chesapeake beach rail trail

Chesapeake Beach, MD – To say that the Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail evolved overnight would be a misnomer. The project took more than 20 years of planning and a lot of perseverance dating back to the mayoral term of Gerald Donovan. But today it is one good reason to drive to Chesapeake Beach, among others.

It was under the tenure of former Mayor Bruce Wahl that the long-awaited 1.4 mile boardwalk trail across Fishing Creek utilizing the old railroad line from Washington to the beach resort town came to be. The trail was dedicated Sept. 30, 2011. 

As hiking trails go, this one has something for everyone, and we mean chesapeake beach rail traileveryone. Many of the hiking trails in Southern Maryland have limited access for handicapped, but not the Chesapeake Beach Rail Trail. All citizens are welcome there, and there is plenty to see.

From the numerous songbirds and marsh critters that inhabit the waterway, to ospreys and aquatic life, the trail is a journey across nature.

In addition, there are exhibits along the trail courtesy of the Chesapeake Beach Oyster Cultivation Society (CBOCS). John Bacon, chairman of CBOCS, said the group initially decided to try and work on planting disease-resistant spat on former oyster bars.

“We decided several years ago that the trail was a good place to house young oyster spat to make them a little more resistant to predators,” Bacon said. “By the sixth year we had planted 100,000 oysters in the bay on the Old Rock Reef, which had been cleaned out in 1972.”

CBOCS also started a program with local elementary schools, working with Chespax and naturalists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to host field trips so that fifth-graders could learn about oysters.

“They learn about oysters in the classroom, then they come to the trail to learn about oysters in real life,” Bacon said. “In the last five years we’ve hosted 4,000 kids,” he noted.

The group put an oyster aquarium on the trail, which allows hikers to see graphic and live displays of an oyster from its early stages through maturity, a span of three years.

Not only is the trail an excellent place to learn about oysters, but CBOCS also wanted adults to participate in the learning about other aspects of nature. When the trail was established, the Town of Chesapeake Beach had native trees planted along the way. CBOCS volunteers undertook an effort to identify them. Forty-nine different species are now labeled with signage.

The organization also added osprey platforms and in order to help combat the local mosquito population, installed bat boxes and purple martin houses. They also planted two gardens of mosquito repellent plants that hikers can crush and rub on their skin for effective relief.

Fully handicapped-accessible, the pet-friendly trail is open from dawn until dusk for pedestrians and those on bicycles, walkers or joggers. The trail may become part of a larger network of hiking trails in the future. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) acquired portions of the corridor through the subdivision process and some sections have already been built. Plans call for future sections to be built as available until this corridor serves as the spine for a number of greenway branches.

When developed, the trail will be owned, managed, and maintained by M-NCPPC. It will cross three counties in Southern Maryland, with 28 miles (45 km) of greenway corridor through Calvert and Anne Arundel counties, and 11 miles through Prince George’s County.

Contact Joseph Norris at