BOHEMIA RIVER STATE PARK

Or: Maryland’s newest state park.

It’s always exciting when a new chunk of public land opens up in my neck of the woods. It doesn’t happen very often for the simple reason that there’s really not much land around where I live to begin with, and most of that is densely settled. By far the largest swathes of public natural spaces within an hour’s drive from my house are preserves such as Bombay Hook NWR and Delaware’s various state wildlife areas, and these are, well…great big tidal swamps, which are truly excellent bird sanctuaries, but not exactly hikeable. As for parks which do have plenty of trails, such as White Clay Creek State Park and Fair Hill, these have both been publicly accessible since well before I was born.  

However, the last few years have seen a surprising increase in new public lands in far southeast Pennsylvania and the bordering northern Delmarva Peninsula. One recent addition is the Big Elk Creek Section of White Clay Creek Preserve, which I’ve been gradually exploring. Another is Maryland’s newest state park, Bohemia River.

Comprised of a mere 462 acres that were purchased by the state of Maryland in 2017, Bohemia River is not the place to go for vast landscapes. It’s a little patch of largely undeveloped riverside real estate which is perhaps more representative of the Eastern Shore of Maryland than a showcase of the region’s scenic wonders. Mostly, the park seems to have been envisioned as an easy access point to the truly beautiful Bohemia River, a tributary of the upper Chesapeake Bay that cuts into the Delmarva Peninsula from the west, with headwaters in Delaware.

And yet, as unassuming as those 462 acres are, they contain a remarkable mix of environments, from open agricultural fields to hardwood forests, marshes, beaches, tidal inlets, and open water. As of now the park contains a modest five miles of trail, though a plan is in place to expand that to ten. Given the gentleness of the terrain, the paths currently in existence are far from difficult as they wind through pleasant ferny ravines and descend to the Bohemia and its tributary, Burkalow Creek.

Along with the additional trails, a soft launch for kayaks and canoes is planned, though as yet there’s no vehicular access to the riverside in the park. I’m not sure if anybody knows when these additions will be completed, though I’ll be interested to come again in a few years and see how things have changed.   

My first visit to the park was on a dark, somber, soggy morning in late May, less than a month after the official opening at the end of April 2022. I was lucky to have the place completely to myself. On each of my subsequent visits there’s been plenty of people in the parking lot, and Oak Point, a small beach where you can directly access the Bohemia, has been bustling with families and kayakers. I’m guessing the spot’s going to get pretty popular in the coming years, once the park becomes more well known (which is fine). 

I also visited the park on the morning of the 4th of July, under very different conditions. It was bright and sunny (though surprisingly cool for July). The entrance fee had been waived for the day, so the little parking lot was full. Still, the trails were far from crowded. Almost everybody there that day was making a beeline for the river at Oak Point.

Another way to see the park is by kayak, which will be much easier to do once the new soft launch is completed. Still, it’s possible to access the Bohemia River from a small parking area right on the other side of Route 213. I fear the lot is rather too small to handle demand during peak kayaking time (the lot was packed on the 4th ). And even when it’s not, it’s a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the water’s edge. I’m hoping what the Maryland Parks Service has in mind will be more convenient.

I took my kayak out on the Bohemia in the middle of June and was able to explore along the shore, past Oak Point and the edge of the Watercress Trail, and then a few minutes up Burkalow Creek, which makes up the eastern boundary of the park.

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