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Elkridge in Howard County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Back to Nature in the Patapsco Valley

 
 
Back to Nature in the Patapsco Valley Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
1. Back to Nature in the Patapsco Valley Marker
Inscription. "[On] any weekend [you] will find from 20 to 25 of our faithful band of Gypsies enjoying nature to its fullest extent ... Enjoying watching the change in foliage from week to week, taking dips in the old Patapsco river in spite of frost, getting up at 4 A. M. to watch the daybreak, walking eight miles to church in the morning and chopping wood, preparing meals, washing dishes and taking trips through the reserve during the day." - The Baltimore Sun, October 29, 1916

While the Patapsco Valley had proved well-suited for industrial development in the 18th and 19th centuries, it has proved ideal for recreational use in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Patapsco Valley's transformation into a public park began in 1907 when Catonsville resident John M. Glenn donated 43 acres of his Hilton Estate to the Maryland State Board of Forestry.

State Forester Fred W. Besley recognized the valley's potential as a public park. By promoting the Patapsco as a park, he hoped to lure Baltimore residents out of their hot row homes into the cooler, tree-covered river valley. He hoped to show them firsthand the benefits of forest conservation, and he chose to do it right here in Orange Grove, along the Cascade Branch that tumbles down the hill before you.

By 1913, families were riding the railroad or driving on backcountry
Back to Nature in the Patapsco Valley Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
2. Back to Nature in the Patapsco Valley Marker
roads to picnic and camp near the river. Some visited for an afternoon, others roughed it for six months. Anyone could camp in the park for free, provided they observed the strict fire regulations and registered with the State Forester's Office, or the B&O railroad.

From these humble origins sprang Patapsco Valley State Park, Maryland's first state park.
 
Location. 39° 14.458′ N, 76° 45.007′ W. Marker is in Elkridge, Maryland, in Howard County. Marker is on Ridge Road, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. In the Orange Grove Area of Patapsco Valley State Park, at the head of the Cascade Falls Trail. Marker is in this post office area: Elkridge MD 21075, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Orange Grove: A Small Neighborly Community (here, next to this marker); Besley Demonstration Campsite (here, next to this marker); Patapsco Superlative: (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Building America's First Railroad (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Destructive Power of the Patapsco (approx. 0.6 miles away); The River Makes Electricity (approx. 0.7 miles away); The Changing River Valley (approx. one mile away); Bringing Trade to Baltimore (approx. one mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Elkridge.
 
Categories. EducationEntertainmentEnvironmentSports
 
Swimming image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
3. Swimming
Swimming was among the most popular activities during the summer. Hutzler's Department Store reserved sites for its' families. Here Hutzler families enjoy a swim in the 1920's.
Close-up of photo on marker
Edmund George Prince image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
4. Edmund George Prince
Edmund George Prince, Patapsco's first resident forest warden, enforced regulations and protected the park for 20 years.
Close-up of photo on marker
The Besley Family image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
5. The Besley Family
Fred W. Besley and his wife Bertha are shown ca. 1923 with their daughters Jean (rear left) and Helen, and son Kirkland. Not present is Besley's other son Lowell, who followed his father's footsteps to a career in professional forestry. (Fred Besley might have appreciated the hemlock needle that partially obscures his son's face.)
Close-up of photo on marker
Girl Scouts image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
6. Girl Scouts
Besley vigorously promoted the park among Boy Scouts and Girl Scots. Here, Girl Scouts arrive at Patapsco in the early 1920's.
Close-up of photo on marker
Boy Scouts image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
7. Boy Scouts
Boy Scouts prepare to build a bridge near Avalon on April 23, 1920.
Close-up of photo on marker
Camp Life image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
8. Camp Life
While camp life at Patapsco may have appeared primitive, campers often brought modern conveniences, such as wood burning stoves. Many families had access to electric lights and radios, and one family is reputed to have brought its piano.
Close-up of photo on marker
Ice Cream and Camping image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 26, 2014
9. Ice Cream and Camping
Family Camping began at Orange Grove in the 1920's Campsites were free for the whole summer if campfire regulations were observed. Hutzler's Brothers in Baltimore reserved sites for their families and delivered ice cream to the commissary on a weekly basis.
Close-up of photo on bulletin board at restrooms
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 27, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 285 times since then and 28 times this year. Last updated on May 11, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on April 27, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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