St. Charles Day Trips: A Jewel on the Mattawoman Creek – Smallwood State Park

Monday, April 29, 2013

Head down 301, then wind your way west of La Plata, to find the 628-acre Smallwood State Park on the banks of Mattawoman Creek. The Park was named for General William Smallwood, a native born Charles County resident and the highest ranked Marylander who served in the American Revolutionary War. His house, called Smallwood's Retreat, has been restored and is open to visitors seasonally. Besides the restored house, the park offers a new nature center, marina, boat launching ramps, a picnic area, camping area, pavilions, a recycled tire playground and nature trails. On occasion, there are craft demonstrations, military exhibitions and other special events.

The plantation house reflects Smallwood's lifestyle as a gentleman planter and is open and free to the public from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays from May until the end of September. Tours are conducted by costumed docents. Have a fishing license? If not, it’s not hard to get one but several piers at nearby Sweden Point Marina are perfect places to fish for large and smallmouth bass, catfish, white and yellow perch and carp.
For younger children, check out the staffed nature center, which just opened last summer. Younger children will enjoy the Recycled Tire Playground with climbing walls, zip lines, tire swings, a fish-themed music wall and much more. More than half the structures in the playground are accessible to children with disabilities and more than 65 hand-painted fish adorn the playground equipment! Adults will admire the entrance art murals by Mattawoman Creek artists, Bob Kenyon and Gene McCandless.
Two miles of nature trails wind through natural and historical areas but there are many options to keep the trek shorter if you like.
There are two highly unique events coming to Smallwood State Park this season, according to Ranger Patrick Bright, Jr., Manager of the Southern Maryland Recreational Complex. First, coming up on May 4th, Catfish Nation, Chappy Outdoors and Smallwood State Park will host a fishing tournament and Wounded Warrior “Giving Back” Event at Smallwood, welcoming our local heroes out on the boats for a day of catfish fishing! Those in the know will come by after noon for the weigh in. Be prepared to see 40 to 50 pound behemoths as the day’s catch gets unloaded and weighed! Check out the event at
On June 30th, Whackfactor Outdoors, ProFish, Bowfishing Assn. of America and Flying Dog Brewery will join with Guest Chef, Chad Wells, of Rockfish in Annapolis, for the 2013 Potomac Snakehead Tournament! You’ve heard about these menaces to the Potomac! During this tournament, fisherman will head out in the dark of night (on the 29th) to compete by floodlight for the heaviest load of Snakeheads brought in from the river. Last year, more than 1,000 pounds of Snakeheads were caught in the Creek and the River, with the meat donated. Chef Wells, who is known for his creative Snakehead recipes will have tastings so come on the 30th for the weigh-in and fun. Details are at The Smallwood State Park website can be found at Be sure to check out this fascinating and fun State Park just a short drive from St. Charles!