While walking alongside the dark Pocomoke River at the Shad Landing Park, part of the Pocomoke State Park system, it’s easy to understand why natives used to refer to the area as Blackwater. The water is exactly that: still, deep, dark, black water. The rivers seem thick and stagnate; colored from the draining decay of neighboring Cypress swamps.

The Great Cypress Swamp encompasses the Pocomoke State Park is a forested freshwater swamp located in southeastern Maryland. A large wooden sign on Route 113 between Pocomoke City and Snow Hill marks the entrance to the Shad Landing area of the park. Another entrance, to Milburn Landing, can be reached off of Nassawango Road in Snow Hill, MD.

During the fall season, the still black water of the rivers and swamp is covered in floating fallen leaves and browning lily pads. The once green and full vegetation withers due to the changing temperatures and increasingly chilly winds. The scene becomes polar opposite of that which occupied the space just months before. The swamp land has seen incredible changes, not just seasonally, but over its entire lifetime.
Over the years, the Pocomoke River State Park has overcome various dangers:
  • An iron furnace (the Nassawango) and small town (Furnace Town) were established in the center of the forest during the 19th century.  Both the furnace and its town were later abandoned when iron levels in the water soaked land depleted and other minerals became easier to access.
  • The forest was overtaken by a disastrous peat fire during the 1930s. The forest fire, that lasted more than 8 months, destroyed much for the plant life that occupied the land. In the mid-1960s, the park was developed for intensive recreational uses and the area became officially known as Pocomoke River State Park.
  • The swamps of Pocomoke once yielded large amounts of timber.  Stages of over-harvesting have been recorded and can be notice while recording the ages of trees. Foresting takes place in areas surrounding the forest now, but the park area is now sheltered from any form of tree farming.
Now, native strands of loblolly pine dominate the upland areas while cypress and other hydric species of trees are found in the swamps and lower lying lands.  As the northernmost of the southern swamps on the eastern seaboard, the Pocomoke River State Forest is unique in comparison to other Maryland state parks and parks in the nation.
The Pocomoke River State Park is open year-round for the public to enjoy. The park is home to a small marina, a boat launch, store and canteen, Olympic-sized pool, nature center, picnic areas, and many, many miles of trails. With over 15,000 wooded acres of land, the park is perfect for kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking, and learning about our local ecosystems.
Camping is permitted at both Shad Landing and Milburn Landing areas of the park. Together, the park has 175 campsites. Only select areas of the camp are open for winter use.  Campsites can be rented for about $25 per night or $32 per night if electricity is desired. Campsites are located only steps away from the river, in wooded areas, and with direct access to driveways. View the map to the right for campsite locations.
To read more about Shad Landing’s sister park, Milburn Landing, read this ShoreBread article: Silently Dreaming of Milburn Landing.
Other ShoreBread outdoor articles:
Photos by Ami Reist.