Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Chesapeake Bay
By Deane Winegar
[Fig. 21(3)] Even the name of the trail has appeal—Beach to Bay Indian Trail. This National Recreation Trail is a driving or biking tour (with a boat trip across Tangier Sound) that ties the barrier islands on the Atlantic seashore to Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. It runs along highways and byways through Worcester and Somerset counties, roughly following routes once used by tribes of the Algonquin nation such as Animuses, Acquinticas, Manokins, Assateagues, and Pocomokes.
The names are magical. But the trail has more than Indian lore. Someone who drives or bikes it from beginning to end, even missing a site or two, will put together a history that moves through time, from the days when the Algonquin tribes fished the Nassawango to today. Along the way are 10 museums and historic sites and several nature trails. The museums and historic sites highlight the cultures of Indians and European immigrants.
A round trip on the Beach to Bay Indian Trail, beginning at Ocean City on the Atlantic, going some 74 miles to the Chesapeake Bay along the more northerly route, and leading back to Assateague Island on the Atlantic via a 67-mile southern route, totals about 141 miles. Some of the return trip will traverse the same highways as the first half. The trail makes use of all or parts of US 50, MD 611, MD 376, MD 113, MD 12, MD 388, MD 13, MD 413, and MD 667.
Let’s say you were to begin driving the trail at the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum (410-289-4991) on the Ocean City Boardwalk on the Atlantic coast. Go west on US 50 for 1 mile, then south on MD 611. After about 4.5 miles, turn left on MD 376 at Lewis Corner and go 4.5 miles to Berlin. Here, you could visit the Calvin B. Taylor Museum (410-641-1019), a meticulously restored nineteenth century house at North Main Street and Baker Street in Berlin’s Historic District.
From Berlin, go south to Snow Hill via MD 113 (15.1 miles). On Market Street at Snow Hill is the Julia A. Purnell Museum (410-632-0515). This museum, which has artifacts depicting Eastern Shore life from Colonial times to the present, is one of those little discoveries that makes prowling the back roads and villages an adventure.
At Snow Hill, the Beach to Bay Indian Trail heads northwest on MD 12. Canoeists who would like to explore The Nature Conservancy’s Nassawango Creek Cypress Swamp Preserve (410-632-2032) should turn left (west) after 2.7 miles onto Red House Road, then go 1 mile and park in the designated area. Rental canoes are available in Snow Hill. For a leisurely day trip, launch next to the sign and head south on the 2-mile section of the tidal Nassawango between Red House Road and Nassawango Road. After canoeing for about 1 mile, look for yellow signs indicating the Francis M. Uhler Nature Trail, an easy 0.25-mile loop on the western side of the creek.
River otters, gray foxes, white-tailed deer, and painted turtles are just some of the wildlife that inhabit the cypress swamp. The woods are also home to ovenbirds, flickers, pileated woodpeckers, and more than 14 species of warblers, including the prothonotary, Swainson’s, worm-eating, Kentucky, and yellowthroat.
To access the preserve’s Paul Leifer Nature Trail, follow MD 12 north for 5.3 miles from Snow Hill (past the turn on Red House Road) and turn left (westward) on MD 388 (Old Furnace Road). After about 1 mile, turn into the parking area of the Furnace Town Historic Site (410-632-2032). The historic site encompasses the nineteenth century Nassawango Iron Furnace and a village of artisan shops that includes a broomhouse, blacksmith shop, printshop, and weaving area. The bog-ore furnace is a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
Walk (or drive if the gate is open) through the historic site to the trailhead for the easy 1-mile loop along the Paul Leifer trail. The trail follows Nassawango Creek across boardwalks into the mysterious Nassawango Creek Cypress Swamp Preserve and along the towpath of the Furnace Town Canal. Pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), and jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) are among the spring bloomers on the trail. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) are moisture-loving plants that spread red and gold color through the marsh in summer.
About 4 miles west of this site on MD 388 is the parking area for the Pusey Branch Nature Trail (410-632-2032 or 410-632-2566), an easy 0.5-mile loop along Pusey Branch, which lies in a northern corner of Pocomoke River State Forest. Illustrated signs on the trail depict the state forest in the four seasons.
The Beach to Bay Indian Trail follows MD 388 for 14.3 miles from MD 12 to Princess Anne. From Princess Anne, go south on MD 13 about 4.5 miles and southwest on MD 413 about 15 miles to Crisfield.
