Wednesday, March 04, 2015

RoadAbode's Hidden Gems - Janes Island State Park, Maryland

RoadAbode campsite at Janes Island, Crisfield Maryland

Today we are sharing a hidden gem in the state of Maryland. Maybe not exactly hidden to locals or those who have experienced the tranquility and simple, natural beauty found at Janes Island State Park. Janes Island is located on the Lower Eastern Shore region of the Chesapeake Bay. This Maryland state park is partially on mainland and partially on the island itself, is a great spot to settle into with your RV. According to the Maryland State Parks Department website, the island portion of the park – Janes Island – includes over 2,900 acres of salt-marsh, over 30 miles of water trails, and miles of isolated pristine beaches.
In the campground, sites are level and most are shaded by tall pine trees. The best RVing sites seem to be in the "B" loop, and most include 30 amp electrical. There is a water fill and separate dump station available as you enter or leave the loop. Bathhouse B underwent a renovation updating project in the fall of 2014. Though the Park does not have a swimming area, you can reach remote Chesapeake Bay beaches on the island, only accessible by following water trails by kayak or canoe.
There is plenty of wildlife to see and encounter. Turtles, heron, egret and other shore line fauna make their home in and around the island. Janes Island is a salt marsh, so be sure to bring your bug spray to fend off the mosquitoes and biting flies - which are especially prevalent the end of June into July. Hiking, biking or boating, there are plenty of opportunities to see local wildlife. To learn about wildlife stop in at the nature center. Rangers regularly give educational talks about the local area and the unique ecosystem of the  Chesapeake Bay.

Janes Island State Park - Maryland
Janes Island State Park - Maryland
Besides providing lovely campsites, Janes Island itself has lots to offer.


Whether kayak, canoe, or something bigger, Janes Island State Park is a great place to enjoy a paddle or cruise on the water. Daughtery Creek passes right along the campground, and the dock by the nature center and park store offer easy access for personal water craft. There are marked water trails that wind throughout the island’s saltmarsh. Most of the waterways are protected from wind and current, providing a great paddle experience for newbies or the experienced alike.If you did not bring your own kayak or canoe, they are available for rent.

Crabbing and Fishing

This is actually where the RoadAbode Crew learned how to crab! We really had fun learning, and crabbing with friends that biked over from the neighboring town of Crisfield. They had purchased a few acre "getaway" here, and after a few years decided to make Crisfield their home. The park rangers on occasion give crabbing lessons as part of planned activities at the park. Crabbing is great to do with your family because you can have lots of fun with only a little bit of equipment. The main things you need to go crabbing are a ball of twine, pieces of uncooked chicken (chicken necks work best), a clean 5 Gallon bucket and a landing net to pull in your lured crab. All that needs to be done at Janes Island is to sit youself at one of the piers along the Daugherty Creek/Canal tie your chicken neck tightly on your twine, and lower it into the water. Crabs will find the bait, and try to carry it away to somewhere safe for a snack. When you see your line start to "walk" you gently and slowly pull it up - with your landing net at the ready. Once you see the crab in the water still holding onto it's found meal, you dip the landing net underneath and get a crab! It takes a few tries to learn technique, but you'll be capturing the little guys in no time. Whether you opt to throw them back or cook them is up to you, but check in with the ranger station on what sizes or other restrictions there are on your catch. As of this writing, recreational crabbing is free in Maryland - without needing a license: For more crabbing information check the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website
A revamped fish cleaning station was added to the dock area in 2014. Opportunities to cast for flounder, croaker, perch and other types of fish abound. .Though you can fish from the bank, your best possibilites will be from a charter boat or your personal watercraft. A fishing license is required for those16 years or older - but there are exceptions to getting a license free or cheaper. For more information check in at the Park Store, or the Department of Natural Resources website

Other great activities near Janes Island

Crisfield's iconic Water Tower - "Crab Capital of the World"

Access to Crisfield

According to Wikipedia, Crisfield was initially a small fishing village called Annemessex Neck. During European colonization in the 1600's, it was renamed Somers Cove, after Benjamin Summers. When the business potential for seafood was discovered, John W. Crisfield decided to bring the Pennsylvania Railroad to Crisfield, and the quiet fishing town grew.This southernmost town in Maryland is now known as the "Seafood Capital of the World".
While staying in your RV at Janes Island, this small town just a few minutes away would be the best place to grab some groceries, a pizza, or stop and get your fill of fresh seafood. The town is not a location with fancy eateries or upscale cafes. Enjoy a  walk at the city pier and over to the Ice Cream Shoppe located near the city dock for a cone of handmade deliciousness. Observe the work boats bringing in their catch each day and watch the process crabs go through to be ready for your plate.Take a cruise or rent a boat to experience life on the water.

Smith Island Cake is available on Smith Island and in Crisfield
By Jane Thomas (Flickr: smith island cake) [CC BY 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons

Smith Island

One delicious reason to know Smith Island is as the origin of Maryland's official State dessert, Smith Island Cake. This multi-layered cake's most common flavor is yellow cake with chocolate icing, but other flavors such as coconut, fig, strawberry, lemon and orange are also available. Known simply as Smith Island Cake, the dessert is baked for any occasion and not reserved only for specific holidays.
Smith Island is also known for it's residents, which speak with a unique dialect.The island was first settled between 1659 and 1686 by English and Welsh settlers. The inhabitants of the island today can trace their ancestry back twelve generations to those original farmers and fishermen . Even though Smith Island was first found and mapped by explorer John Smith it is not named for him, but Henry Smith, an early land owner. Visit the island and learn it's history, take in the scenery and slow down to a pace of life from long ago.
Smith Island is accessible by ferry or charter from Crisfield's shores. Learn more about Smith Island by visiting their website

Wallops Visitor Center

Chinoteague and NASA Wallops Center

Want to see the wild ponies or learn about space exploration (FREE). Both located on Virginia's Eastern Shore are less than an hour away from Janes Island. Chinoteague is home of the famous Wild Pony Swim and Roundup and Virginia's only resort Island. Plenty of opportunities to shop dine or enjoy the beauty of the area and this quaint resort town
The Wallops Center is a NASA research facility that regularly has testing of rockets and training flights of aircraft. The Visitor Center is located approximately 4 miles from the launch pads with a perfect view of every launch from ground to sky. Inside the visitors center learn about the Wallops facility history, aeronautics, upcoming launches and don't forget to hit  the gift shop for a variety of NASA souvenirs.

These are just some of the adventures you can enjoy at Janes Island and using the campground as your home base. Or, perhaps you'd rather sit by a campfire, enjoy the flora and fauna and just stay at your campsite by this hidden gem of the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Either way Janes Island should be on your "todo" camping list. For more information about Janes Island here is the Maryland State Park Official Link

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