Point Lookout State Park is one of the most popular state parks in the state of Maryland. With a rich civil war history and multiple recreational activities, this park is filled with opportunities to learn and have fun simultaneously. Some of its most popular activities include fishing from the 710-foot fishing pier, searching for game in the 240-acre deer hunting area, and visiting the allegedly haunted lighthouse built back in 1830.
The park is located inSt. Mary's county at the southern tip of a peninsula situated between the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. On the southern end of Maryland's western shore, the park land has remained largely untouched since the Civil War when it was used as a hospital for wounded Union soldiers. Later in the war, it became a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers, many of whom died before the war ended. In fact, on the grounds of the prison camp sits a mass grave holding over 3,000 Confederate soldiers.
In 1965, 100 years after the Civil War, Maryland's State Forest and Park Service began the task of developing these 1,046 acres into what would eventually become Point Lookout State Park. Today, the park is a year-round RV getaway offering guests a large number of outdoor activities as well as a long cultural and natural history that can be explored further at the Civil War Museum and Marshland Nature Center.
Point Lookout State Park is located about 85 miles southeast of Washington, D.C. at the very tip of a peninsula formed between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. The park can be accessed via several main highways and paved roads that lead to the park entrance. Once in the park, visitors will need to take care and watch out for low-hanging branches as many of the roads are shaded by trees.
Point Lookout State Park is very popular, so there is a high number of visitors during the summertime weekends and holidays. The park closes once it has reached full capacity. Visitors should remember to reserve a campground in advance and arrive earlier rather than later.
There are several parking lots located around the park at popular attractions such as the Civil War Museum and fishing pier.
Due to the remote location, there is no public transportation directly to the park, although there is a ferry that travels from Point Lookout State Park to Smith Island, the only inhabited island in the Chesapeake Bay.
Point Lookout State Park features 143 wooded campsites, 33 of which have electrical hookups in Green's and Hoffman's Loops. Additionally, 26 sites within Tulip Loop have sewer and water hookups for RVs. Due to the popularity of this state park, campsites are in high demand, especially during peak season. Visitors will need to make a reservation up to one year in advance in order to ensure campsite availability.
Additionally, the park offers campers and visitors the use of other facilities such as a camp store, pet area, and playground. Pets are allowed in most loops, except for the Lanier and Conoy Loops. Each campsite holds up to six people, and most loops offer multiple communal water spigots. Note that all restrooms close for winterization by November and reopen in April. During this time, portable toilets are available in the park.
If you want to spend a few nights outside of the motorhome, you can stay in one of the park's six cabins. The cabins are located in the Conoy Loop and hold up to four people each as they are furnished with one double bed and one bunk bed. While you can not cook inside the cabin, you can warm up your meals at the outdoor fire ring that is provided. The cabins feature electricity and air conditioning, but no heat. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed in the cabins.
Visitors to Point Lookout State Park can enjoy a 240-acre zone set aside especially for deer hunting. In order to hunt in this zone, visitors must have a valid hunting license. Appropriate stamps and hunting licenses are required for all seasons, and during the early muzzleloader season, only archery-hunting for deer is allowed. Additionally, there are two blind sights where visitors can hunt waterfowl.
Point Lookout State Park is a renowned area for birdwatching enthusiasts. In spring and autumn, the park coasts become prime migration points where, weather permitting, guests will be able to see many different varieties of fowl. During colder weather from late November onward, Great Cormorants can be seen from the area around Point Lookout Lighthouse.
For visitors with a love of the water, there is a boat launch and fish cleaning station at Point Lookout State Park. The ramp is located on the banks of Lake Conoy. Once launched, visitors can exit through the lake inlet and into the Potomac River or travel farther up north to Point Lookout Creek. Boat launching is permitted 24 hours a day, but there are no lights at the ramp. Canoes are also available for rent, and select supplies can be purchased at the camp store within the park.
For more courageous visitors, guided "ghost walks" are offered at various times throughout the year. Both the old Civil War prison camp and the lighthouse are said to be haunted by the spirits of those who died there. The lighthouse at Point Lookout State Park is one of the most famously haunted places in Maryland and has been featured on numerous paranormal investigation TV shows. With any luck, adventurous guests may get a firsthand experience of some of the strange goings-on at Point Lookout.
Point Lookout State Park features various fishing areas, including the 710-foot Fishing Pier. Occasionally the pier does close; however, there are still many other opportunities to fish within the park. Night fishing is quite popular among seasoned fishermen. Visitors with a valid permit may remain in the park after hours and go night fishing from sunset until 6:00 AM. However, every member of the party must have a permit and be actively fishing.
One of the most well-known landmarks of Point Lookout State Park is the lighthouse. Built in 1830 by John Donahoo, the lighthouse stands at the north entrance of the Potomac River. Known as an integral lighthouse, it is considered the oldest of its type in the United States. The light was enlarged in 1880, but it was never automated and was finally deactivated in 1965. Visitors can walk around the lighthouse and check it out up close or sign up for one of the guided lighthouse tours which are offered monthly during the peak season.
The beach area at Point Lookout State Park is the perfect place for campers of all ages to cool off on a hot summer's day. Lifeguards are on duty during the weekends in the summer months. However, visitors will need to keep a sharp eye out for jellyfish who sometimes like to float closer to shore during this time of year. The park also offers beach facilities such as showers, restrooms, grills, picnic tables, and a playground.
Visiting the Civil War Museum is an absolute must if you are in the Point Lookout State Park anytime from May until October. The Museum features several Civil War era demonstrations including artillery and infantry demonstrations as well as many other historical programs and festivities. One of its most popular events is a reenactment of "The Invasion of Lookout Point," an event that occurred during the war of 1812.
Inside the museum, guests will be able to see an array of historical artifacts from the Civil War, including items such as weapons, writings, and information about how the area developed to become a prison camp.