By Alex DeMetrick

CHARLES COUNTY, Md. — It may be one of Maryland’s least known historic places, but the Obama Administration is putting Mallows Bay back on the map.

Alex Demetrick reports for WJZ.

Mallows Bay is on the Potomac River in Charles County.

Historian Don Shomette says it contains the largest assemblage of historic shipwrecks in the western hemisphere.

“Right here in Mallows Bay – 122 of them,” Shomette said, counting the number of shipwrecks in the area.

Only the largest ships that sunk in shallow water are visible today.

High tide and runoff from heavy rains hide what low tides usually reveal.

Ships sunk or deliberately scuttled from the American Revolution, the Civil War and World War I are in the area.

“We have just about everything you can think of,” Shomette said. “And we have a living laboratory here because many of the ships are being reclaimed by Mother Nature. Some have trees 30, 40, 50 feet high with colonies of critters living on board.”

“We want this living laboratory to be used for the benefit of everyone,” he said.

The Obama Administration is recommending Mallows Bay, and the county park surrounding it, to be a designated marine sanctuary.

“It’s going to give us perpetual protection on the water and on the landside for the incredible natural resources — historical resources — that are here in Mallows Bay,” Chief of Charles County Parks, Tom Roland said.

Designating a marine sanctuary is something that doesn’t happen every day, or even every decade.

“This will be the first national marine sanctuary designated in 20 years,” Charlie Stek of the Marine Sanctuary Committee said. “And it’ll be the first national sanctuary every created in the Chesapeake Watershed.”

There are still hearings and paperwork to do before marine sanctuary status is granted.

Supporters hope to finish in early 2017.

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