One might hear Calvert Cliffs State Park and immediately think awesome shark tooth hunting. After all, the features for which the locale is named are well known as the source of millions-of-years-old fossils along Chesapeake shores. However, in our experience, fossil finds are not what make the park an excellent day trip destination; whenever we have visited, we’ve found just a few small shark teeth at most. [Note: The pics here are from a visit this past summer… ’cause I have to keep the theme going of posting months after our visits. 😉]
What is more appealing about Calvert Cliffs State Park are its other main recreational activities: Hiking, beaching, and swimming. There are 13 miles of trails total within the park, including one that is the direct route to the beach. It’s pretty evident where to catch the Red Trail from the parking lot, then it’s a two-mile ramble to reach the sand and surf, but a fairly easy and very scenic one.
The route is flat and mellow for the most part, so little ones can tackle it, and stretches through woods and along edges of marshes. Part of the trail is a wide dirt path shaded by tall leafy trees and part is a boardwalk that extends along wetlands. You can walk and take in expansive views of the marsh areas filled with lily pads and aquatic plants. In a few places, the boardwalk extends out into them for a closer look, and there are a couple of benches on the way to sit and enjoy the scenes.
When you come to the one fork in the trail, there’s a sign that points the way to the beach. Follow that and you’ll eventually hit the stretch of sand where you can find a place to park your stuff and hang out awhile. It’s not a huge area as barriers are in place to keep people from accessing the actual cliff areas. Expect to share the space with a good amount of other people on nice days, especially weekends, though not too many that it’s crowded. The park limits capacity, even more during Covid, so it’s not overwhelming.
Swimming is permitted, and the water is shallow and calm, but look out for jellyfish. If you’re into fossil hunting, definitely do some searching for relics — like I said, I have found some small pieces there — but don’t be disappointed if you don’t find much. And what you don’t find fossil-wise, you’ll make up for with a nice little hike and beach fun.
Calvert Cliffs State Park is located at 10540 H. G. Trueman Road in Lusby, MD, about a one-hour drive from DC. Entry to the park is $7/vehicle, and it’s open sunrise to sunset. Bring along a picnic as there are no concessions in the park, just keep in mind that whatever you pack you’ll be carrying two miles. And make a stop at the bathroom near the parking lot since there isn’t one at the beach area.
The boardwalk to the beach after a half-mile hike from the car
Happy first day of summer! Images of the beach seem like a perfect way to welcome the new season, so here are some scenes from our outing to Flag Ponds Nature Park yesterday. It was a nice time to be there — the sun was shining, the breeze off the water kept us cool on a hot day, and the water was calm (though unfortunately filled with jellyfish, so we didn’t go much more than ankle deep in it). But it was so nice to enjoy the sun, sand, and, of course, some shark tooth hunting.
You can read more about Flag Ponds Nature Park in this KFDC post. And a few new things to note: The admission fee is now $8/car. And we learned the hard way yesterday that they only accept cash at the entrance (luckily, there is an ATM about a 5-minute drive away). But put it on your summer to-do list. Just an hour’s drive from DC, Flag Ponds makes for a great day trip!
Looking for shark teeth on the shoreline
Colors of summer
Lounging in the sun
Beach goers bring fossil hunting gear here
There’s about a mile stretch where you can hang out by the Chesapeake
Shark teeth and fossil finds
The landscape is different every time we go as inlets change with the tides
The walk there and back winds through a pretty wooded area
I think it’s been established by now that I like fossil hunting. I’ve blogged about it several times, and have posted about my shark tooth searching excursions on Facebook even more. And something I’ve learned from that: You guys are pretty into it, too. Not only do the posts get tons of interest, I’ve also had many readers tell me they’ve gone fossil hunting with their families on my recommendation and loved it. Which is why I know you’ll be interested to hear about one of our recent adventures, easily one of our favorites this year.
The beach is a year-round destination when you’re fossil hunting
A few weeks ago, on a lovely Sunday in November, we went on a fossil hunting tour with Ruddy Duck Adventures. This is fossil hunting and then some. The day-long outing in Calvert County includes a fossil hunting excursion with an extremely knowledgeable guide, plus hot chocolate on the beach; a visit to the fantastic Calvert Marine Museum, including lunch brought to you there; and dinner at one of their restaurants with a beer tasting for the adults.
A half-mile hike precedes the fossil hunt
Our adventure started at Flag Ponds Nature Park, where we met our guide, Russ, in the parking lot. From there we hiked the half-mile to the beach, during which he gave us the prehistoric background on the area, engaging the kids as they talked about what it was like millions of years ago. Once on the beach, he didn’t waste any time getting us started on our search for shark teeth and other fossilized remains of the Miocene Epoch.
