Paddle through the Ghost Fleet of the Potomac at Mallows Bay

Added by David Rodgers

An hours-drive from downtown DC sits the largest shipwreck fleet in the Northern Hemisphere. The ships provide an exciting and eerie playground for paddlers, anglers, and adventurers.

The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay, as it's now known, is the result of our great nation's call for 1,000 wartime transport vessels to be built in 18 months. The quick deadline led to hasty construction and, when World War I ended before the contract was fulfilled, hundreds of ships sat unused. Attempts to salvage materials from these already-obsolete vessels proved fruitless and many of the ships ended up halfway-burnt in Mallows Bay, where they still sit today.

Mallows Bay sits due south of DC on the Potomac River, just across from Marine Base Quantico. The park offers parking, a boat launch, kayak launch, and great views of the river and the ships you'll soon be paddling around.

You'll want to head out between tidal extremes - high tide covers most of the vessels and low tide can make navigating between the vessels challenging. From the launch, head west to the auto ferry wreckage (the largest vessel in the Bay and the only one that's all metal). The majority of the fleet lies north of the ferry, so head that direction next. The river is about 2 miles wide at this point, so inexperienced paddlers should hug the coastline to avoid choppy conditions.

There is a small beach to the east of the bulk of the fleet that you can land on for a short break from paddling, depending on tides. Stay on the lookout for megalodon shark teeth here. I have yet to see one, but I've heard they can be found here.

Once you've had your fill of exploring the ships, you can head back toward the boat launch and check out the marshes to the south and east. You'll have a good chance of seeing one of the many bald eagles that call Mallows Bay home here.

If you keep heading east past the launch, you'll make your way through an old lock door where water was once pumped out of a section of the Bay to make salvaging materials easier.

Anglers will love all of the structure the vessels provide for the river's bass, bluegill, catfish, and more. Just watch out for all the metal and wood that can snag your line!

Read More

Tags

Fishing
Photography
Kayaking
Easy Parking
River
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Really neat area

Unique spot that I actually heard about on a local talk radio show. I had to check it out as soon as possible and it didn't disappoint. A really unique area thats worth the time to visit.

Fun place

There is a kayak launch slip which is nice. One thing to be mindful of is if you have an inflatable kayak, like me, be careful not to go over anything shamrock in the water. Very cool place to explore though.

Stay Nearby

Indian Head, Maryland

Beaver Heights

This beautiful backcountry site is on the river! With beautiful views and an abundant wildlife, this is what camping is all about. You will be sharing the area with gorgeous bald eagles and plenty ...

From $40/night

Triangle, Virginia

Oak Ridge Campground

Overview Oak Ridge Campground is a 100-site, wooded campground located in Prince William Forest Park, 35 miles southwest of Washington, DC. The park's land was set aside during the Great Depression...

Triangle, Virginia

Telegraph Picnic Pavilion

Overview Telegraph Picnic Pavilion is a covered pavilion with twelve picnic tables located in Prince William Forest Park, 35 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The park's land was set aside during...

Triangle, Virginia

Turkey Run Ridge Group

Overview Turkey Run Ridge Group Campground has nine wooded group campsites which can accommodate a maximum of 25 to 40 people per site. Located in Prince William Forest Park, 35 miles southwest of ...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike the Woodmarsh Trail

    Just at the entrance to Mason Neck State Park is the Woodmarsh Trail. The entire loop is about 3 miles. This is a pleasant easy hike that is relatively flat with no rocks to speak of. The trail wanders through a forest and passes by a large swamp ...

    2.95 miles 100 ft gain

  • Hike the Bull Run Occoquan Trail

    The Bull Run Occoquan Trail is located in Fairfax County, Virginia and is 50 miles outside Washington, DC and runs along the Bull Run waterway for 6.5 miles from Bull Run Marina to Fountainhead Regional Park. The blue blazed trail undulates for a ...

    13 miles

  • Explore Burke Lake in Fairfax

    Burke Lake Park has something for everyone. Whether you enjoy trail running, hiking, fishing, canoeing, Frisbee golf, or just having a picnic with your family, you can do it all at BurkeĀ Lake. Those who want to be active or exercise can run, hike ...

    4.7 miles 0 ft gain

  • Run or Bike the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve

    Start your adventure at the Belle Haven Parking area then head down the Dyke Marsh Trail. To add on additional distance, head south down the Mt. Vernon Trail for more views, well maintained paths, and even some sitting areas. You'll find boardwalk...

    3 miles