Calvert Cliffs State Park

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Calvert Cliffs State Park
Rickard's Cliffes
Maryland State Park
Calvert Cliffs, Calvert Cliffs State Park.jpg
The park's namesake cliffs
Country United States
State Maryland
County Calvert
Elevation 112 ft (34 m) [1]
Coordinates 38°24′10″N 76°25′19″W / 38.40278°N 76.42194°W / 38.40278; -76.42194Coordinates: 38°24′10″N 76°25′19″W / 38.40278°N 76.42194°W / 38.40278; -76.42194 [1]
Area 1,311 acres (531 ha) [2]
 - Wildlands 1,079 acres (437 ha) [2]
Established Unspecified
Management Maryland Department of Natural Resources
IUCN category V - Protected Landscape/Seascape
Location in Maryland
Website: Calvert Cliffs State Park

Calvert Cliffs State Park is a state-owned, public recreation area in Lusby, Calvert County, Maryland.[3] The state park protects a portion of the cliffs that extend for 24 miles along the eastern flank of the Calvert Peninsula on the west side of Chesapeake Bay from Chesapeake Beach southward to Drum Point.[4] On his 1612 map,[5] Captain John Smith identified the area as "Rickard's Cliffes," having given them his mother's family's name.[6] The park is known for the abundance of mainly Middle Miocene sub-epoch fossils that can be found on the shoreline.[7]


Calvert Cliffs, c. 1898

The park contains the type locality site of the Early to Middle Miocene Calvert Formation.[8] These rocks are the sediment from a coastal ocean that covered the area during that time. The age of the formation is (19-)18–15(-14) million years ago (Ma), i.e. it extends essentially over the Hemingfordian stage. This formation occurs in Maryland and neighboring Virginia.

In addition, rocks of the younger Choptank and the St. Marys Formations are exposed here. This makes Calvert Cliffs State Park extremely interesting for its paleoclimatology and paleontology, because the accessible strata provide a good record of the Middle Miocene Climate Transition and document a minor mass extinction event — the "Middle Miocene disruption." Fossil collecting and "rockhounding" are permitted on the beach; the cliffs are closed due the dangers of erosion.[3]


Fossils from the Calvert Formation, Zone 10, Calvert Co., MD (Miocene).
Fossils from the Calvert Formation, Zone 10, Calvert Co., MD (Miocene).

The Calvert Formation is notable for its plentiful fossil shark teeth. Especially popular among "rockhounds" are those from giants such as Carcharocles and the famous Megalodon[9] (which is often included in Carcharocles).

The ancestral baleen whale Eobalaenoptera harrisoni and the merganser Mergus miscellus were described from the Virginian part of the formation. From the uppermost layer, deposited 15-14 Ma, they represent the oldest known member of their family and genus, respectively. Some remains of a prehistoric loon (Gavia) from the lowermost parts of the Calvert Formation, dating back nearly 18 Ma, are the oldest records of that genus from North America, and among of the oldest worldwide.

Calvert Cliffs wetlands boardwalk

Activities and amenities[edit]

Calvert Cliffs State Park is mostly forested, with some wetland areas and a small pond for fishing. The park has 13 miles (21 km) of marked hiking trails. A quarter-mile-long sandy beach is accessible via a 1.8-mile (2.9 km) trail. Some 550 acres are open to hunting upland game, turkey, and deer.[3] The park is rich in biodiversity and is home to numerous species of plants and animals, with at least 163 species of birds observed in the park.[10]

Industrial neighbors[edit]

The cliffs are a short distance south of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant operated by Constellation Energy. The large offshore industrial complex visible from the beach is the Dominion Cove Point LNG receiving station.


  1. ^ a b "Calvert Cliffs State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  2. ^ a b "Fiscal Year 2014 DNR Owned Lands Acreage" (PDF). Maryland Department of Natural Resources. December 18, 2014. Retrieved July 14, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Calvert Cliffs State Park". Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Fossil Collecting Sites at Calvert Cliffs". Maryland Geological Survey. Retrieved July 15, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Smith's Maps". Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. National Park Service. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  6. ^ Mountford, Kent (June 1, 2009). "Bay’s coastal cliffs are but shells of their former selves". Bay Journal. Chesapeake Media Service. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Calvert Cliffs, Maryland". The Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  8. ^ McLennan, Jeanne D. (1973). "Calvert Cliffs Fossils". Maryland Geological Survey. Retrieved July 15, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Megalodon - Megatooth fossils found at the Calvert Cliffs of Maryland". The Fossil Guy. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Bird Observations at Calvert Cliffs State Park". eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved May 31, 2011. 

External links[edit]