Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary

Discover Mallows BaY

Designated as The Chesapeake’s FIRST NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY


In July 2019, NOAA designated a new national marine sanctuary in Maryland at Mallows Bay – Potomac River. Chesapeake Conservancy is a lead partner in the community-driven effort that successfully led to this designation. Located along the Chesapeake Trail approximately 30 miles south of Washington, D.C. on the Potomac River in Charles County, Md., Mallows Bay is steeped in history, wildlife, and recreational opportunities.

Mallows Bay is famous for its “Ghost Fleet” which includes more than 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. The wrecks are largely submerged during high tide, but are revealed to the naked eye during low tide – which is where the term “Ghost Fleet” originates. Today, these wrecks support diverse ecosystems that are teeming with marine life, attracting recreational fishing and ecotourists to the area.

In addition to unique natural resources, Mallows Bay – Potomac River boasts rich American Indian and Black history. This section of the Potomac River is part of the traditional lands and cultural landscape of the Piscataway Indian people, as well as the site of important archaeological findings. Blacks 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.

We hope to help you explore this special place – both virtually and physically! 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 by kayak.

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.

July 8, 2019

NOAA designates Mallows Bay – Potomac River as a new national marine sanctuary in Maryland.

Mallows Bay Paddle Guide

Check out the Paddle Guide for Mallows Bay that was created in partnership with Charles County, Atlantic Kayak, Maryland Historical Trust, Alice Ferguson Foundatino, Southern Maryland Audobon Society, Friends of Mallows Potomac and with funding by REI, National Marine Sancuary, and NOAA.

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