This is part one of a three-part series on the urgency for safeguarding Mallows Bay.

Staying afloat amidst changing tides is more crucial now that it was 90 years ago for the remaining shipwrecks of Mallows Bay.  Thirty miles south of Washington, D.C. along the Potomac River, majestic, antique wooden and steel steam vessels that once served the U.S. Shipping Board Fleet, now serve nature. Sunken and set ablaze into the sediment of the Chesapeake Bay, the “Ghost Fleet” of Mallows Bay – a collection of some 100 to 200 vessels from the Revolutionary and First World War – has transformed since into a historic habitat for the region’s unique wildlife.1


Mallows Bay and connected Potomac River trail network attract frequent visitors for many reasons. Popular fishing, recreational boating, storytelling and educational programming all depend on the health of Mallows Bay. This unique stretch of Maryland’s waters reflects the Chesapeake Bay’s checkered history. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the construction of 1,000 battle ships within 18 months. Only around half sailed the Atlantic before Germany surrendered in 1918 leaving the remaining, unused boats worthless.2 Marine historians also emphasize its connection to Maryland’s African American slave history during the Civil War and the presence of archeological and cultural connections to the Piscataway-Conoy nation.3 If designated a formal National Marine Sanctuary by NOAA, Mallows Bay-Potomac River will safeguard the River’s environmental resources and fragile, biodiverse ecosystems amidst the monumental remains.


We have an opportunity to ensure that Mallows Bay receives the recognition and therefore the protection it needs in order to thrive for generations to come. These are the final weeks to voice your support and comment to NOAA for preserving the largest assemblage of historic shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere and its accompanied biodiversity.4 Four proposals are up for debate concerning how Mallows Bay will be protected. Plans range from zero action, to full regional coverage extending 100 square miles.5 The Ocean Foundation is proud to support the Chesapeake Conservancy alongside the Chesapeake & Coastal Service and Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the myriad of supporters and visitors of Mallows Bay Park in obtaining an official NOAA status for this spectacular environment. It is undoubtedly only through diverse and extended network efforts and local partnerships that we can advocate for and preserve Mallow’s Bay.;

You can view the proposals and submit your comment for public support here.