When Father Andrew White came to Point Lookout and saw the Potomac at its side, he mused that the Thames was a mere rivulet in comparison. But instead of being overwhelmed by the wildness of the New World, he observed that "fine groves of trees appear, growing in intervals as if planted by the hand of man."
On the approach to Point Lookout State Park, two memorial obelisks remind travelers of the dark later history of this starkly alluring point of land. Beginning in 1863 a Union prison stood at the farthest tip of the peninsula, just across the Potomac from Confederate Virginia. During those last two years of the conflict, nearly 4,000 Confederate soldiers died here because of disease and poor conditions. Point Lookout is a reminder that many men from southern Maryland fought on the side of the Confederates during the Civil War. After the Battle of Gettysburg, 20,000 prisoners crowded the Point Lookout facilities—a space built for only half that. All that remains of the prison
are some earthen fortifications, partially rebuilt and known as Fort Lincoln, with markers noting the sites of hospitals and other buildings. A small museum supplies some of the details.
The 1,046-acre state park has boating facilities, nature trails, and a beach for swimming. The RV campground, with hookups, is open year-round; tent camping facilities are open from April through October. Be sure to visit the lighthouse at the southern end of the park. Built in 1830 and used until 1965, the lighthouse also served as a depot. Bring plenty of bug spray. Mosquitoes can be a problem.