Over the last 300 years, the now tranquil Patapsco Valley has seen dramatic changes.
During the industrial revolution, resource-hungry industries stripped trees from the hillsides to make charcoal. Every household needed wood as its lifeline for warmth and cooking - for survival.
Hillsides were left treeless, allowing mud to slither into the river, silting shipping channels, and clogging the port of Elkridge Landing. Factories dumped chemicals into the river, changing its color from orange to green then purple. These practices took their toll on people's lives and destroyed the valley's fish and wildlife habitat. The rich bank of natural resources was not endless.
A stripped landscape fostered larger floods. The wrath of the river's floodwaters removed much of the industrial burden. As new technology decreased industry's dependence on waterpower, surviving industries relocated to higher ground.
Human need for clean water and forest resources swung the pendulum toward conservation. In 1907, John glenn donated the first land for Patapsco Forest Reserve. Gradually land was added, trees were planted, visitors cam, and a park was born. The Reserve became our Patapsco Valley State Park. Though the valley today will never hold the divers native species that existed when Susquehannocks and Piscatoways lived beneath the big trees, Patapsco Valley State Park continues to manage its resources to benefit people, wildlife and the environment.
"We have learned a lot since the days when loggers cut everything down to six inches and entire mountains were coaled-off by the charcoal burners. This is the era of tree farms and state protected woodlands... we have come a long way." - Karl Pfeiffer, Assistant Director of Forests and Parks, 1912-1959
Text with photos, starting with upper left:
Kiln for making wood into charcoal.
Two C.C.C. men in front of what is now the Avalon Visitor Center.
Clear cut forest in Western Maryland.
Photo of Hockley Mill Dam taken from the Thomas Viaduct, 1870.
Photo of Hockley Dam and former Mill site in the 1970's, after restoration.
Swimming at Patapsco in the 1920's.
Ellicott Mill ruins after 1868 flood.
Photo of Avalon Dam control house with damage from 1972 flood.
Forest warden, Edmund G. Price.
Picnicking Hutzler campers in the 1920's.
Forest ranger unloading trees for planting, 1960's.