Chapman State Park – Indian Head, Maryland - Atlas Obscura

Chapman State Park

Indian Head, Maryland

A state park that once served as an important river crossing, and now offers protected lands for endangered plants and animals. 

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Chapman State Park is located along the Potomac River a 30-minute drive south of Washington, D.C. Until 1914, the grounds were owned by the Chapman family. The state of Maryland purchased the property in 1998 and turned it into a public park.

Nathaniel Chapman, a wealthy Virginia planter, bought the land and plantation in 1751. On the property is Mount Aventine, a mansion built between 1800 and 1860 that served as the center of the plantation. For many decades, the Chapman family benefitted from labor done by enslaved people on the plantation grounds. During the Civil War, the Federal government used part of the plantation house as a signal station.

Chapman’s Landing was one of several important ferry crossings that connected Virginia and Maryland, and the Chapmans ran a fishery and a ferry boat business on-site. The family had significant ties to George Washington and George Mason. 

The property has two trails leading to the Potomac River where you can find a marsh, the Chapman family cemetery, and several abandoned buildings like a tobacco barn from the 1800s, a house from the early 1900s, and an old farmhouse. 

Chapman State Park contains important habitats for a number of protected species. Its mix of coastal plain habitats contain an array of trees and plants, and the park has been highlighted by the National Audubon Society for its populations of forest-dwelling birds.

Know Before You Go

There's a small gravel parking lot. Then hike up the clearly marked trail to the mansion. The mansion is open for tours thanks to the Friends of Chapman Park.