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Just across the Potomac River from Quantico Marine Base lies the greatest concentration of sunken ships in North America. Mallows Bay is a graveyard of half-submerged steamships, some of them poking out from the water’s surface.

This steamship fleet, which cost the government $1 billion, was intended to be used in World War I. But faulty construction and the war’s end rendered the fleet useless.

More than 200 steamship vessels were towed to Mallows Bay on the Potomac River. The ships were packed together so tightly that you could reportedly walk for a mile without touching the water.

Watermen protested; they were certain such a high concentration of “garbage” would affect their livelihoods. Some vessels were burned, but many others were left to sink and rot.

Today, the giant steamships are still there, but now they are home to non-human inhabitants. Great egrets can be found nesting on the decks, while vegetation peeks out from beneath the rust.

Thankfully, the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem has found a way to use these vessels for their benefit.  (For proof,  check out these great photos from kayakers who ventured through the wreckage.) Perhaps the “haunting” nature of Mallows Bay is not one of humans that have been left behind, but resources that have been ill-disposed and forgotten.

Want to see this ghost fleet for yourself? Explore the old boats by kayak or canoe, which you can launch from the nearest boat ramp.