Wye Island

Photo by Peter Turcik

In 2018, Chesapeake Conservancy announced that a new public access site is open to the public on Wye Island in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, opening the scenic island to new recreational opportunities. With support from REI Co-op, whose generous funding matched a grant from the Maryland State Highway Administration’s National Recreational Trails Program, the Chesapeake Conservancy successfully completed the installation of a new canoe and kayak launch.

The new launch provides access to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (Chesapeake Trail), within a 1.5-hour drive from the metro DC-Annapolis-Baltimore corridor, making it an ideal location for urban day-trippers, as well as those on longer excursions.

In the mid-1970s, this beautiful place was nearly lost to the public. Plans to turn the island into a housing development failed to come to fruition because the state purchased the land with Program Open Space funds and turned the island into a Natural Resources Management Area.

Wye Island provides habitat for the Delmarva fox squirrel, which until recently was on the endangered species list. A diversity of birds also visit the island, including warblers, bluebirds and vireos, which are seen in the spring and early summer months. Flocks of waterfowl attract hunters in the fall and winter. It has more than 12 miles of hiking trails, with opportunities for hikers of any level.

Ferry Point Trail at the east end of the island is lined with old Osage orange trees. Though not native to the East Coast, these trees have grown over top of the trail to create a stunningly beautiful vegetative tunnel. When planted close together, Osage orange trees can create natural fences. They also produce strange, tropical-looking — but inedible — fruit the size of softballs, which litter the trail. At the end of the trail, you’ll find a sandy beach with a rope swing, picnic table and rustic bathroom.

Thank you to REI, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for helping us make it happen!

Chesapeake Conservancy is dedicated to working with partners such as the National Park Service to create, improve and promote public access to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. These efforts strive to fill in the gaps identified in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan. This plan emerged as a way to reach the goal put forth in the President’s Executive Order to add 300 new public access sites across the watershed by 2025.