Mallows Bay, Potomac River, Charles County, Maryland
As one paddles closer to Mallows bay, the rusty bow of an old ferry, the Accomac, breaches the water. Emerging from the distance, small dots of vegetation strangely sprinkle the bay. It is not evident one is approaching hundreds of sunken ships. However, as one paddles closer and closer, hunks of decaying wood and large iron nails can be seen, mostly inches under the water. As one carefully navigates through the debris field, outlines of dozens of football field length ships begin to emerge. It now becomes apparent one is in the largest ship graveyard fleets in North America.
Mallows bay is an incredibly scenic place. The derelict wrecks are now home to Osprey, water fowl, and other wildlife. Bald Eagles nest in the nearby trees along the shore. It once was a fun daylong adventure to paddle to this curious spot. However, the state bought the land next to the graveyard, created a park and installed a boat ramp for easy canoe and kayak access. Although it is now less of an adventure to travel to, it can now be enjoyed by many more nature and outdoor enthusiasts.
To learn how this graveyard came to be, read my photo trip below:
Mallows Bay Park - 1440 Wilson Landing Road, Nanjemoy, MD
Entrance to the park is at the intersection of Riverside Rd (rt. 224) and Wilson Landing Road, in Nanjemoy, Maryland.
Recommended Book for Kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay Area:
Kayak Trip to Mallows Bay - The History of the Ghost Fleet
After paddling our wobbly kayak along the Potomac for over an hour, we finally saw an old rusted hull looming in the distance. This old ferry, the "Accomac," was the first evidence that we made it to the ghost fleet of Mallows Bay.
Traveling here was tough, but it was well worth it to paddle, and get lost in the history of Mallows Bay.
Paddling up to the ferry, we heard warning cries from an Osprey tending to its nest on the ships' bow. After rounding the rusted bow and an angry Osprey, the ghost ships suddenly appeared.
Built to carry cargo across the Atlantic to support the war effort in Europe, the ships arrived too little too late. By wars end, only 134 out of the 731 contracted ships had been finished. Shortly after, a total of 264 were finished. Out of those, only 195 had actually crossed the Atlantic.
Once W.W.I. was over, no one wanted the leaky, obsolete ships. Eventually, after much fiasco leading into the 1960's, the remaining ships (over 150), partially salvaged, were left to rot in Mallows bay.
Looking nothing like they did in 1918, the fleet of wooden steamships are now empty, rotting hulls poking haphazardly out of the water; a navigational nightmare even for our small kayak.
The remaining ships that dot the bay are now wooden islands, full of vegetation.
These wooden islands act as a wildlife sanctuary for many animals, including Heron, Osprey, and Bald Eagles that patrol the waters. Mallows Bay is a bird watchers paradise.
After stopping at a gravel bar that was created by the remains of the vessel "Grayling," for a stretch, we decided to look for some of the older wrecks, such as a revolutionary war era scooner and an 18th century longboat, then head for home.
Hull identification is based on Shomette (1996).