Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Potomac River #2 - The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

Charles County, Maryland 

The story of Mallows Bay is long and complicated. It begins in 1917 as the United States prepares to enter World War I. There was a tremendous demand for ships, and a scheme was put forth to construct a fleet of wooden steamships for shipping service. The wooden ships would be cheap, quick to build and free up shipyards to build steel naval vessels. By the end of the war, only 134 of the planned 1000 wooden vessels had been launched. The ships continued to be built after the war and by September, 1919, 264 wooden steamships were complete.

The wooden ships, built to a standard design were 240 to 300 feet long.

By the end of 1920, the government had decided to dispose of this fleet of obsolete and poorly constructed ships, and after several largely unsuccessful salvage attempts, the fleet ended up scuttled in the Potomac River at Mallows Bay. The remains are visible to this day. To read the whole story of The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay click here

We anchored just north of Mallows Bay and walked along the shore to where the ships lie. Over the years the bay has become rich habitat for wildlife—the rotting hulks forming a sort of artificial reef. We saw herons, ospreys and an eagle as we approached the ghost fleet.

Notice the osprey at the far left on what must be the lowest osprey nest I have ever seen. There is also a fishing boat in the shadow of the hull in the distance.


  1. Reminds me of the ghost fleet on the James River in Virginia.

    1. That's interesting. In 1920, the entire fleet, before being sold to private salvors in 1922, was mothballed on the James River.

  2. That's a fascinating story, Edd. It must be something to see in person. Thanks for sharing the story and your photos.

    1. Ed, I have visited Mallows Bay many times over the years and it is indeed a fascinating place that I never tire of.


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