure everybody gets back safe,” Armiger said.
Juniors Josephine Robson and Mackenzie Barnett took advantage of the warm weather after spring break to go on an impromptu kayaking trip for an hour and a half around Radcliff Creek.
Robson said kayaking is a relaxed activity for students to enjoy on campus while still having a good time.
“It was a really fun day,” Robson said.
In addition to kayaks, the Boathouse also has fishing rods available for students who are interested in fishing on the dock. Bait and lures are normally provided by the Boathouse, but students have to stay on the dock closest to the building.
There are two boats at the Boathouse available for use: a pontoon boat — a boat that has open seating around the deck — and a powerboat. The powerboat is the only boat available to students to drive and use recreationally. Armiger said students love to use the powerboat for wakeboarding, skiing, and tubing.
In order to drive the powerboat, students must provide proof of a boater’s license from any state, as well as a semester’s worth of boating time with a certified boat driver. After that information is provided, the student will be asked to take a test with Armiger on the water.
Students are welcome to use the pontoon boat, but they require a faculty or staff member, such as Director of Athletics Thad Moore, who said he loves to take the pontoon out on weekends.
Regardless of the reason students decide to take advantage of the recreational activities provided by the Boathouse, all require proof of a completed swim test from the Casey Swim Center.
Armiger said student engagement at the Boathouse is higher than it was before before the virtual 2020 semester. Last semester, over 1,000 sign-up sheets were filled — many of those students were repeat kayakers, according to Armiger.
“It’s really a beautiful thing,” he said.
The Boathouse is open for recreation seven days a week from noon to 5 p.m. Armiger prefers to be notified of recreational use in advance via an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. However, students can sign up on the day of the desired trip, but he does operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Photos by Kayla Thornton
Featured Photo Caption: The Hodson Boathouse located near the Chester River is open for students to enjoy the day and take a relaxing kayak trip or boat ride on the river. Any student who is interested in using equipment from the Boathouse should contact Waterfront Director Ben Armiger.