Public invited to celebrate designation of Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary

An aerial photo of Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary

On Saturday, November 9, NOAA is inviting the public to celebrate the designation of Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, established to protect the remains of more than 100 abandoned steamships and vessels built as part of America’s engagement in World War I. Mallows Bay, about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., is the first national marine sanctuary designated since 2000.

The community celebration, which is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Mallows Bay Park, will provide the public an opportunity to learn more about Mallows Bay through educational displays, short kayak tours, nature walks, and oral histories about the sanctuary’s maritime heritage. The event will also recognize the State of Maryland, Charles County, and dedicated partners for their tremendous support for the designation.

Mallows Bay is most renowned for the “Ghost Fleet,” the partially-submerged remains of more than 100 wooden steamships that were built in response to German U-boats that were sinking ships in the Atlantic. Although the ships never saw action, their construction at more than 40 shipyards in 17 states reflected the massive national wartime effort that drove the expansion and economic development of communities and related maritime service industries.

Today, nature has reclaimed the ships, with some appearing to look like long skinny islands of vegetation. The wrecks provide shelter for flora and fauna, including fish, beavers and osprey.

The sanctuary was formally designated on September 3, following 45 days of continuous congressional session after publication in the Federal Register on July 8. NOAA, the State of Maryland, and Charles County will manage the national marine sanctuary jointly.