Chesapeake Bay was created approximately 10,000-years ago from
melting glaciers and it is home to 238 varieties of finfish, 173
species of shellfish and nearly 3,000 plant types. It is the
largest estuary in the country and the third largest in the
world flowing 200-miles with 11,684-miles of shoreline.
The bay is
a narrow waterway bisecting Maryland that is part of the
Atlantic Ocean. The towns and villages located on the western
shore are a fishing, hiking, boating paradise that has unique
offerings for history lovers and those seeking a peaceful
At the time
of European contact there were as many as 14,000 Native
Americans in the area with the
Piscataway Indians living along the western shore.
Captain John Smith, in 1608, was the first to document and map
his exploration of the area. The bay was named Chesapeake from
the native word “chesepiooc,” meaning “Great Shellfish Bays.” As
proof of the abundance of oysters, archeologists have found a
30-acre midden heap 20-ft. deep filled with oyster shells.
one of the original colonies. In 1632 the Catholic Calverts were
given 12-million acres of land that encompassed all of Maryland
and a large part of PA. They established a colony founded on
religious tolerance and free trade. The 189-mile Religious
Freedom National Byway trail helps visitors explore significant
sites connected to the area’s religious history. Bit.ly/rfsbyway
colonists raised mainly corn, tobacco and wheat and their diet
consisted of large amounts of seafood. Turtles quickly became
the slave’s main diet to such an extent that a law was enacted
that limited their owners to serving them once a week. The area
continues to focus on agriculture and seafood. Choosecalvert.com
Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission has
created a trail challenging visitors to buy and eat at local
farms. The trail incorporates wineries and farms that were
selected for their quality, commitment to excellence,
educational opportunities, views and overall uniqueness. Guides
are available online.
seven Amish families moved to rural southern Maryland because
they felt that Lancaster, PA was too crowded and they were
opposed to some of PA’s laws regarding education. Maryland
exempted the Amish and in in 1972,
Wisconsin vs. Yoder,
ruled that mandating the Amish children attend beyond 8th
grade violates their religious freedom. More than 200 families
now farm in the area. Clover Hill Dairy is an Amish owned dairy
that is renowned for the superior quality of their products and
the Amish Farmer’s Market sells fresh seasonal produce, flowers
and baked goods.
Farm, a 362-acre working farm, offers interactive tours,
hands-on activities, events and special programs for children.
It is a 7th generation farm and one of the few that
continues to grow tobacco. Food trucks enhance the experience
with Maryland’s best crabs.
American Chestnut Land Trust is approximately 3,000-acres
purchased to preserve and connect people to the land. It is the
last intact watershed in the region. Within the ACLT visitors
can take guided hiking and canoeing trips and discover 1,000
wildlife species. Tours of the site feature a 90-ft. long beaver
dam, a rain garden and a food forest consisting of foods that
the early population would have found growing naturally.
Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary is one of the northernmost swamps
in the nation. A boardwalk leads through the swamp and provides
great views of Bald Cypress trees that tower up to 100-ft. An
on-site museum displays information and dioramas about the
geography and plant and animal life of the swamp.
Gray Heritage Farm is a 196-acre tract of the Calvert Creeks
Rural Legacy Area. It features an example of a “rolling road”,
one used as early as 1725 to roll wooden barrels of tobacco to
the wharves. The George Rice farmhouse and three outbuildings
are also located there. Rice, an African American purchased his
land in 1902 and resided there until 1938.
545-acre Flag Ponds Nature Center is a must. The area is 12-20
million years old and boasts 3-miles of nature trails and 4
habitats within .05-miles. Once fishermen caught fish in the
ponds. Modern visitors can hunt for fossils along the beach and
they are guaranteed to locate some. Examples of fossils are on
display in the visitor’s center.
smallest county is Calvert, home to the Calvert Cliffs. The
cliffs are 30-miles long and 120-miles high and are over
10-million years old.
They are imbedded with more than 600 species of
prehistoric fossils from whales to seabirds. There are 13-miles
of marked trails.
and Chesapeake Beach are the twin bayside beaches. North Beach
is located on the northern tip of Calvert County and has a
.50-mile boardwalk and 7-block waterfront. The Bayside History
Museum places emphasis on the history of North Beach. The beach
offers fishing, swimming, kayak rentals and boat slips.
way to learn about Chesapeake Beach is to follow the Historic
Heritage Trail. It was developed as a resort area in the 1890s.
The Chesapeake Beach Railway operated from 1900 to 1935 and its
story is related in the Railway Museum housed inside a former
station. The Railway Trail has wonderful views of Fishing Creek
and the surrounding terrain.
Park has the largest collection of historic shipwrecks, the
Ghost Fleet, in this hemisphere. The 185 documented wrecks have
created a unique ecosystem that is filled with wildlife and
supports recreational fishing, boating, kayaking and hiking. It
is possible to sail in and around the fleet.
