- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 8, 2006

Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Md., is a mix of greenery and history, cool lakes and Civil War relics — a hidden jewel of a vacation spot that offers something for everyone.

“It’s a great place to come and relax to get away from all the city hustle and bustle,” says Maryland Park Service associate Rob Jones, who has been with the park since 1999.

The idyllic campground in St. Mary’s County has deep — and sometimes horrifying — roots in U.S. history. The area was first explored in 1612 by Capt. John Smith and was given to Lord Calvert in 1632 by King Charles I. In 1857, the land was bought by William Cost Johnson to be used as a lucrative resort.

Fate, however, had other plans: Within five years, the Civil War had torn through the countryside, cutting like an unstoppable tornado through thousands of Union soldiers. To keep up with the casualties, the U.S. government constructed Hammond General Hospital at Point Lookout in 1862.

One year later, after the Battle of Gettysburg, Point Lookout had another incarnation: as a Confederate prison facility known as Camp Hoffman. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which includes the park service, 52,264 soldiers were incarcerated at Point Lookout, and 3,384 men died battling cold, sickness and poverty.

More than 140 years later, the park clings to its origins with its Civil War Museum and Nature Center. The center includes photographs and lithographs of Confederate prisoners; artifacts such as tins, medals and buttons; weekend historical activities; and a small library where visitors, if they call ahead and reserve a time, can do research on Civil War relatives.

One of the prime historical attractions is the 176-year-old lighthouse on Point Park, which holds open houses the first Saturday of every month, through November.

The tours are led by seasoned volunteers, including some who lived in the lighthouse during World War II.

Finally, to memorialize the location’s macabre heritage, the park will conduct Paranormal Expeditions in the lighthouse, trying to find some of its Confederate specters on the third Saturdays of July, September, October and November.

Some firsthand relics of the Civil War still stand, such as the remains of Fort Lincoln, one of three forts built in 1864 to protect Point Lookout from Confederate Gen. Bradley Johnson, and the remains of the Hammond Hospital, complete with a plaque that memorializes those who were at Point Lookout during the war.

Even if you’re not a history buff, there are plenty of things to do at Point Lookout. “We have grills [and] picnic tables,” Mr. Jones says. “We have a very large swimming area,” he adds, as well as camping facilities. The park also provides for a variety of seasonal activities, such as bow hunting, black-powder hunting and boating.

Another of the park’s chief attractions is its 710-foot fishing pier. Indeed, the pier, combined with nearly 150 camping sites — some with electricity, water and sewage — entice some patrons to stay on the grounds for weeks at a time.

“People can stay here, leave their boat here,” says Al Ciarochi of Edgewater, Md. “They can eat and sleep here, and then go back to fishing again.” Mr. Ciarochi has stayed in the park with his wife, Marie, for the past two weeks.

“This park is a favorite,” he says.

The Ciarochis, who have camped in their Class-A mobile home for the past two summers, say they have found the privacy of Point Lookout to be beyond compare.

“What I think is beautiful about the campgrounds is that they’re spacious,” Mrs. Ciarochi says. “Usually when you’re on private campgrounds, you’re usually piled right on top of each other.”

This privacy comes thanks to an invasive bamboolike reed called phragmites, which gives the flora around the park an almost curtainlike density.

“You couldn’t see the next person over if you tried,” Mr. Ciarochi adds.

The Ciarochis also enjoy the park programs, which they say are a far cry from the forced and hokey programs they have seen at private camps. “You’re not going to see a Saturday night dance here,” Mr. Ciarochi says, “but you will see a ‘moonlight paddle’ by canoe.”

Mr. Jones says, “We have living-history programs, environmental programs, arts and crafts. … They’re open for everybody. They’re all good.”

Indeed, the popularity of the park can sometimes be its downfall. “On the weekends, the day use of Point Lookout is amazing,” Mrs. Ciarochi says.

“The beach is filled,” Mr. Ciarochi adds. “Sometimes, they have to put up a sign that says, ‘We’re closed.’ ”

With “the ability to camp on the forest and camp on the lake,” as Mr. Ciarochi puts it, in addition to the low-fare swimming options, Point Lookout State Park is an attraction on the rise.

Combining an obvious love of its heritage with a keen appreciation for nature and its bounty, Point Lookout State Park is an oasis that is worth every second on the road.


Location: Point Lookout State Park is at 11175 Point Lookout State Park Road in Scotland, Md.

Directions: From Washington, take Interstate 495 to Route 4/Pennsylvania Avenue south toward Upper Marlboro. Continue on Route 4 south across the Solomons Island Bridge and take a left onto Route 235 south. Follow Route 235 south to Route 5 south and turn left. Follow Route 5 south approximately seven miles to Point Lookout. The second road on the right will be the campground, where you should park and register upon arrival.

Hours: Day hours run from 6 a.m. to sunset. The Civil War Museum and Nature Center is open Monday, Thursday and Friday from noon to 4 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: During the week, day-use service charges are $3 per vehicle, $4 per out-of-state vehicle. On weekends and holidays, $5 per person, $6 per person out-of-state. Fees vary depending on the activity.

Information: Call 301/872-5688 or visit www.dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/southern/pointlookout.html.


• If the park is filled to capacity, you will be unable to enter or drive through the park. Call the park office before you go to determine visitor volume.

• There is no cell phone reception in the park, regardless of your service. Pay phones, however, are scattered throughout the park for your use.

• According to the park’s Web site, pets are allowed in Malone Circle, Tulip Loop, Green’s Point Loop, Hoffman’s Loop, on the paved portion of the causeway and on the beach (north of the causeway) to the entrance of Tanner’s Creek. They are forbidden elsewhere.

• There are no restaurants within several miles of the park, but a camp store carries snacks. If you are in the mood for seafood, follow Route 5 northwest for 4.6 miles and turn left onto Wynne Road to find Scheible’s Restaurant at 48342 Wynne Road.

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