Mallows Bay-Potomac River

Discover Mallows Bay

A special place on the John Smith Chesapeake Trail is steeped in history, wildlife and recreational opportunities. Approximately 30 miles south of Washington, D.C. on the Potomac River in Charles County, Maryland is Mallows Bay. This is a place where years ago, ships built by the Emergency Fleet Corporation between 1917 and 1919 under the auspices of the United States Shipping Board were sunk once they were no longer needed. While they may have once been nothing but a junkyard in the Bay, they are now ecological habitats that are teeming with wildlife. Chesapeake Conservancy is a lead partner in an effort to designate this special place as the next National Marine Sanctuary. Read on below to see how you can help in this community-led effort, and for an experience you won’t forget, plan a trip to paddle around and view the shipwrecks up close at low tide.

Together with our partners, we’ve produced a Paddler’s Guide to Mallows Bay, a self guided tour to help you explore the Ghost Fleet. While nothing beats seeing the beauty of Mallows Bay – Potomac River in person, we’ve also created a few ways that you can tour the Ghost Ships of Mallows Bay from your computer or mobile device. We offer two types of virtual tours. Riverview is a virtual tour created by Terrain360, similar to Google Street View, that takes you through the shipwrecks as if you are in a kayak paddling the bay. We also offer a birds eye view with 360 degree virtual tours using drone and 360 video technology. We loaded this page with lots of resources for you to learn more about Mallows Bay – Potomac River.

May 31, 2019

Mallows Bay-Potomac River Takes Important Step Toward First New Marine Sanctuary in 19 Years.

360 Degree Virtual Reality Tours

A 360-degree virtual tour of Mallows Bay, the largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere.

Google street view style tour

Fully immerse yourself in the history of the shipwrecks and the beauty of the surrounding wildlife

Flights through history

Take flight and see history from a whole new perspective… from all perspectives!

Mallow's Bay Story Map

Kayaking itineraries

Explore four unique itineraries that take you through historic ship wrecks and untamed wildlife

Points of interest

Each itinerary includes detailed information about what you’ll see along the way


Discover the history and present day conditions of Mallows Bay in this informational video from MPT

Establishing a national treasure

Chesapeake Conservancy is a lead partner in an effort to designate this special place as the next National Marine Sanctuary, and the first ever in the Chesapeake. In addition to unique natural resources, Mallows Bay – Potomac River boasts rich American Indian and African American history. This section of the Potomac River is part of the traditional lands and cultural landscape of the Piscataway-Conoy nation, as well as the site of important archaeological findings. African Americans have been a part of the area’s history for centuries, as well, with history related to African slaves landing on Maryland’s shores, fighting in the Civil War, and building many of the wooden steamships that now rest in the shallow waters of Mallows Bay – Potomac River.

Mallows Bay – Potomac River’s “ghost fleet” includes over 100 wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet during World War I, an effort that propelled America to the forefront of shipbuilding, as well as many other wrecks from Revolutionary times through the 1900s. These wrecks support diverse ecosystems that are teeming with marine life, attracting recreational fishing and ecotourists to the area.


Learn more about what a National Marine Sanctuary designation means for Mallows Bay with some frequently asked questions.