|The park is a perfect place to tire out kids and beagles.|
Many a weekend morning we've leashed up the dogs and headed to the nearby Avalon/Orange Grove area, where the Bloede Dam creates a pleasing rumble.
Ironically, the Bloede Dam is a bit of an eyesore, and even poses a drowning hazard, having caused several deaths over the past years.
Patapsco Electric and Manufacturing of Ellicott City brought fame to the Patapsco River corridor in 1906 when it constructed the world’s first underwater hydroelectric plant. Named Bloede's Dam after the company’s president, Victor Gustav Bloede, it was state of the art at the time, but only operated a couple decades and stopped providing power in 1924. Part of the reason why it became unfeasible to continue operations was the large amount of silt and debris ending up in the river from the denuded hillsides. Since then it's served no function, and in fact, impedes the migration of some fish, and is therefore being considered for demolition.
usually to the Avalon/Orange Grove areas and the Grist Mill Trail -- a paved path that is heavily used by bicyclists, joggers, and dog walkers. I was at the park most recently a week ago, when my husband and I decided to go biking, trying out our new bikes. As usual, we were on the Grist Mill Trail, which is accessible from two sides -- one the formal entrance to the park in Elkridge, going under the railroad viaduct and Interstate 95, which is how we entered this time.
Early development in the valley centered on tobacco and the production of iron in the vicinity of present day Elkridge. During the colonial era, both of these commodities were exported from Elk Ridge Landing to Britain and the East Indies. However, by the early to mid-1800s, the port had silted up (due to land erosion as a result of the iron forges in the area) and as a result, a highway and railroad system was developed largely to get products from there to Baltimore's markets and harbor.
The rapidly falling water -- the same stretch that makes for a nice tube ride on a lazy summer afternoon -- along the Patapsco River provided an abundance of power for a wide variety of mills. However, in 1868, a devastating flood hit the Patapsco Valley and eliminated almost all of its industries. If you think about it, this flood started the Patapsco River Valley to begin its unwilling conversion from industrial mills and factories to the forested state park we have today. The possibility of additional floods, the invention of the steam engine, and the generally poor national economic situation at the time prevented many mills and their associated communities from rebuilding along the Patapsco. Like Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia, which I wrote about last fall (check out http://www.midatlanticdaytrips.blogspot.com/2013/10/leaf-peeping-in-dolly-sods-wilderness.html), the environmental devastation has been slow to be reversed.
Back to the remaining foundation wall, which is all that remains of the Orange Grove community and a flour mill established in 1856 on the Baltimore County side of the river. One of the largest mills in the mid-Atlantic region, it returned to operation after the 1868 flood, and continued operating until a fire devastated it in May 1905. A small community lived in 12 mill homes on the Howard County side of the river, connected by a swinging bridge to the mill that provided their livelihoods. Orange Grove flour, which was marketed as "Patapsco Superlative Patent Flour," was widely popular in both Europe and the United States. The rebuilt swinging bridge and the Orange Grove picnic area is all that remains of this once vibrant community.
That we have the park to enjoy at all is thanks to the state. Although the 1868 flood ironically started the environmental restoration of the valley, it wasn't until the early 1900s, when the State of Maryland established a forest and parks system largely to reestablish the forest in the Patapsco Valley, that restoration was really able to take hold. That beginning has resulted in the present day Patapsco Valley State Park, which now covers over 15,000 forested acres. I love learning this sort of history about an area and am grateful for the PHG for its work in preserving it.
|The falls in the McKelden Area.|
The Avalon/Orange Grove section of the park is heavily used: the hikers, the bikers, the dog walkers, people tubing, people fishing, people picnicking... there is no solitude there. And that is fine -- if only everyone would clean up and bring out the garbage they bring in. There. I've ranted. So, what can I do about it? Find out in next week's blog (hence, Part 2)!
For haunted house lovers I can hold out no hope: it didn't look haunted, it didn't feel haunted, there were no weird sounds or odd things lurking in the periphery of our sight -- although I'm not sensitive to those sorts of things and I'd probably pee in my pants if I ever did really encounter a ghost (actually, I think I might have once -- but that's a story for another blog, and at the time I hopped back into the car and drove away quick, without even taking a photo of the house, which is what I'd originally stopped for). I hoped this particular house had been well loved and well lived in while it was whole -- it was small, but it must have been cozy and pretty cute, and in a lovely setting perched on the top of a little hill.
Going back to our car we blazed our own trail, using the sun to guide us. We knew we couldn't get too lost -- the river and rail road were behind us, the main road a mile to our left. But what should have been a two-mile walk there and back we believe to have taken us more than five miles, through brush and brier patches, stumbling over broken logs and hidden creeks and up and down some steep hills. Sore and tired, we greeted our car with joy. Only the dogs really had fun on that walk in the woods.
|An old stone house in the Avalon/Orange part of the park.|
Getting there: Depends where "there" is. I recommend getting trail guides in advance from the Maryland DNR website: http://shopdnr.com/trailguides.aspx. These tell you what's where and roughly, how to get there.
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
Dogs: Bring them and tire them out! A tired dog is a happy dog!
Eats: Lots of picnic areas in both Avalon and McKeldon areas. Probably in other parts as well. Cart in and cart out -- so bring a bag to carry your own trash out with you.
Website: Patapsco State Park: www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/patapsco.asp; Patapsco Heritage Greenway www.patapscoheritagegreenway.org/
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Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!