They’re onto something…
And this was one of the best parts of having a guide. Russ is a huge fossil hunting enthusiast and knows about much more than just the shark teeth and skate dental plates that we’d normally look for on our own. He showed us all kinds of interesting fossils and talked about the species they came from that once inhabited the area. He also brought along special gear for the kids to use, which made them feel like “real” fossil hunters, and had them find some of the fossils for themselves once he led them to a general area after spotting the piece.
A cluster of fossilized shells
Getting the lay of the land from an expert
He was also happy to answer all of my random questions about his fossil hunting methods and habits. I learned some new ways to look for fossils (you’ve got to go yourself if you want to find out!) and that some of these guys and gals are super hardcore hunters. I asked Russ when he’d last been out to search and he casually told me it was during the previous night from 11pm to 2am when the tide was low — and he wasn’t the only one there. Needless to say, we were getting the grand tour from someone who was passionate about his hobby, which in my book is the best way.
Scanning the sand at low tide
A shark tooth to fill the gap?
After a good while on the beach with a nice stash of fossils, we headed back to the parking lot where we had snacks and hot chocolate (on my suggestion, Ruddy Duck now brings that down to the beach). We parted with Russ there, but not before he gifted us with Megalodon teeth a friend of his found in North Carolina and provided the itinerary for the rest of our day.
The Megalodon replica is one of many cool highlights at the Calvert Marine Museum
A display to compare our finds!
The next stop was the Calvert Marine Museum, which was a perfect continuation of the adventure. You can explore how the Prehistoric past, natural environment, and maritime heritage come together to tell a unique story of the Chesapeake Bay. Fascinating exhibits, including display cases full of fossils and artifacts, live fish and other creatures, and large installations are engaging for all ages. We toured an old lighthouse, watched otters play and pet a terrapin, checked out dug out boats, and learned more about the Chesapeake waters on the Marsh Walk. And the kids brought in their findings from our fossil hunt to compare with some on display there.
Getting a close look
A peek into the lighthouse bedroom
Dugout canoes and other old maritime craft
Our lunch was delivered to us at the Museum, so we took time out of our self-guided tour to eat outside by the water and enjoy the nice day. We’d made menu selections in advance, so everything was ready and we didn’t have to worry about finding a lunch spot, which let us relax and enjoy our outing more.
Setting up for lunch by the water
A diamondback terrapin encounter (Go, Terps!)
We spent more time at the museum, then explored the area for a little while before dinner to work up an appetite. We finally headed to Ruddy Duck Brewery & Grill, a cozy restaurant right up the road, where our table was reserved and we selected dishes from a special menu for guests on the fossil tour. It was a good meal that included a beer tasting and plenty of yummy fare for all of us.
Brewed on the premises!
We finally headed home that evening feeling quite satisfied — and not just from the food, but from a day full of fun, enriching adventures and wonderful, quality time together. Thanks, Ruddy Duck Adventures, for helping make it happen!
A Megalodon tooth parting gift — and this wasn’t even the biggest of the bunch!
Ruddy Duck Adventures in located in Solomons, MD, and they offer tours all year round, starting at $89/adult ($20/child) for the Island Tour Winter Special. When you consider all that you get — the fossil hunt with an expert guide, snacks, admission to the park and museum, lunch and dinner for everyone — it’s more than worth it. You could even make it a special gift for an adventure-loving kid or adult (it’s in the KFDC Gift Guide!) or just a unique outing for the family. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary tour from Ruddy Duck Adventures, however, all views expressed here are entirely my own (because I really loved it!), and I only promote activities, programs, and products that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.
A shark tooth find on one of our summer adventures
It seems I’m not the only one who gets excited about shark teeth and fossil hunting along Maryland shorelines. When I posted about the pursuit over the summer (here, too), there was a such an enthusiastic response. Some of you had already been and shared bits and tips about your experiences. And even more sent messages to let me know they went on my recommendation and loved it.
So, when Ruddy Duck Adventures in Solomons, MD, introduced me to their Shark Teeth & Fossil Hunting Adventure Packages, I knew it was something I had to share with the KFDC masses. Their adventures sound amazing — these are fossil hunting excursions enhanced.
They day starts on the Chesapeake shores to search for shark teeth and other millions-of-years-old fossils, an expert on hand to help with the hunt and hot cocoa to keep folks comfortable during the cool seasons. The fun continues at the Calvert Marine Museum, where guests can compare their findings with ancient fossils and giant shark teeth. A gourmet lunch is included, as are dinner and a chance to sample local craft beer later.
A megalodon tooth at the Calvert Marine Museum
Don’t worry about lunch (or dinner) – it’s included!
I love that the package is offered through fall and winter for those who enjoy outdoor adventures year-round. (There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.)
Package rates start at $89/adult, and $20/child. This includes a lot — admission to all activities and equipment, lunch, dinner, snacks, bottled water, beer tasting or first wine/beer for adults, and a guide. And it all makes for an amazing adventure for the whole family.