Peter Turcik/Chesapeake Conservancy

Mallows Bay Park

Mallows Bay is situated south of Washington, D.C., along the tidal Lower Potomac River off the Nanjemoy Peninsula of Charles County, Maryland. This shallow embayment, and the waters immediately adjacent, boasts one of the largest assemblages of shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere, known as the “Ghost Fleet” of Mallows Bay. This diverse collection of historic shipwrecks totals nearly 200 known vessels dating back to the Revolutionary War and World War I. In addition to the “Ghost Fleet,” archaeological artifacts discovered around Mallows Bay date back 12,000 years, indicating the presence of some of the region’s earliest American Indian cultures. 

Thriving populations of bald eagles, heron, beaver, river otter, deer, turtles and numerous aquatic species call this area home. Striped bass, white perch, channel catfish, blue crab, and others make this area particularly popular for recreational fishing. In fact, Mallows Bay is widely regarded as one of the best bass fishing areas in the country.

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Hours

Open year round - 5:30 AM to Dusk.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

Free

History

This ship graveyard in the Potomac is no accident. Most of the bay’s 200+ derelict vessels constitute the skeletal remains of an emergency fleet ordered by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 as the U.S. entered World War I.

To shore up a merchant marine devastated by German U-boats, shipwrights on both coasts raced to meet the president’s goal of 1,000 new wooden steamships. Shipbuilding continued even after Germany’s surrender in November, 1918, but only a few hundred vessels were ever delivered to the government. All proved obsolete practically before ever setting sail.

Mallows Bay was pegged as a burial ground. Ships were burned there in a basin engineered for that purpose, then lined up in the bay and abandoned. Makeshift settlements later arose, inhabited by scrap-iron salvage operations ranging from Bethlehem Steel to desperate Depression-era wildcatters

Activities

Wildlife viewing areas, small boating access to the Potomac River, kayak launch, fishing and hiking trails.

Water Trail(s)

Charles County has paddling routes that range from short 1 to 2 hour trips, to all day excursions with overnight camping options. Miles of undeveloped shoreline oer unparalleled opportunities for shing, bird and wildlife watching, and exploring the Lower Potomac and its tributaries. 

https://www.charlescountyparks.com/sites/charlescountyparks.com/files/parks/Parks/Mallows/WaterTrailBrochureJuly2014.pdf

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 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.

Main image: Peter Turcik/Chesapeake Conservancy
Captain John Smith Trail
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