Hikes in Southern Maryland

 

Southern Maryland: Point Lookout to Oxon Cove Park


One of the great delights of travel is immersion in a culture — in its history, foods, and the esthetics and economics of landscapes. This is certainly true along the route of the Potomac Heritage Trail in southern Maryland. You can learn about how tobacco and seafood have shaped the economy, land and communities. And you can discover how a region reinvents itself through the diverse array of foods and farm products available today. Along the way are pick-your-own farms and farmstands, markets and restaurants featuring local produce. To help you turn a day trip into an excursion, there are bed and breakfasts and country inns.

The route from Point Lookout, at the mouth of the Potomac River, to Oxon Hill, just south of Washington, D.C., is covered in six hikes. Most of the hiking and walking opportunities are separated by significant stretches of roadway — ground most people will cover by car in ten to fifteen minute interludes. While not the traditional way of traveling a trail, it does allow more time for stopping at farmstands and heritage sites, compared to bicycling or hiking — and for hiking at the parks and sites along the route. Or you can make an easy two or three day outing bicycling the road walks and exploring the many natural areas and heritage sites on foot.

However you travel, you will never be far from water. Nanjemoy Creek and the St. Mary's, Wicomico and Port Tobacco rivers are renowned Potomac tributaries that define the region and tell the stories of colonial America's earliest days. Traveling north toward Washington, D.C., you can see that Southern Maryland's heritage is more than colonial times. Nature is the star of the show, featuring shore grasses, wide river mouths, and wildlife characteristic of the Chesapeake Bay.

Contrasted with the tumbling tributaries upriver and PHT segments spanning the Eastern Continental Divide and the Allegheny Platueau, you can see that the trail and the river are the threads of continuity among the several million people who live in the region.

Two other influences on the landscape are noteworthy: The U.S. military and American Indians. Military installations have been present for almost as long as the European settlers. The Patuxent River Naval Air Station and the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center located at Indian Head and Stump Neck are significant features of the culture and local economy. Interestingly, some of the largest natural areas of Southern Maryland are adjacent to the bases.

With the abundance of places and streams bearing names such as Nanjemoy, Mattawoman, Wicomoco and Chicamuxen, one would expect a richly interpreted history of the region's original people. Yet little remains on the land itself, either in the way of landmarks, present-day settlement, or literature. Even the meanings and origins of many names are largely lost.

The best known people of the area were the Conoy, also called the Piscataway, for the village they inhabited on the river. They spoke an Algonquian language and were closely related to the Nanticoke of the Chesapeake's Eastern Shore and the Kanawha of West Virginia. The Patuxent, whose principal village was in today's Calvert County, were also associated with the Conoy.

The Potawomeck, Wicomoco and others in the Powhatan confederacy from the Virginia side of the river came as visitors and appear to have been prolific place namers. According to the chronicles of Captain John Smith's exploration of 1608, the place names they used are some of the ones that survive today — albeit in forms transformed through time. provide perhaps the most comprehensive picture of the region at the moment of contact with Europeans.

The Susquehanna, who spoke an Iroquois language, pushed into the region in the mid seventeenth century, warring with the Piscataway people, colonists and just about everyone else. Their history lies primarily north along the river that bears their name. Their arrival to the Potomac coincided with the early days of English settlement.

And while the river is naturally occurring, so too are our desires to live within its influence. As others have asked before us, what would be left to enjoy if we all made such a choice? A journey along the PHT is also a journey through many conservation stories — historic landmarks preserved by handfuls of citizens, small towns finding new economic engines through their heritage, shorelines conserved for public use. The most comprehensive efforts involve the State of Maryland and various federal agencies and citizen groups in two locations: Chapman's Landing and Douglas Point, both of which provide increased public access to the river environment.

So while you enjoy the view, consider this: conservation and economy go hand-in-hand in Southern Maryland. In places where land has been preserved for public enjoyment, it was done so through the often complex, and always painstaking give-and-take among many interests and the persistence of determined and caring people.

 

Resources

Each county's chamber of commerce or tourism division provides information on historical, natural and cultural attractions. The Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland offers information of the entire region. For a complimentary copy of Southern Maryland Harvest, a publication listing farms, B & Bs, and restaurants and other heritage-based businesses, contact the Council. The Council also offers resources on public transportation, bicycle maps and public events.

Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium

Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland
P.O. Box 745
Hughesville, MD 20637
301-274-1922

Afro-American Heritage Society
7485 Crain Highway (Route 301)
La Plata, MD
301-843-0371

Bard's Field Bed and Breakfast
Ridge, MD
301-872-5989

Brome-Howard Inn
St. Mary's City, MD
301-866-0656

Chapel Point State Park
c/o Smallwood State Park
2750 Sweden Point Road
Marbury, MD 20658
301-743-7613 or 800-784-5380

Charles County

Fort Foote
National Capital Parks-East
National Park Service
1900 Anacostia Drive, S.E.
Washington, DC 20020
301-763-4600 (site manager)

Fort Washington
National Capital Parks-East
National Park Service
1900 Anacostia Drive, S.E.
Washington, DC 20020
301-763-4600 (site manager)

Goose Bay Marina and Campground
Welcome, MD
301-934-3812

Historic St. Mary's City
P.O. Box 39
St. Mary's City, Maryland 20686
240-895-4990
800.SMC.1634

La Grande RV & Camping Resort
Rte. 5, Leonardtown
301-475-8550

La Plata Farmers' Market
Wednesdays & Saturdays, June-November
Charles County Courthouse
301-934-8345 for hours and detailed directions

Mattawoman Creek Art Center
at Smallwood State Park
Free admission
Friday-Sunday 11-4
301-743-5159

National Colonial Farm
The Accokeek Foundation
3400 Bryan Point Rd.
Accokeek, MD 20607
tel: 301-283-2113
fax: 301-283-2049

Oxon Hill Bicycle and Trail Club

Piscataway Park
National Capital Parks-East
National Park Service
1900 Anacostia Drive, S.E.
Washington, DC 20020
301-763-4600 (site manager)

Point Lookout State Park
P.O. Box 48
Scotland, MD 20687
301-872-5688
301-872-5084 (Fax)

Part of Plenty Bed & Breakfast
8664 Port Tobacco Rd.
La Plata, MD 20646
301-934-0707

Port Tobacco Historic District
301-934-4313

Prince Georges County

Relax Inn
Corner of town square in Leonardtown
301-475-3011

Seaside View Campground
Seaside View Rd.
Ridge, MD
301-872-4141

Smallwood State Park
2750 Sweden Point Road
Marbury, MD 20658
301-743-7613
April-October: 5 am to sunset
November-March: 8 am to sunset
888-432-2267

Smith Island Sojourn
Ferry and visitor information:
410-425-3351

St. Clement's Island-Potomac River Museum
38370 Point Breeze Road
Colton's Point, MD 20626
301-769-2222

St. Mary's City Farmers' Market
Friday afternoons June through September
Call 301-475-4404 for more information

St. Mary's College
18952 East Fisher Rd.
St. Mary's City, MD 20686
240-895-2000

St. Mary's County

St. Mary's River State Park
301-872-5688

St. Michael's Manor Vineyard Bed and Breakfast
Scotland, MD
301-872-4025

Hale House
Ridge, MD
301-872-4558

Take it Easy Campground
Route 249
Callaway, MD
301-994-0494

Thomas Stone National Historic Site
6655 Rose Hill Rd.
Port Tobacco, MD
301-392-1776

Last updated: May 3, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Potomac Heritage NST Office
P. O. Box B

Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

Phone:

(304) 535-4014

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