River valley park offers hiking trails, historic sites and unrivaled views
As the first signs of spring emerge following an unseasonably warm winter, families look to break the cabin fever and enjoy the great outdoors.
Just 10 miles northwest of APG North (Aberdeen), Susquehanna State Park offers countless hiking and bike trails, and unrivaled views of the Susquehanna River dividing Harford and Cecil counties.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, “the park is home to some of the most popular mountain biking trails in Maryland and the river itself beckons fishermen and boaters alike.”
More than 15 miles of marked and maintained trails span Susquehanna State Park. As the terrain of the river valley varies, so do the trails, offering easy to difficult trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.
For the best views of the valley, try the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail or the Susquehanna Ridge Trail. Keep your eyes peeled for the bald eagles and ospreys who hunt in the river.
All trails, except the historical walking trail around the Carter-Archer Mansion, also serve as equestrian trails. The Maryland Park service does not rent horses and only provides the trails as a means of recreation.
Hikers and families alike can enjoy a picnic at the Deer Creek picnic area. Featuring picnic tables, grills, a freshwater pond, and modern restrooms, the picnic area offers pavilions open for rent between March and October. Parking at the Deer Creek picnic area costs $2 per in-state vehicle.
Boating, fishing & camping
The Susquehanna State Park offers direct recreational access to the river in the form of boat ramps and spectacular fishing.
Boaters can utilize the Lapidum boat ramp year round for a $10 service charge for state residents.
Depending on the season, novice and professional anglers alike can catch fish from the river.
“The annual shad and herring runs in early spring are an awesome sight,” according to the Maryland DNR, and perch, catfish and carp are also in abundance.
Because the Susquehanna River, below the Conowingo Dam, is considered tidal water, a Chesapeake Bay Sports Fishing License is required to fish.
The park also features a two-loop campground with a total 69 camping sites. Open April through October, the campground features comfort stations with hot showers and pets are welcome.
Rock Run Historic Area
The Maryland DNR says “history buffs will be drawn to the restored Rock Run Historic Area with its working gristmill, the Carter-Archer Mansion, Jersey Toll House and the remains of the Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal.”
Built in 1798, the Rock Run Gristmill was a prosperous merchant flourmill, grinding flour for local and international customers. It was partially restored in the 1960s.
Today the Rock Run Gristmill features a working waterwheel and an operational millstone. Visitors can see corn-grinding demonstrations on summer weekends between 1 and 3 p.m.
Along the river near the gristmill is a section of the former Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal. According to the Maryland DNR, the canal opened in 1836 and linked Havre de Grace with Wrightsville, Pennsylvania.
“With mule drawn barges plying its waters, the Susquehanna & Tidewater was a major commercial waterway.”
Two canal locks remain visible within the park, and visitors can traverse a large portion of the towpath that now serves as a hiking trail near the water.
Other historic sites at the park include the Jersey Toll House and the Carter-Archer Mansion. Between 1817 and 1857, a covered bridge spanned the Susquehanna connecting Rock Run with Port Deposit across the river. The small white-framed toll house building served that bridge. Abandoned bridge piers in the river can be seen from several hiking trails and the river banks.
The mansion, sitting on hill overlooking Rock Run, was built in 1804 by gristmill operators. Several rooms in the 14-room stone building have been restored and furnished with period antiques.
History of the Susquehanna River Valley
The Susquehanna River, was named for the Susquehannock Indian tribe, who utilized the river for food and transportation for hundreds of years and built thriving communities along its shores.
Captain John Smith noted in 1608, that “heaven and earth seemed never to have agreed better to frame a place for man’s commodious and delightful habitation.” Soon afterward, Europeans began establishing settlements in the Susquehanna valley.
The river stretches from upstate New York to Havre de Grace, serving as the Chesapeake Bay’s main tributary. Its watershed provides nearly half of the Chesapeake’s freshwater.
For more information
Park hours and fees, trail maps and guides, and upcoming events can be found on the Susquehanna State Park website. Upcoming events include a guided 2.5-mile jog on March 18 and wildflower walks April 15 and 29. For more information, visit http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/susquehanna.aspx.