Smallwood State Park pays homage to the highest-ranking Marylander during the American Revolution, William Smallwood. His house was called Smallwood Retreat, where he spent the majority of his life. In 1934, the citizens of Charles County took an interest in the house and its historical value. By the mid-1950s, the state began its restoration of the original plantation house and opened it to the public as Smallwood State Park in 1958.
The park now offers close to 1,000 acres of land for recreational fishing in the summer and offers guided tours through the historic Smallwood Retreat. You can take a trip to see the house and plaque that resides on the front lawn commemorating not only Smallwood’s service to the nation but his dedication helping the newly formed United States of America when he was elected to the Senate in 1791. Sadly, he passed away in 1792 with his mark on history and the small town of Marbury. The land surrounding the house is now used as a state park where you can explore the trails, take a look around the marina, or even discover something new in the Discovery Center.
Children of all ages will love the playgrounds and wide-open fields. The trees provide shade from the hot summer’s sun and privacy from your neighbor in one of the 15 RV sites. While the sites do not offer full hookups, there is a dumping station and water spigot near the campground to provide the necessary services. The park enjoys warm summers and cold winters.
Smallwood State Park is just a 50-minute drive north of Washington, DC, and an hour and twenty-minute drive to Baltimore, Maryland. There are no shopping malls and five-star restaurants in the area but you are able to find small diners and shopping boutiques. You can explore the town and meet some of the locals as you learn about what makes Marbury such a calm town. If you need to buy a few groceries, the nearest supermarket is about 15 minutes away from the park.
On your way into the park, you will notice that the roads are paved, the trees are trimmed, and a welcome sign greets you. Once you are checked in, it might be helpful to take a map of the park as well as find out from the staff about any points of interest in the park. Rather than driving around the park, you can walk to the marina or bike along the trails on your visit. Take a few moments in the morning to listen to the birds calling to each other before you take a morning run around the park.
Smallwood State Park does not have much elevation so it is important to be careful of flooding in the summer and fall months. If you notice that the forecast is particularly stormy, then take a raincheck on your visit to the park. If you plan to arrive later than anticipated, call the park ahead of your arrival to make sure there is a ranger or park host to greet you upon arrival. The gates close at sunset each evening and open bright and early the next morning. You can expect the park to be full in the warm summer months and slightly empty in the cold winter months.
The Family Circle Campground has 15 sites that are available for RV camping. There are only electrical hookups available but you can use the water spigot and dumping station on your way out. You will have to check in with the rangers before you make your way to the campground. While the max limit for a trailer or RV is 30 feet, although some visitors have been able to fit up to a 43-foot trailer. Most of the sites are back-in and level. There are plenty of trees between you and your neighbor, so you won’t have to worry about privacy. Amenities included are a fire ring, lantern post, hot showers, restrooms, and a picnic table. You are not allowed to bring your own firewood and must respect the campground rule which prohibits the gathering of firewood from the surrounding areas. The park does provide you with firewood for a small price, remember to ask your host where you can pick up a bundle. You may stay a maximum of 14 days at a time and can reserve a site up to 11 months in advance.
Mattawoman Creek is stocked with blue catfish, largemouth bass, perch, crappie, and rainbow trout. The lake is a great place to spend the day fishing. If you do not have a boat, then you can rent one from the camp store for a reasonable price. The camp store also offers bait and rods. You do not need a license to fish from the shore or a boat in the park, so be sure to pack your rod and tackle box.
Each summer during the peak season from mid-April to late-October the park hosts guided tours through the Smallwood Retreat. Tours are open for visitors of all ages to participate in. This is a great opportunity to get to know more about the history of Maryland and visit an extraordinary house. The park also offers discovery programs and guided hikes to liven up your visit. So dust off your history hat and come for a visit to one of the oldest houses in Maryland. Rest assured that you will enjoy your time and maybe even learn a thing or two.
There are two trails for you to enjoy during your RV stay in at Smallwood State Park: General Walk Trail and Birdwatchers Trail. Birdwatchers Trail is the easier trail of the two with a steady incline leading you around the park. You can take a hike up this simple trail and enjoy the view along the way. General Walk Trail is a two-mile trail that almost goes along the circumference of the inner park area. Remember to take sunscreen with you and stay hydrated on the trails. Pack your sturdy hiking boots and remember to leave nature as you found it on your hike.
You can be a pirate for a day and go treasure hunting with your family and friends with geocaching. Geocache is simple to play and requires a spirit of adventure, a pen/pencil, sturdy walking boots, a device with GPS capabilities, a water bottle, and your own personal treasure to trade. Before you go explore make sure you know the rules of logging your cache. Be sure to leave a cache area as you found it to keep the adventure alive.
You can rent a canoe from the park’s store year-round at a reasonable price. Take your time to explore Mattawoman Creek and observe the different plants and animals as you glide along the lake. Lifejackets and oars are available for rent as well. You could paddle along the edge of the lake and run your fingers through the cool water. Remember to leave all electronics back at your campsite to prevent them from getting wet or falling into the lake. If you bring a snack out on the lake, please be mindful of the environment and take your trash with you.
Maryland is home over 400 species of birds year-round. You can spot different birds along the shoreline and the trails as you go. Pay close attention to the different types of birds and where they build their nests. Many of the trails offer prime habitat for the Northern Fulmar, the lovely swans, downy woodpecker, and many more. Remember to bring your binoculars and pack a sturdy pair of walking boots, if you plan to do a day of birding then explore the Birdwatchers Trail and pack a snack and some water with you for safe measures.