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Instagrammable places in the Chesapeake Watershed


Mallows Bay
Nanjemoy, MD

Located in the Potomac River south of Washington, D.C., Mallows Bay is a ship graveyard that is known as the “largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere.” This diverse collection of historic shipwrecks totals nearly 200 known vessels dating back to the Revolutionary War and World War I. As nature generally does when left undisturbed, it has reclaimed the ships and created a sanctuary for flora and fauna. Ospreys and eagles can be seen throughout the Bay and around the shore. Make sure you take a buddy for safety and paddle around to capture the many shots of the wildlife and the half sunken ships.


Harpers Ferry (Maryland Heights Trail)
Knoxville, MD

Located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Harpers Ferry isn’t just a beautiful place to take a picture, but it is also a great place to learn about history! Many places throughout downtown Harpers Ferry are picturesque, but the most popular spot to take a picture instagram worthy is at the top of the Maryland Heights Trail. This is a difficult, rocky trail that is between 4.5 and 6.5 miles, but the view at the top gives a great overview of Harpers Ferry as a whole.



Great Falls (Great Falls Park, VA & C&O Canal NHP Great Falls Tavern)
Potomac, MD & Great Falls, VA

Walk the 0.25 mile Olmsted Island Bridges trail from Great Falls Tavern on the Maryland side of the Potomac to view the falls and Mather Gorge. After viewing the Falls, you can spend your day hiking on the very popular Billy Goat Trail that is filled with rock scrambles and rugged terrain. All three of the Billy Goat trail sections are all filled with beautiful spots to stop and take a few pictures. However, if you are on the Virginia side of the Potomac, head to the Great Falls Visitor Center and take a short walk over the Patowmach Canal, to the Great Falls Overlook. There are also many hiking trails on the Virginia side of the Potomac, but only a couple with a view of the Potomac. 

Shenandoah National Park
Luray, VA

Located 75 miles outside of Washington DC, Shenandoah National Park is found in the northern section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are several entrances to Skyline Drive that weave through the mountains of the Park. The northernmost entrance is in Front Royal, Virginia and the southernmost is near Afton, Virginia where Skyline Drive turns into Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter where you enter the park, you will quickly come to a turn where you will find a great photo. Personally, I would enter from the south and weave my way through the mountains north, stopping at almost every overlook. Every stop can be a perfect shot, but popular trails such as Old Rag will offer not just photo stops, but also recreation. Before heading to Shenandoah, check the weather. You are up in the clouds so it must be a clear day for you to be able to get a great view. Being patient and waiting for a nice, clear day will be well worth the wait.

Harrisburg’s Statue of Liberty
Dauphin, PA

Located just north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the Dauphin Narrows stretch of the Susquehanna River is a miniature four ton replica of the Statue of Liberty. Why is it there and who put it there? It was originally erected in 1986 as a celebration of the original Lady Liberty having stood for 100 years. The original replica lasted six years, but was brought down by 80mph winds in a 1992 storm. She was deeply missed by the citizens of Central Pennsylvania so $25,000 was raised to make a more permanent replica. After securing permits, the new statue was placed on July 3, 1997. It is still standing many years later and can be seen from both sides of the River, making for a perfect Instagram photo. 

Kiptopeke State Park
Cape Charles, VA

Kiptopeke State Park is located on the southern point of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. You are able to partake in a variety of activities such as hiking, swimming, fishing, and boating. There are around five miles of hiking trails with many observation decks where you can take a great photo. Anywhere along the beach or fishing pier are also great options for getting that perfect Instagram shot. If you want to get out on the water, you’re able to rent kayaks at the park. One place to explore while on the water is the Concrete Fleet, also known as the Kiptopeke Breakwater. The sunken fleet of ships consists of nine of twenty-four concrete ships that were constructed for the US Marine Commission in World War II. They were originally brought to Kiptopeake to bring protection to the Ferry Terminal during severe weather. The ferry from the western to eastern shore was closed in 1964 with the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, but the ships remained. Years of being exposed to the elements has allowed these ships to be eroded and the interior of the ships to be open to the air. Similar to Mallows Bay and other ship graveyards, the Kiptopeke Breakwater has become a haven for wildlife such as fish, shellfish, and birds.

