Mallows Bay-Potomac River

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Designated: September 3, 2019

Area: 18 mi2

Just 40 miles south of the Nation’s capital, Mallows Bay-Potomac River is a time capsule of history in Southern Maryland that includes Native American culture, Revolutionary and Civil War era activity, Potomac River steamboat transports, and historic commercial fishing operations. It is most renowned for the partially submerged 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. Although the ships never saw action during the war, their construction at more than 40 shipyards in 17 states reflected the massive national wartime effort that drove the economic development of communities and related maritime service industries. It also features archaeological artifacts nearly 12,000 years old that represent the history of Native American communities.

Over time, these abandoned ships became the foundation for a rich habitat for 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 is an outdoor classroom and living laboratory for research, conservation, and learning opportunities because of its unique maritime features and connection to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Foundation, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is supporting a five year water quality monitoring program to provide continuous, real-time data to the public, resource managers and scientists via the department’s Eyes on the Bay program. The partnership is in its second year. Scientists and resource managers can use the data to assess changes, aiding them in decision-making and other restoration efforts. Data will aid commercial watermen and recreational anglers and benefit local tourism operators and visitors who could use the real-time data to plan trips.The Foundation also partners with the Chesapeake Conservancy and other local partners to engaging visitors at the site by creating audio paddling guides, virtual paddling tours, organizing local beach clean-ups, and increasing visitor access for enjoy Mallows Bay.

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