Smallwood State Park
August 27, 2021
Smallwood State Park in southern Maryland offers a variety of activities alongside a picturesque view of Mattawoman Creek, a tributary of the tidal Potomac River.
The area was the ancestral land of the Piscataway Conoy tribe. Eventually the land became a thriving tobacco plantation as part of a large tract of land known as the Mattawoman Plantation. The park is named after General William Smallwood, who was born and raised on the plantation in the 1700s. He was both a decorated soldier in the American Revolution and a popular politician in the Maryland assembly. Smallwood’s economic success was built on the backs of the 56 enslaved people who lived on the property during his time. Many worked as field hands, vegetable gardeners, blacksmiths, and carpenters.
The Smallwood Retreat House, built in 1760, was used as a respite from Smallwood’s aristocratic life as a politician and military-man. In 1792, Smallwood passed away without heirs. The house and land eventually fell into disrepair. In the 1930s a group of enthusiastic locals organized the restoration and put the gears in motion for the area to eventually become Smallwood State Park in 1957.
Tours of the restored Retreat House and the 19th century tobacco barn are available. A Colonial Christmas open house, showcasing historically accurate holiday decorations, is held each December.
At only 628-acres, the Smallwood State Park as an impressive variety of activities. Birding, especially for waterfowl, is a popular activity due to the wide variety of species to see and hear. However, you will want your binoculars in one hand and your fishing pole in the other. Anglers rave about the fish caught from the piers along Sweden Point Marina (please follow local licensing requirements). The park is the launch location of several fishing tournaments.
At only 2 miles of trails, the hiking opportunities in the park are short but beautiful. Want to go further? Jump onto a section of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail which runs alongside the park. This 710-mile trail follows the Potomac River while highlighting historical and cultural features along the way.
The Mattawoman Creek Art Center within the park features local as well as up-and-coming artists. The center provides several art shows throughout the year showcasing a variety of fine art pieces.
A campground offers 8 rustic cabins and 15 tent and RV-friendly campsites. There is a playground, picnic area and pavilions.
With quick and easy access to the Potomac River, the Sweden Point Marina is a popular place to launch boats.
If you can’t make it down to southern Maryland, you can still enjoy the view with the Smallwood State Park Osprey Cam. The birds are most active late-spring through early-summer, but the camera provides a nice view of the river all year long.
Looking for someplace new to visit in the Potomac basin? The weekly About the Basin feature highlighting destinations (on our Facebook, Twitter, and Potomac River Watch) are now available on the Wandering the Watershed map. Readers can now choose a destination from our compiled list of basin gems. Visit regularly as new postings will be added. Enjoy your tour through the Potomac basin! The new feature also can be accessed through the maps page on our website.