Trap Pond State Park
Laurel, DE

Trap Pond State Park is home to the northernmost natural stand of bald cypress trees. The pond in the park’s name was created in the late 1700s to power a sawmill to aid in harvesting the cypress trees. The federal government purchased the land in the 1930s and it became one of Delaware’s first state parks in 1951. Among many activities that are popular at Trap Pond is canoeing. This is the most ideal activity to view the beauty of the Bald Cypress trees. Check out the watertrails on the park’s website to learn more about where to go! If you would rather stick to the land, there are still many ways to get a good picture of these trees. The Cypress Point Trail, Bob Trail, and the Island Trail will give you great views of both the trees and pond. 

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Woodbridge, VA

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located just off of the Potomac between the Belmont and Occoquan Bays. There is a small driving loop through the refuge, but there are several miles of gravel walking trails to explore the beautiful sights that Occoquan has to offer. The best shot I found was heading past Painted Turtle Pond and to the observation platform that overlooks Occoquan Bay. You could also stop at the location marked on the trails map as a wildlife photography spot on Marumsco Creek. Any of the places that you decide to stop, will give you a beautiful Instagram shot with #nofilterneeded.

Robert V. Riddell State Park
Davenport, NY

Located approximately 20 miles from the headwaters of the Susquehanna River in Cooperstown, New York, Robert V. Riddell State Park offers more than 1,000 acres of land in the Susquehanna River Valley. There are miles of trails to hike and a bountiful river where you can fish. Essentially, this park appears to be in the wilderness and untouched. You can get some great photos wherever you in the park. Being in the river valley, you can get shots of the hills and mountains around you, or the wooded areas while hiking. You can’t go wrong with where you decide to explore in this park for the perfect shot!

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Cambridge, MD

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, just outside Cambridge, Maryland. It is my favorite place to explore and practice my picture taking skills! I have spent several days just exploring and taking my time going through the driving loop to get the perfect shot and it’s only taken me a few short minutes to snap some great pictures.  Whether I am using my phone or my Canon SLR, I will always get a shot that wows anyone I show. Like many other National Wildlife Refuge sites, you will never need to use a photo filter here!



There are countless other places that are full of beauty throughout the Chesapeake region. Stay tuned for more ideas where you can go to get the perfect shot with #nofilterneeded.

Where are your favorite places to take pictures? Let us know on social media by tagging @ChesapeakeConservancy and @NPSChesapeake or by using #FindYourChesapeake.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, attracts a vast number of waterfowl to model Chesapeake Bay tidal wetlands. While primarily a tidal marsh, the refuge also includes a mature pine forest.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park lets visitors explore history and the Potomac River along the 184 mile canal from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD. There are a number of visitor centers and sites to visit all along the Potomac so take a look at them all.

Great Falls Park

Just 15 miles from the Nation's capital, Great Falls is considered the most spectacular natural landmark in the DC metropolitan area. The park providing a series of trails and overlooks from which to view the falls and the gorge.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park offers a variety of experiences for visitors. Whether you enjoy recreation or historical inquiry, a quiet stroll by the river or a guided program with a ranger, there are opportunities for everyone.

Kiptopeke State Park

Kiptopeke State Park's location near the tip of the Chesapeake's Eastern Shore makes the park a prime location for bird-watching. Migrating birds congregate at this point on the Delmarva before moving on to breeding or wintering grounds.

Mallows Bay Park

Mallows Bay Park offers excellent outdoor recreation opportunities. Tremendous wildlife viewing areas, small boating access to the Potomac River, kayak launch, fishing and hiking trail. Paddle through the WWI Ghost Fleet, the largest ship graveyard in the Northern Hemisphere.

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge includes a one-mile wildlife drive and over three miles of hiking trails along grasslands, tidal marshes and the river's edge.

Robert V Riddell State Park

Robert V. Riddell State Park, located about 20 miles outside of Cooperstown, NY in the Susquehanna River Valley provides more than 1,000 acres of fields and forested woodlands.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—plan a hike, a meander along Skyline Drive, or a picnic with the family.

Trap Pond State Park

Nationally known for its scenic bald cypress stands and the James Branch Nature Preserve, Trap Pond State Park oversees 2,685 acres of land that offer recreational opportunities to the public.

Kelsey Everett

Kelsey is the Digital Resouces Associate working with both the Chesapeake Conservancy and the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office. Previously, Kelsey held a Chesapeake Conservation Corps internship with the National Park Service. She is a graduate of University of Maryland, Baltimore County and holds a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and Geography.

July 11, 2019

Main image: Kelsey Everett / Chesapeake Conservancy
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