A part of the Potomac River that runs next to Charles County, Maryland, and has a fleet of sunken WWI-era steamships is being designated as a new national marine sanctuary.
Visitors in kayaks get closer looks at the ships submerged in Mallows Bay.
“I know that a lot of our tours that we have in Charles County, which is three Sundays out of the month, they lately have been selling out like crazy,” said Kimberly Demarr of Atlantic Kayak Company.
Interest in Mallows Bay is increasing because its the first new national marine sanctuary in almost 20 years.
“We're extremely excited about the prospects that it brings for regional tourism and recreation,” Charles County Commissioner President Reuben Collins II said.
The 100 ships submerged in Mallows Bay are known as the Ghost Fleet.
“The Ghost Fleet is tremendously important because it is the largest homogeneous collection of ships relating to World War I, merchant marine ships, in one place,” said Susan Langley of Maryland Historical Trust.
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The steamships were sunk in Mallows Bay after the metal on board was salvaged.
Vegetation and wildlife have taken over many of the ships. Some look like islands.
The water is shallow, and visitors can paddle between the ships.
“Unlike a lot of our other national marine sanctuaries — a lot of the resources are underwater — but these resources come to you,” said Sammy Orlando of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay office. “They’re really emergent, especially at low tide.”
Historians say the waters are an archaeologist's treasure trove, with artifacts from the Civil War and the earliest Native Americans who lived there.