MARYLAND AT A GLANCE

WATERWAYS

RIVERS


[photo, Boats at piers, Severn River, Crownsville, Maryland] At the State level, the Department of the Environment seeks to protect Maryland waterways, including rivers, as does the Scenic and Wild Rivers Program within the Department of Natural Resources. In addition, county government units, such as Anne Arundel County's Severn River Commission also provide oversight.

Boats at piers, Severn River, Crownsville, Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


[photo, Boat house on Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace, Maryland] Maryland's riverine system is a complex network of branches and tributaries, some of which are known both as rivers and creeks. Most rivers in Maryland run into the Chesapeake Bay. All of Maryland's rivers have helped to guide the development of the State since its inception.

Boat house on Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace, Maryland, April 2005. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


[photo, Patuxent River with Solomons Island Bridge in distance (from St. Mary's County), Maryland] Many rivers are tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay, but the three largest are the Potomac, the Patapsco, and the Patuxent. The Potomac River runs west and creates a natural border between Maryland and Virginia, while the Patapsco runs north from the Bay through Baltimore. It is the Patuxent, however, which may be the greatest contributor to the watershed. Located between the Patapsco and the Potomac, the Patuxent River covers over 957 square miles, and bears the distinction of being the longest river exclusive to Maryland.

Patuxent River with Solomons Island Bridge in distance (from St. Mary's County), Maryland, May 2000. Solomons Island Bridge links Calvert and St. Mary's counties in southern Maryland. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


[photo, Little Gunpowder Falls (tributary of Gunpowder River), Baltimore & Harford Counties, Maryland] In the years before European expansion, native peoples used rivers, such as the Susquehanna and the Pocomoke, for food and transportation. Early European explorers traversed rivers from the Chesapeake Bay inland, establishing contact with Native Americans, setting up trading posts, and later settlements. One of the most notable explorers was John Smith, and by 1608, he had charted the Nanticoke River, as well as a number of smaller tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

Little Gunpowder Falls (tributary of Gunpowder River), Baltimore & Harford Counties, Maryland, August 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


[photo, At head of Patapsco River lies Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland] Rivers were a major basis for the settlement of early towns, allowing colonists to go further inland. From these rivers, settlers procured food and water, as well as transport and other necessities. As wars broke out, river routes also became essential in the movement of troops by England and France. When the HMS Tonnant anchored in September 1814, it was on the Patapsco River that Frances Scott Key wrote what would become America's national anthem.

At head of Patapsco River lies the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2009. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


During the American Civil War, Union and Confederate forces, blockade-runners, and even escaping slaves used the rivers of Maryland. One route for those trying to bypass the Union blockade was the Nanticoke River, where smugglers would stop at port towns, such as Vienna, acquiring much-needed goods to sell to southern states. Runaway slaves used similar routes, traversing rivers and streams on their trek north along the Underground Railroad. These routes followed many rivers and streams on both sides of the Bay. The Potomac also was heavily traversed at this time, as both armies would sortie back and forth for the duration of the war. The River even lent its name to identify the Union Army on the eastern front. General Lee moved the Army of Northern Virginia across in two foiled assaults in 1862 and 1863, and many Union generals crossed with the Army of the Potomac, starting with McClellan in 1861 through General Grant in 1865.

Since then, evolving methods of transit and transportation, have lessened some riverine influences upon economic and other development, and Maryland rivers today primarily support boating, fishing, and other recreational pursuits. At the same time, the condition of Maryland rivers greatly affects the health of State citizens and the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna River is an important factor in both these areas. Traveling some 500 miles from Cooperstown, New York, to Cheseapeke Bay, the Susquehanna carries in more than half the Bay's fresh water. Nonetheless, it is considered an "endangered river" due to the Conowingo Dam's failure to trap pollutants and sediment from reaching Chesapeake Bay.


MARYLAND RIVERS
(by name)



[photo, Bush River, Abingdon, Harford County, Maryland]

Bush River, Abingdon, Harford County, Maryland, June 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


[photo, Casselman River Bridge, Grantsville, Maryland]
  • Casselman River (formerly Little Youghiogeny; named for Jacob Casselman (1728-1803))
  • Chester River (named for Chester, England)
  • Chicamacomico River (from Algonquian words meaning "dwelling place by the big water")
  • Chonk River (from Algonquian (Delaware & Powhatan) words meaning "river of wild geese")
  • Choptank River
  • Corsica River (named for Henry de Coursey (1662-1707))
  • Eastern Branch River (part of Anacostia)
  • Elk River

    Casselman River Bridge, Grantsville, Maryland, October 2014. Photo by Diane F. Evartt


    [photo, Big Gunpowder Falls (tributary of Gunpowder River), Baltimore County, Maryland]

    Big Gunpowder Falls (tributary of Gunpowder River), Baltimore County, Maryland, June 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.



    [photo, Monocacy River (Frederick County), Maryland]

    Monocacy River (Frederick County), Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


    [photo, Patapsco River, Baltimore, Maryland]
  • Patapsco River
  • Patuxent River
  • Port Tobacco River
  • Pocomoke River (from Algonquian word meaning "pierced" or "broken ground")

    Patapsco River Baltimore, Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


    [photo, Fishermen on Potomac River, Point of Rocks, Maryland]
  • Potomac River
  • Rhode River
  • St. George River
  • St. Martin River
  • St. Mary's River
  • Fishermen on Potomac River, Point of Rocks, Maryland, October 2003. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

    [photo, Sassafras River at Georgetown, Kent County, Maryland]
  • Sassafras River (originally named Tockwaugh Creek by Capt. John Smith, tockwaugh, an Indian word meaning sassafras)
  • Savage River

    Sassafras River at Georgetown, Kent County, Maryland, April 2002. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


    [photo, Boats at piers, Severn River, Crownsville, Maryland]

    Boats at piers, Severn River, Crownsville, Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


    [photo, Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace, Maryland]
  • Susquehanna River (from Algonquian word meaning "smooth flowing stream")
  • Transquaking River (formerly Katterine River; transquaking is Algonquian word meaning "place of the white water swamp")
  • Tred Avon River
  • Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace, Maryland, June 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


    [photo, Youghiogheny River, Friendsville, Maryland]

    Youghiogheny River, Friendsville, Maryland, October 2015. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


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