The area is
filled with Native and African American history. Blacks
constructed many of the vessels, they worked aboard some of
these ships and some enslaved people entered the region through
the shallow waters of the bay. An outstanding educational
program, Through Piscataway Eyes, is also available. It seeks to
relate the history and culture of the Piscataway on the soil of
their state homeland. This authentically native interpretation
allows visitors to learn and experience the native lifestyle and
influence on the larger culture.
and Chesapeake Beach are twin bayside beaches. North Beach is
located on the northern tip of Calvert County and has a .50-mile
boardwalk and 7-block waterfront. The Bayside History Museum
places emphasis on the history of North Beach. The beach offers
fishing, swimming, kayak rentals and boat slips. #1Xmas town
way to learn about Chesapeake Beach is to follow the Historic
Heritage Trail. It was developed as a resort area in the 1890s
and the Chesapeake Beach Railway operated from 1900 to 1935 and
its story is related in the Railway Museum housed inside a
former station. The Railway Trail has wonderful views of Fishing
Creek and the surrounding terrain.
events and activities take place at the Chesapeake Beach Resort
& Spa. It is a destination in itself but it is located within an
easy drive of all the main attractions on the Western Shore. It
offers rooms with waterfront views, fine dining, a spa menu of
treatments, a casino and a vast array of water sports. Rock the
Dock, a series of concerts, is presented on the beach in a
unique Band Shell.
can go from sea to stars in only a short drive. Spaceflight
America and Science Center is an excellent walk into the history
of spaceflight. This museum is filled with artifacts and
interpretive galleries that will awe you. Everything here is a
highlight but you must not miss a full sized replicated space
station, the earliest digital camera, a 1998 model that cost
$15,000 and held 6 pictures, Russian, Chinese and American space
gear and an authentic Mission Control console. With all those
wonders my favorite was the medical treatment apparatus. In
space astronauts need speedy diagnosis and this milk crate sized
device takes 30-seconds to complete a full analysis of every
possible medical condition.
Patuxent River Naval Air Museum relates the history of more than
70-years of naval aviation in a newly opened $5.6-million
facility within an indoor-outdoor complex. A replica of the
first, 1911 naval airplane, greets you in the foyer. After
visiting exhibits in the main museum visitors proceed to the
Flight Line, 21 planes including experimental and supersonic
planes. The test pilot school is on the adjoining base and these
are actual planes tested there. People who were part of the
program give the tours and insider information such as, army
navy and marine planes must be 90% compatible so that parts are
interchangeable. The final stop on the tour has full sized
flight simulators that allow visitors to select their own combat
mission. This is another hidden gem.
Why stop on
the surface when you can dig deeper at the 560-acre Jefferson
Patterson State Park and Maryland Archeological Conservation
Laboratory. Once the site of a, 10,000 BC, woodland Indian
village, it now contains interpretive trails and more than 65
archeological sites. The conservation lab features artifacts,
90% from MD and 10% federal and offers tours and public
archeology days. Spotlighted on the grounds is the site of
Sukeek’s Cabin. Sukeek, Jane Dawson, an African American lived
there from 1880-1920. She died the day she received a letter
that her son was killed in WWI.
Bowles purchased 2,000-acres in 1699 and erected a 2-room cabin.
In 1703 his slaves built the main house. Records indicate that
in 1723 he purchased 263 slaves and in 1729 he sold the tobacco
plantation. During the War of 1812 out of the owner’s 60 slaves
48 escaped to the British. One slave escaped during the Civil
War and joined the USCT.
Plantation is the sole remaining tourable Tidewater plantation.
Mansion tours begin with a 10-minute orientation film. Important
features of the house include the magnificently slave carved
tulip poplar alcoves in the drawing room and a 1760 Chinese
Chippendale staircase. A slave cabin on-site houses “To Be
Enslaved,” an exhibit that interprets the slave experience in
the region through artifacts and displays.
Old Wallville School is a significant site in American history.
This tiny building functioned as the separate African American
High School. Teacher Harriet Brown discovered that white
teachers with the same experience and education were paid nearly
double the salary of black teachers. She went to the NAACP where
a young attorney, Thurgood Marshall, took the case. In 1937 it
was ruled that unequal salaries violated the 14th
Amendment and this landmark case laid the groundwork for
equalization of salaries.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden was founded n the 90s and it became a
Smithsonian Associate in 2003. A museum, surrounded by more than
25 outdoor sculptures, showcases rotating exhibits. The most
famous sculpture in the garden is Antonio Mendez’s “The Oyster
Tonger.” It as the first sculpture purchased and depicts an
oysterman in honor of the men who fished the region.
Farm is a 250-acre working agri-tourism farm. It was a native
Acquintanacsuck village, a landing point for John Smith in 1609
and a campsite for British in the War of 1812. The farm is
family owned and offers tours, a petting zoo and a farm store.
it was the Smith tobacco plantation and recently 23 graves of
enslaved infants and adults were discovered. The most recent
grave dates from 1810. Some of the bodies were exhumed for DNA
testing, one individual’s face has been reconstructed
forensically and visitors can see his face across the centuries.
They named him Lazarus. The burial ground has been kept as they
would have been and a documentary, “Remembered by the Wind,” is
Shore is ground zero for seafood and farm to table dining. I
could make dozens of recommendations but here are a few
Bakery is renowned as the 3rd generation bakery of
delicious éclairs. They are made from scratch and are the
favorites of movie producers and presidents.
located inside a 1920s movie theater and decorated with posters
of movies that were once shown there. Rex’s specialty is modern
twists on comfort food and their signature Rex Charcuterie is
outstanding. The restaurant is in the heart of Leonardtown’s
Arts and Entertainment District, the only one in southern MD.http://www.therexmd.net
Fired Bistro is not to be missed. You may have seen some of the
kids on “Chopped Junior” from their children’s cooking classes.
They use wood-fired ovens, locally sourced foods and herbs that
are grown on the restaurant’s roof. The menu changes seasonally
and it features a 6-course bourbon dinner.
you have heard about all the wonders of the Western Shore of
Maryland you still aren’t convinced, remember the US Oyster
Festival. The festival will be held October 15-16 and highlights
the National Oyster Shucking Contest and the National Oyster
Cook-Off. There is nothing like it.
Maryland’s western shore is an outdoor paradise that begins only
30-miles south of Washington, DC.
American Roads and
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