Over 60 mountain ranges and hills adorn Maryland. In sharp contrast to the regions surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, which rest at and below sea level, these mountains rise thousands of feet above. Located in its western counties, the mountains of Maryland add to the geologic, geographic and historic diversity of the State.
Hiker in Catoctin Mountain National Park near Thurmont, Frederick County, Maryland, April 2004. Photo by Elizabeth W. Newell.
The mountains of Maryland captured the nation's attention in September 1862, when Confederate forces crossed the Potomac into western Maryland. The first clash between Union and Confederate forces north of the Potomac occurred at Sugarloaf Mountain, in Frederick County, when elements of the U.S. Signal Corps. encountered a Confederate cavalry brigade under General Wade Hampton on September 6, 1862.
A week later, on September 14, Union and Confederate forces clashed at South Mountain in Washington County. Confederate General Lee had divided his forces to seize objectives, including resources at Hagerstown and Frederick. In an effort to stall the approaching Union army, the Confederates blockaded the passes at South Mountain long enough for Lee to consolidate his force. In this, the Confederate Army was successful, and McClellan’s Army of the Potomac encountered the combined Army of Northern Virginia three days later, at Antietam Creek.
In the twentieth century, Catoctin Mountain in Frederick County was chosen by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be the site of a presidential retreat. Construction of the complex began in 1935. Named Shangri-La by President Roosevelt when he first used it to escape the heat of Washington, DC, summer in 1942, it retained the name until 1953. Then, it was renamed Camp David by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to honor his grandson. Still used today, Camp David offers the serving President a natural setting for either rest or conducting duties of Chief Executive.
The Appalachian Plateaus Province holds layers of sedimentary rock, and deposits of coal. This region, comprised of Garrett and part of Allegany counties, contains most of the highest peaks in the State. These western mountains tend towards coniferous forest coverage, and even contain a number of small peat bogs in the higher altitudes. Although more common to Canada, and more northern latitudes, some bogs are found upon Maryland slopes due to elevation, and the cooler climate. The most notable is the Cranesville Swamp Preserve in western Garrett County. The bog is found at 2,547 feet above sea level. Also within the Appalachian Plateaus Province lies Hoye-Crest of Backbone Mountain, the highest elevation in the State, at 3,360 feet above sea level. Backbone Mountain holds Maryland’s largest surviving remnant of old-growth forest at Potomac-Garrett State Forest along Crabtree Creek.
Sideling Hill, west of Hancock, Washington County, Maryland, October 2014. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
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