Janes Island State Park is a lesser-known strip of public land on the bay side of the Maryland Eastern Shore , just outside of the lights and attractions of the coastline, but it has a beach of its own and a bit of Maryland history. Catch a crab or a ferry to Smith Island. Or both. Then a sunset over the water in this beautiful outpost on the Chesapeake bay.
|Date(s)||2020-09-04 to 06|
|Activities||Beach, Boating, Car Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Swimming|
|Transport||3 hours by Car (from DC Chinatown)|
|Conditions||Some rain, otherwise excellent.|
|Gear||Core Survival, Car Camping, Kayaking|
I took the mud doggo car camping at Janes Island State Park on the Maryland Eastern Shore labor day weekend, alongside about a dozen from the Mid-Atlantic Outdoors group that has been doing so much critical grassroots charity work throughout the pandemic. We got hit by a lightweight rainstorm the first night, but otherwise were met with excellent weather throughout our trip. The camping facilities at Janes Island are excellent with tightly packed gravel tent pads, hot showers, drinkable water hyrants, and plenty of reservable, dog-friendly campsites. Gates close before 10pm and no late-arrivals are accepted so check-in before it’s too late.
There was a posted notice of a ban on all firewood from off-property although the enforcement of this ban is limited to ‘ask violators not to do this again,’ which didn’t seem so bad until one of the other labor day weekend campers brought a bunch of green wood from home and smoked out the entire loop and sent a bunch of veteran campers packing the next day due to poor sleep from respiratory distress. If you are going too sneak firewood into your campsite, please make sure it was kiln-dried and well stored to prevent emerald ash borer beetles from destroying public lands (read more here). It’ll also ensure that the wood will actually burn and not smokescreen the entire campground.
I particularly enjoyed my near waterfront campsite for the majestic view of Janes Island, Daugherty Creek, and the Chesapeake Bay. The insect level necessitates long sleeve shirts, pants, and crew socks, but is not unexpectedly bad. You can catch decent blue crabs no more than 50 feet from your campsite and one of our group managed a half dozen keepers in a morning before releasing them. Janes Island has a beach on the Chesapeake that is accessible by boat only and the park has a marina and a free kayak launch. Sunsets are gorgeous looking out over the island.
The camp store is currently closed due to COVID, but firewood is sold at the park station and supplies can be found in nearby Crisfield, MD. I wasn’t too impressed by the food options but there is a Food Lion in town. Some of us also took the Smith Island cruise and spent half a day on the island, which is entirely walkable and the native home of the Maryland state dessert – the Smith Island Cake, which was pretty good. I also recommend the cole slaw at the Bayside Inn, it’s pretty good.
Our group also got to witness an odd Trump rally on Sunday in the form of a boat parade in the canal. Not really sure what the message was, but quite a few of them played country music and scared off the crabs during the sunset hours.
This was the first car camping trip that I got to try my new car camping kit out on, although I went without my beach chair – my brother having utterly destroyed it last month. The 10’x10′ Coleman 6 person tent is comically large, being tall enough for me to stand in the middle, with the walls high enough that the mud doggo couldn’t see out of the tent. I’m going to have to include something for her to stand on to see out and a couple floor mats to take on sand. The Coleman camp cot has also immediately begun falling apart, showing really low quality stitching. I’m sure I’ll be able to get a full year of use out of it though and the frame seems fine.
Janes Island has some stiff competition in the area. I appreciated nearby Pocomoke River State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore just as much or more for about the same distance to drive. It does feel like you’re getting away from the crowds, however, when you’re pulling up a chicken neck on a string with a nice big Maryland blue crab optimistically holding on. This trip report was way too verbose, I’m sure the next one will be significantly cut down…