Mallows Bay

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Mallows Bay-Widewater Historic and Archeological District
A shipwreck at Mallows Bay, February 2011
A shipwreck at Mallows Bay, February 2011
Mallows Bay is located in Maryland
Mallows Bay
Mallows Bay is located in the United States
Mallows Bay
LocationOff Sandy Point
Charles County, Maryland[1]
Coordinates38°28′21.4″N 77°16′6.9″W / 38.472611°N 77.268583°W / 38.472611; -77.268583 (Mallows Bay, Potomac River, Maryland)Coordinates: 38°28′21.4″N 77°16′6.9″W / 38.472611°N 77.268583°W / 38.472611; -77.268583 (Mallows Bay, Potomac River, Maryland)[1]
NRHP reference No.15000173
Added to NRHPApril 24, 2015

Mallows Bay is a small bay on the Maryland side of the Potomac River in Charles County, Maryland, United States. The bay is the location of what is regarded as the "largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere"[2][3] and is described as a "ship graveyard."[4]

Mallows Bay was declared a National Marine Sanctuary in July 2019.[5]

Ghost fleet[edit]

The "Ghost Fleet" of Mallows Bay is a reference to the hundreds of ships whose remains still rest in its relatively shallow waters.[6][7] It is the largest collection of wrecks in the Western hemisphere,[6] 230 United States Shipping Board Merchant Fleet Corporation ships sunk in the river.[8] More than 100 of the vessels are wooden steamships, part of a fleet built to cross the Atlantic during World War I.[6] Because they were built of wood due to an lack of available steel, most of these ships were obsolete upon completion after the end of the war.[6]

The U.S. Navy did not want the ships, which were stored in the James River – at the cost of $50,000 a month – so they were sold to the Western Marine & Salvage Company.[6] The company moved the ships to the Potomac River at Widewater, Virginia and in 1925, they were towed to Mallows Bay.[6] Western Marine went bankrupt and the ships were burned and remained where they lay.[6] During World War II, Bethlehem Steel built a salvage basin to recover metal from the abandoned ships.[8]

Access to the ships is through Mallows Bay Park, operated by the county, located at 1440 Wilson Landing Road in Nanjemoy, Maryland. A 0.8-mile (1.3 km) trail loops around the park and the salvage basin. In 2010, a boat ramp and pier for recreational use was constructed to provide access to the Potomac River. It is popular to canoe or kayak among the ship ruins; the ships form a reef that hosts an array of wildlife.[9][10][8]

The bay was listed as an archaeological and historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, and was declared a National Marine Sanctuary in July 2019.

The most distinct ship seen at Mallows Bay is the S.S. Accomac.[11]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Mallows Bay
  2. ^ Shomette, Donald G. (Winter 2001). "The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay". The Maryland Natural Resource. Archived from the original on April 20, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  3. ^ Shomette, Donald G. (Winter 1999). "The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay". Invention & Technology Magazine. 14 (3). Archived from the original on December 3, 2008. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  4. ^ United States Coast Pilot. 3 (43rd ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Ocean Service. 2010. p. 313. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  5. ^ Katz, Brigit. "New National Marine Sanctuary Will Protect Maryland's 'Ghost Fleet'". Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Lutz, Lara (10 September 2014). "Ghost fleet may go from wrecks to recreation". Bay Journal. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  7. ^ Interesting, Sometimes (18 April 2013). "The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Peck, Garrett (2012). The Potomac River: A History and Guide. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-1609496005.
  9. ^ "New Boat Ramp in Mallows Bay". Southern Maryland Living. May 12, 2010. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  10. ^ "Mallows Bay" (PDF). Maryland Department of Natural Resources. July 19, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 19, 2011. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  11. ^ "This is the S.S. Accomac which began its career as - EyeEm". Retrieved 23 March 2017.

Further reading

  • Shomette, Donald (1996) Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay and Other Tales of the Lost Chesapeake. Centreville, Maryland: Tidewater Publishers. ISBN 0870334808. OCLC 35103126.

External links[edit]