Nature and history kayak tours explore Broad Creek

Partnership brings Quest Adventures to Laurel
July 21, 2021

Quest Adventures, in collaboration with Delmarva Birding Weekends, is now offering guided paddling tours on historic Broad Creek in Laurel.

Waters once sailed by three-masted Chesapeake Bay schooners known as “sailing rams” are now navigated by a different type of vessel.

The Broad Creek flows into the Nanticoke River, one of the most wild and scenic rivers on Delmarva. The waterways are teeming with birds and other wildlife, and they have a rich history dating back to the First People of the Chesapeake region, the Nanticokes.

Quest Adventures has been a tourism staple in Delaware’s coastal resort area for more than 20 years, creating memories for individuals and families by delivering quality outdoor recreational experiences. The Quest team hopes to continue this success in western Sussex County with six new guided kayak tours that will appeal to nature lovers, history buffs and explorers of wild Delmarva.

Two trips will focus on the birds, flora and fauna of the waterway. A Wednesday, Aug. 25 tour will feature birds, basking turtles and other late-summer wildlife along Broad Creek. As summer transitions to fall, paddlers may discover warblers, vireos and flycatchers migrating south after nesting season. Year-round residents such as bald eagles, great blue herons and wood ducks are often encountered on Broad Creek, as are eastern painted turtles and northern red-bellied cooters.

As the sun sets, a host of animals begin to awaken in the woods and marshes beside the waterway. A twilight tour of Broad Creek Thursday, Sept. 9, will give paddlers an opportunity to look and listen for barred owls and eastern screech owls among the trees.

Tommy Thompson, a local historian and associate member of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, will lead Saturday paddles set for Aug. 28 and Oct. 2, talking about the history of Broad Creek as it has been passed down from the First Peoples, the Nanticokes. First contact with the Nanticoke Tribe was recorded by Capt. John Smith in 1608 while exploring the Chesapeake Bay. On this paddling experience, participants will learn about the early Nanticoke lifestyle, the encounter with Smith, the Nanticokes of today, and current plans in Laurel to honor the First People.

Other guided tours are being developed to share more of the rich history of Broad Creek and the Nanticoke River, including tales of Smith’s explorations in 1608, the Norfolk Express train and schooner collision of 1904, and the shipbuilding industry that produced the world-famous sailing rams. Guided tours will run into October.

All trips depart from the Quest Adventures Kayak Rental in Laurel. Trips cover an approximately three-mile paddle to the bridge in Bethel and then back to Laurel for a total of about six miles on the mostly narrow, forested headwaters of Broad Creek. Although the creek is tidal, the tides and wind are generally not an issue for most people with some paddling experience.

“The Broad Creek paddle is one of my favorites. Having more access to rentals and guided tours of this natural gem will bring more people to downtown Laurel. In addition, it will really open visitors’ eyes to the Nanticoke River country and compel them to return and explore the area. Late summer and early fall are the perfect time to get outdoors on Delmarva, and what better way to experience western Sussex County than with a trip on the Broad Creek in historic Laurel?” said Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism.

The effort to bring Quest Adventures to Laurel was coordinated by the Laurel Redevelopment Corporation through grant funding from the Delaware Sea Grant College Program at the University of Delaware. Bill McGowan, a Laurel Redevelopment Corporation board member, said, “The location of a kayak business in Laurel emerged from a 2016 study: Laurel, Base Camp to Nanticoke Country, by Conservation Community Consulting. The work suggests Laurel is uniquely positioned to become a paddle trail town from which visitors can enjoy the increasingly rare beauty of the area’s parks, farms, and fields, and their associated history. The location of Quest Kayak is a great beginning. The town and its partners are committed to ensuring the success of this venture and are actively pursuing other complementary businesses.”

Registration information for the guided tours can be found at

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