Chapman State Park

Chapman State Park

Preserved in 1998 by the State of Maryland's Program Open Space (POS), Chapman State Park stretches from the Potomac River to Mattawoman Creek, in western Charles County. The park is a dramatic reminder of the great woodlands that once cradled the Potomac tidewater region.

Visitors to Chapman State Park enjoy a journey through time, to Southern Maryland's pastoral heritage, finding mature forests, rare plants, and bald eagles frequenting the skies above. Park visitors also discover the Mt. Aventine Mansion: the historic home of the prominent Chapman family, who were closely tied to the families of our Founding Fathers George Washington and George Mason. As one stands in front of the Chapmans' grand estate, looking down the Potomac River and Virginia shoreline, enjoying one of the most striking view sheds in the region, our colonial history inspires the imagination.

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Hours

Sunrise to Sunset. Certain activities are permitted outside of the regular park hours.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

None

History

For several thousand years before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans inhabited the area that is now Chapman State Park. In 1608, Captain John Smith passed here on his exploration of the Potomac River. During his riparian voyage various tribal settlements were identified, and maps of the area dated 1673 still showed Native American longhouses where Chapman State Park is now.

However, by 1750, with plantations becoming increasingly common along the Potomac River, Nathaniel Chapman acquired this land, then known as Grimes Ditch. Nathaniel Chapman was a prominent colonial businessman. He was also a friend and business associate of both the American patriot and “Founding Father” George Mason and Augustine Washington, father of George Washington.

The 165 years that followed the Chapman acquisition of Grimes Ditch brought an engaging history that included a tidewater plantation, a large and lucrative shad and herring fishery, the construction of the family’s “Mt. Aventine” manor, the gripping drama of the Civil War, a post-war farm, a Hungarian horse farm, and eventually the creation of Chapman State Park.

Activities

Birding - In 2009, Chapman State Park was designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society

Fishing - Fishing is permitted from shore. Species include largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish, white and yellow perch, carp and hardhead. A Chesapeake Bay Sportfishing License is required.

Hunting - Designated areas of Chapman State Park offer managed and in-season hunting opportunities. For specific information refer to the Maryland DNR Guide to Hunting and Trapping or call 302-743-5161 for current seasons. Hunters may enter/remain on park property outside of regular posted hours provided that they are engaged in legitimate, authorized hunting activity.

Hiking- There are three marked trails: the Potomac River Trail, Marsh Trail, and Coastal Woodlands Trail.

Facilities

The habitats of Chapman State Park vary from flooded wetlands to cactus-studded dry sands, illustrating the variety of the coastal plain’s natural heritage. Significant biodiversity thrives here, with over three dozen state-rare species of oaks, a globally rare snail, wetland animals, native cactus, bald eagles, and much more. The park’s many forest types include oak-hickory terraces, steep ravines, bottomland woods, and a rare shell-marl forest which is rich in calcium-loving plants reminiscent of mountain habitats. Over 1,000 acres of forest interior grant sanctuary for dozens of species of birds, protecting them from predators that hunt more open spaces. Chapman State Park also boasts several trails, 2-miles of Potomac shoreline, miles of streams, shaded wetlands, fertile pools where amphibians breed, sunny meadows, and a large impounded marsh.

Mt. Aventine Open House - The Friends of Chapman State Park host an open house every Sunday between April and September. These open houses feature guided nature walks, history presentations, and children’s activities.

Trails:

  • Potomac River Trail – This hiking trail doubles as a service road that joins the original Chapman’s Landing Road to the Potomac River. The 0.6 mile trail roughly marks the boundary between a dry sandy woodland (to the northeast), and a more moist, richer forest (to the southwest).
  • Marsh Trail – This marked trail branches off of the Potomac River Trail, and meanders through a fertile bottomland woods that contrasts the sandier woodland along the Potomac shoreline. The 0.7 mile trail leads to an unusual “scrub-shrub” marsh which is separated from the Potomac River by a narrow spit.
  • Coastal Woodlands Trail – This clearly marked, 1-mile trail joins the Potomac River Trail to make a 1.5 mile loop. The trail runs through various habitats, including a terrace gravel forest and a coastal oak forest, to eventually run along the Potomac shoreline.

Pets

Pets are allowed in Chapman State Park.

Main image: Chapman State Park
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