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Janes Island State Park, Maryland

January 4, 2006
Filed under Camping Destinations, Northeast Camping

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Combine the sights and sounds of the first of the season’s migrating Canada geese with a platter of the last of the season’s fresh, golden brown soft-shell crabs and you could only be on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Add a dish of the area’s famed fresh, sweet stewed tomatoes and a slice of the multilayered Smith Island cake and you will think that you’re in paradise!

Pitch your tent or park your motorhome at modern Janes Island State Park and you will indeed confirm that you have completed the journey. Be sure to bring along your canoe, kayak or boat. The park and its surrounding region offer access to camping, fishing, swimming, crabbing, canoeing, sea kayaking, hiking and a physical-fitness trail for those who enjoy tidewater-region adventure.

PLENTY TO OFFER at Janes Island State Park

The park offers more than 100 campsites, each with a picnic table and fire-ring, accommodating both RVs and tents. Several rustic camper cabins are offered, as well. Looking for more comfort? Try one of the four modern log cabins. Each cabin has a maximum capacity of six persons, and is available all year.

Many of the facilities provide handicap
access, including restrooms, one cabin, five campsites, the nature center, fish-cleaning table, the dock area and conference center. Children’s playgrounds are in the more developed areas of the park.

A boat ramp and marina with 25 slips is available to campers for a minimal fee. Boats with and without motors may be rented from May through September. Canoes and kayaks are also available for rent from an on-site concessionaire.

Janes Island State Park is an outstanding 3147-acre natural resource. There are two distinct areas: a developed mainland and a remote portion accessible only by boat. Miles of isolated shoreline and marsh areas are perfect for anglers, birdwatchers and paddlesport enthusiasts.

At the nearby 26,000-acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, an estuarine marshland ecosystem, the bird life numbers in excess of 250 individual species. In the fall, about 35,000 Canada geese and 15,000 ducks fly into Blackwater for a winter refuge.

Purchase a copy of the Janes Island State Park Water Trail guide and take a self-guided tour of the pristine marshes, or arrange a guided sunset tour for breathtaking views of Tangier Sound.
Maryland has four distinct seasons, with spring and fall being particularly pleasant with low humidity and mild temperatures. Summers can be hazy, hot and humid with afternoon thundershowers.
The average July temperatures range between 80 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Situated along the shores of Tangier Sound and Big Annemessex River, Janes Island is steeped in history. The area was explored by Captain John Smith in 1608 and settled by English colonists in 1658. Their direct descendants still inhabit nearby Smith Island. You can take the daily passenger ferry that links the tiny island with the historic Eastern Shore town of Crisfield for an exciting side trip.

TIME TRAVEL

Going to Smith Island is like stepping into a time warp — it’s to be savored and long remembered. If you choose to take the Smith Island day-boat trip to the tiny village of Tylerton, arrange for a guided visit to the Women’s Crab Picking Cooperative. You just might be in for the experience of a lifetime.

Once heard, the hauntingly beautiful words of the Methodist hymn “Till the Storm Passes By,” as sung by the ladies of the Smith Island Crab Cooperative, will burn deep into your soul and forever haunt your psyche. It is like no other hymn sung in any church.

The ladies sing it almost spontaneously, as part supplication for the safekeeping of their watermen husbands and sons, and themselves, and part pastime while picking the blue crabs brought to the co-op by their men.

Smith Island, Maryland, is a camper’s ultimate destination. You can’t get there in your car; you have to drive to Crisfield and then take a commercial passenger ferry. The dock is just a few miles from your campsite at Janes Island State Park. Sorry, no cars are allowed on the small island, so bring good walking shoes or your bicycle.

A part of Somerset County, Smith Island is located between Tangiers Sound and the Chesapeake Bay, 13 miles west of Crisfield. The Maryland-Virginia state line intersects the southern tip of the island. The original inhabitants of the island were Native Americans of the Annemessex nation, and Annemessex artifacts still wash ashore during violent fall and winter storms.

Today, some 300 hardy souls stubbornly cling to a way of life on Smith Island. You’ll find that the residents of this remote speck of land still speak a brogue they trace back to Elizabethan times.

What you will not find on Smith Island are fast-food chains, sidewalks, convenience stores, amusement parks, boat rentals, boutiques, movie theaters, Laundromats, taxi cabs or liquor stores. What you will find are the biggest, best crab cake sandwiches found at the local market and some of the friendliest people on Earth. It’s well worth an extra long weekend!

When You Go To Janes Island State Park, Maryland

Janes Island State Park
26280 Alfred Lawson Drive
Crisfield, MD 21817
410/968-1565
dnr.state.md.us

Smith Island Ferry
410/425-4471 or 410/425-5931

Somerset County Tourism
800/521-9189
skipjack.net/le_shore/visitsomerset

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