Maryland Hosts New NOAA National Marine Sanctuary

Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary protects wetlands and the nation’s maritime history, aided by the state’s coastal zone management program.

NOAA has designated the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, about 40 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., to protect an 18-mile shoreline and marine area of natural riches, shipwrecks, and archaeological finds, some going back 12,000 years. The effort to establish the sanctuary was co-led by NOAA, the State of Maryland, and Charles County. Maryland’s Chesapeake and Coastal Service, the state’s coastal zone management program, aided the environmental impact statement process and put in place water trail and education signage.

NOAA’s national marine sanctuaries are a U.S. network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters.

Mallows Bay’s famous “ghost fleet” includes 118 wooden steamships and other vessels built mostly during World War I to combat German U-boats. Although many of these ships never saw action, their teardown here reflects the huge wartime effort that expanded U.S. maritime industries and coastal communities.

Kayakers and canoers often glide among these partially submerged ship “skeletons” that have sprouted lush vegetation and habitat ideal for osprey, fish, and beaver. Others come to fish or bird-watch. For history and culture buffs, the sanctuary marks sites of past Native American communities and the once-thriving industries of sturgeon and caviar fishing.

NOAA, the State of Maryland, and Charles County will continue to co-manage this sanctuary. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission oversee natural resource protection. (2020)

More Information: Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary

Partners: Charles County, Maryland’s Chesapeake and Coastal Service and Department of Natural Resources, NOAA, Potomac River Fisheries Commission

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