​Contact Information

Chesapeake & Coastal Service
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Tawes State Office Building, E2
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

Phone: 410-260-8912
Fax: 410-260-8739


Christine Burns

Mallows Bay Partners - Steering Committee Logos 


Mallows Bay - Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary

Located on the Potomac River only 30 miles downstream from our nation’s capital, Mallows Bay is renowned for its diverse collection of historic shipwrecks, recreational opportunities and scenic beauty. Through a community-based effort, this Maryland treasure in Charles County is now the first national marine sanctuary in the state of Maryland and the first new designation in more than two decades.

Photo collage of Mallows Bay

The Ghost Fleet

This shallow embayment and the waters nearby are home to nearly 200 historic shipwrecks dating from the Revolutionary War through the present, known as the “Ghost Fleet” of Mallows Bay. On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson issued a national call to arms against Imperial Germany. What followed in the United States was a frenzied effort to build 1,000 wooden merchant ships in 18 months, as part of the greatest shipbuilding campaign in history. Today, the largest extant remnants of that fleet, over 130 wooden and composite steamships built during and immediately after the war, representing the product of dozens of shipyards across the nation, still rests on the shallow floor of the Potomac River at and near Mallows Bay.

Also contained within this region are the physical remnants of one of the most unique industrial ship-breaking undertakings in American history, and nineteenth century commercial fisheries operations, as well as Native-American, colonial, and Civil War terrestrial sites. Due to the area’s historical significance, the Mallows Bay – Widewater Historic and Archeological District was listed on the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places in April 2015.

The Path to Designation

In June 2014 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the American public could again, for the first time since 2000, nominate nationally significant marine and Great Lakes areas as potential new national marine sanctuaries. Due to its historic national significance, unique ecosystems, and abundant recreational opportunities, on September 16, 2014, the State of Maryland, along with over 60 supporting organizations, submitted a nomination to NOAA recommending consideration of an 18 square mile area of the Potomac River for designation.

Throughout 2016, the Department participated on an inter-governmental committee to prepare draft designation documents, including a draft management plan, draft environmental impact statement, proposed regulations and proposed boundaries for the sanctuary. Comments on the draft documents were solicited online and through two public meetings in March 2017.

The sacntuary was formally designated on September 3, 2019. NOAA, the State of Maryland, and Charles County will manage the national marine sanctuary jointly.

Mallows Bay joins an existing network of 14 sites from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic coast through the far-Pacific. For more information on Mallows Bay - Potomac River NMS and other National marine Sanctuaries: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/mallows-potomac/.


Photos clockwise from top left, courtesy of Duke University Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing Program, Jim D'Intino,  Don Shomette and Paula Schiller.

Mallows Bay ship wreck in sidebar, courtesy of Jim D'Intino​

Notice for Sanctuary Advisory Council applications:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is now seeking members for the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. The diverse group of community stakeholders on the council will advise NOAA on the sanctuary management plan and will serve as a liaison between NOAA and the community. Application materials are available on NOAA’s Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary Webpage: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/mallows-potomac/.

Applications will be accepted
through July 1, 2020.

Mallows Bay Fact Sheet

Cover of Mallows Bay Fact Sheet

View Mallows Bay Photos

Secrets of the Chesapeake: Mallows Bay

Winter 2016 Natural Resource Magazine Article

Arial of Mallows Bay courtesy of Duke University 
A Winter 2016 Natural Resource Magazine Article

Winter 2001 Natural Resource Magazine Article

A Winter 2001 Natural Resource Magazine Article