An offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay located in southern Maryland, Mallows Bay-Potomac River may become one of our newest national marine sanctuaries. It’s one of two sites – Wisconsin-Lake Michigan is the other – that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is evaluating for designation based on a community-driven nomination. This is a landmark moment: these are the first new sanctuaries under consideration by the federal government in 15 years. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation supports the decision to protect Mallows Bay-Potomac River and you can raise your voice with us.
Just 40 miles south of the Nation’s capital, Mallows Bay-Potomac River is a time capsule of history that includes Native American culture, Revolutionary and Civil War era activity, Potomac River steamboat transports, and historic commercial fishing operations. However, it is most renowned for the remains of more than 100 wooden steamships, known as the “Ghost Fleet,” which were built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet between 1917-1919 as part of America’s engagement in World War I and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over time, these abandoned ships became the foundation for a rich habitat for endangered and threatened wildlife, including bald eagles, herons, and osprey, river otters and beaver, and numerous fish species.
Today, Mallows Bay-Potomac River is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, birdwatching and other outdoor recreation. It also has great promise for research, conservation, and learning opportunities because of its unique maritime features and connection to the Chesapeake Bay.
The State of Maryland submitted the nomination for Mallows Bay-Potomac River to become a sanctuary in 2014, emphasizing the importance of protecting nationally significant shipwrecks, fostering partnerships for education and research and increasing opportunities for tourism and economic development. It was endorsed by a diverse coalition of nearly 100 organizations and individuals at local, regional and national levels – among them, elected officials, Native Americans, historical societies, businesses, museums and environmental, recreational, conservation, fishing, tourism, and educational groups. The Foundation supported the coalition’s efforts with a grant to Chesapeake Conservancy and advocacy on their behalf on Capitol Hill.
“I often say that while we [NOAA] have been working with partners and through the public process to shape and designate this sanctuary, the community has stepped up big time and has already created amazing programs for education, interpretation, science, recreation and tourism. Their energies inspire us to better understand this special place, help to protect its unique resources for future generations, and seek enhancements for recreational experiences. As we approach the centennial anniversary of World War I, the slumbering ghost fleet awakens to a renewed spirit of what’s possible through this community-based sanctuary. We are extremely proud to be a part of this special place and its people.”