Industry & Transportation

The History of Maryland Flows with the Patapsco River.

Commerce, industry, agriculture, warfare, and conservation have played parts in the pageant along this river’s course.

Past days echoed with now unfamiliar sounds: war shouts of the Susquehannocks; rasping of adzes and chisels shaping ships from hard oaks; the roaring of iron furnaces; creaking of hogsheads on rolling roads, repeated chopping of the woodsman’s ax; tramping of colonial and Civil War troops; clanging of ironworks; blasts of bombs bursting above a fort, inspiring our National Anthem; groaning of mills, whirring of looms, and the metallic song of steel wheels on steel rails.

In describing his early adventures up the Patapsco River, Captain John Smith wrote, "Heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation.”

For more than 200 years this river valley has given rise to historic events and scientific advances that transformed the State and the Nation such as:

  • The industrious Ellicott Brothers and other settlers who harnessed the river’s falls into power for America’s earliest mills
  • The Historic National Road which helped move the country westward.
  • An educational institute for girls that became nationally renowned
  • The scientific genius of a free black mathematician who helped layout the streets of Washington D.C.
  • The national landmark structures and architectural wonders of early railroading might
  • Ambitious conservation efforts that ultimately resulted in Maryland’s first State Park.

Additionally, landscapes have also changed to include bicycle, pedestrian, and recreational paddling. The Grist Mill Trail is one such example of this transformation as it is a more moderate route and a popular destination for parents with children in strollers, families on biking trips, and people with disabilities.

Elkridge Landing was also an active port in the colonial era and provided a key point of trade/commerce. Today, paddlers enjoy calm waters above the Daniels Dam as well as further downriver where they can also put in at Southwest Area Park in Baltimore County. These days, commerce/trade that relied on river transport has been replaced by recreational uses of the waterway for paddling, fishing, and swimming.

Follow the Patapsco River west from Baltimore, Maryland, and discover where America’s industrial revolution took shape!