Explore WWII concrete ships at Kiptopeke State Park in Virginia
If you’re looking for a unique experience, paddle alongside these WWII concrete ships in Chesapeake Bay.
KIPTOPEKE, Virginia – If you’re looking to kayak in a unique (and maybe a little scary) place, check out Kiptopeke State Park on the East Coast.
You will have a breathtaking view of the Chesapeake Bay. But there is also something that you don’t see every day.
Just offshore, a fleet of partially sunk ships acts as a breakwater for the beach. According to a brochure from Virginia State Parks, the fleet consists of nine concrete ships built for service during World War II and sunk later in 1948.
Exploring this fleet is the perfect way to get on the water while exploring history. Here are a few things to know before you go.
Where did the boats come from?
According to the Virginia State Parks brochure, the former United States Maritime Commission hired a Philadelphia construction company, Matthew H. McCloskey and Company, in 1942 to build a fleet of 24 merchant ships using concrete for the hulls and bridges.
They couldn’t use steel because it was used to build vehicles for the WWII effort.
This fleet became known as the McCloskey ships. They were launched throughout 1944 and served in Atlantic and Pacific theaters.
Several years before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel opened, people had to use a ferry service to travel between Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads.
In 1947, the Virginia Ferry Corporation opened its northern terminal three miles north of the southern tip of the east coast. He needed protection from the tides and inclement weather that plague Chesapeake Bay. So in December 1948 nine of the McCloskey ships were brought to Kiptopeke Beach to serve as breakwaters. They were partially sunk and settled at the bottom.
Not only do these ships protect the beach, but the concrete material is also great for promoting marine life and seabirds.
Where to launch your kayak
You can launch your kayak from the south beach or from the park’s designated boat launch. To see a georeferenced map, click here.
According to the Virginia State Parks website, a parking fee of $ 7 is required to enter Kiptopeke State Park.
If you don’t have a kayak or other watercraft, solo kayaks, tandem kayaks, and paddleboards can be rented from the Kiptopeke camp store.
Author’s Note: The video below is archived as of April 2021.
Some water safety tips
When you touch the water, it will be a great time. But staying safe while kayaking is also very important.
The Virginia Water Trails website has shared a list of tips for people taking their kayaks or canoes. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Before leaving, check a few points
You’ll want to check the weather, tide charts, and water quality before you get in the water.
To play it safe, you don’t want to paddle when the weather is bad. Knowing what’s in the forecast is crucial. You can do this by downloading the 13News Now app.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists tide forecasts by location. You can search or scroll through a list of places, including Kiptopeke Beach.
The Virginia Department of Health will issue swim alerts for certain locations if the water quality does not meet state standards.
Have a whistle and wear a life jacket
According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), nearly all boating-related fatalities are the result of drowning and are preventable.
Virginia law requires a USCG approved life jacket for each person on a kayak, as well as a sound producing device, such as a whistle or air horn. The device must be able to emit an audible 4 second sound for half a mile.
More information on the required equipment can be found on the Virginia DWR website.