"[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 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.