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Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet

Mallows Bay Park - 1440 Wilson Landing Road, Nanjemoy, MD


World War II Ghost Ships at Mallows Bay

Word War II Ghost Ships at Mallows Bay


Introduction and Location

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.


The Accomac Ferry

The Accomac is the first boat often seen when approaching Mallows Bay.


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.


Bald Eagles at Mallows Bay

Bald Eagles at Mallows Bay



Location:
Mallows bay is located along the Potomac River, just south of D.C. The exact adress is:
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.


Google Map of Mallows Bay



Current Weather at Mallows Bay:



Kayak Trip to Mallows Bay - The History of the Ghost Fleet

After paddling our 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.
Paddling here was tough. We decided not to use the park ramp, but to be more adventurous paddle from further down river so we could take in the scenery of the Potomac. The long trip was well worth it. We soon got lost in the history of Mallows Bay.


Mallows bay - the Accomac, and an osprey

The Accomac - an old rusty hull remains


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.


Mallows bay, inside a ghost ship

Looking into one of the WWI wooden transport ships


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.


Mallows bay, a wooden ghost ship

Another view of one of the wooden ghost ships


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.


Mallows bay ghost fleet - iron nails in the water line

Mallows bay ghost fleet - iron nails in the water line


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.


Mallows bay ghost ship - wooden island of vegetation

These Ghost ships are often called "Floating FLowerpots" as they are now wooden island of vegetation


These wooden ships have now returned to nature. They are now odd looking islands that 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.


Additional Images of the Ghost Fleet


Mallows bay ghost ship


Mallows bay ghost ship


Mallows bay ghost ship


Mallows bay ghost ship


Mallows bay ghost ship

This gives one an idea of the size of the WWI transport ships . Our kayak, parked inside this ship, is 16 feet long.



Mallows bay ghost ship - accomac

Here, we ventured inside the ferry Accomac. I think we are kayaking over where the cars would park.




Recommended Books For Mallows Bay and Kayaking Maryland

Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay and Other Tales of the Lost Chesapeake
By Donald G. Shomette, 1996

Shomette is an underwater archaeologist and author who created the most detailed look at the Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet. His fascinating book gives a history of the Potomac river from 1776 until today. As well as the Ghost Fleet, Shomette explores a sunken steam ship in the Chesapeake bay, and describes the archeology of Kent Island, the first European settlement in Maryland. This book is a must for anyone interested in the Mallows Bay Ghost fleet!




30+ Kayaking Tours Within One Hour of Washington, D.C.
By Steve Smolinski, 2013

Calling all Kayakers! This outstanding book is full of short to medium-lenght paddles around the D.C. area. Waterways include the Potomac, Patuxent, Anacostia rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and many small tributaries. As well as describing the paddles, the author concentrates on when to go based on the tides and seasons. As well as giving you places you can put your boat in the water, he also delves into the wildlife and history of the areas.




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