A 9.5-mile boat trip across Tangier Sound will take you to fascinating Smith Island, the trail’s most westward point. Backtrack across Tangier Sound and travel about 6 miles northeast along MD 413. A right turn on MD 667 leads 9.5 miles east through lovely rural countryside to MD 13, just west of Pocomoke City. A 4-mile drive south along MD 13 leads through Pocomoke City to MD 113.
At Pocomoke City, the Beach to Bay Indian Trail takes in the Pocomoke City Nature and Exercise Trail (410-957-1334) at Cypress Park. This 1-mile self-guided path passes under large white cedars and cypresses, encircling an 8-acre fishing pond.
Then the trail leads northeastward on MD 113 for 29 miles to Berlin, taking in Pocomoke River State Forest and Park and Snow Hill along the way. At Berlin, go east on MD 376 (4.5 miles) to MD 611 and go right on MD 611 for 4.5 miles to Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park, finishing the trip at the Barrier Island Visitor Center (410-641-1441).
A brochure detailing the tour is available from the Tourism Information Center for Somerset County on US 13 on the south side of Princess Anne or the Tourism Information Center for Worcester County on US 13 on the south side of Pocomoke City. Or call ahead to Somerset County Tourism (800-521-9189) at Princess Anne or Worcester County Tourism at Snow Hill (800-852-0335). Dates and hours of operation of the various museums are included in the brochure.
Many of the stops along the Beach to Bay Indian Trail that are in Worcester County are also on a 100-mile circular bicycle tour of the county called Viewtrail 100. The scenic trail makes use of small country roads through farmlands and forest, passing through the historic towns of Snow Hill, Berlin, and Pocomoke City and along the scenic Pocomoke River. A brochure with a tour map is also available from the county tourism office.
[Fig. 21] Ocean City is on Fenwick Island—a long, narrow barrier island at the eastern end of US 50 in Worcester County. The glitz and glamour of this ocean resort are in striking contrast to the old seaports, quiet back roads, and bucolic countryside of the less populated areas of the Eastern Shore.
A wide, 3-mile boardwalk as well as glistening beaches of white sand and crashing surf invite strollers, sunbathers, beachcombers, and swimmers to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to long rows of high-rise hotels and motels that will pamper the guest, posh restaurants that serve seafood fresh off the boat, and 10 area golf courses, there are water slides, miniature golf, arcade games, T-shirt shops, countless gift shops, and fast food restaurants. The Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-OC-OCEAN or 410-289-8181) is located on the bayside of the island at 4001 Coastal Highway, between 41st Street and Convention Center Drive.
Despite the development of the island, nature is at the doorstep. At the rock jetties at Ocean City inlet at the southern tip of the island, bird watchers have recorded the southernmost winter sightings of species such as the king eider (Somateria mollissima), harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), and purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima). The king eider has been known to dive as deep as 150 feet in search of food.
Offshore Nature Cruises (410-213-0926 or 800-457-6650) offers dolphin, bird-, and whale-watching tours aboard the cruising yacht, Ocean City Princess. The tour boat Bay Queen (410-213-0926) hosts trips on the inland waterways to view the wild ponies of Assateague Island and to search the wild bird sanctuaries for osprey, piping plovers, pelicans, cormorants, and a variety of seagulls.
Fishing boats may be rented or chartered from April through October at the Ocean City Fishing Center (410-213-1121 or 800-322-3065) at US 50 and Shantytown Road for exciting offshore trips for white and blue marlin, tuna, mako shark, bluefish, and mackerel. The Shantytown Lighthouse Pier is located at the center. Another pier, the Ocean City Fishing and Sightseeing Pier (410-213-2504), is near the southern end of the island at Wicomico Street and Philadelphia Avenue (about five blocks south of US 50).
At night, live bands have long been an attraction at Seacrets on the Bay (410-524-4900) at 49th Street on the bay, a restaurant and lounge with a Jamaican atmosphere, and at Fager’s Island (410-524-5500) at 60th Street on the bay, where Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is performed as the sun sets over the bay. There are two shows nightly at the Princess Royale Comedy Club (410-723-HAHA) at 9100 Coastal Highway. Music lovers can reserve a seat in the rustic theater of The Ocean City Jamboree (410-213-7581) at MD 611 and 12600 Marjan Lane, where country, pop, ’50s rock and roll and gospel music are all rolled into one live show.
Special events are held at Ocean City throughout the year, including the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition, which has been called the world’s most prestigious wildfowl carving competition. The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury (410-742-4988, extension 106) sponsors it. Also, the White Marlin Open (410-289-9229), the city’s premiere fishing event held in August, is the world’s largest billfish tournament in terms of the number of boats and anglers. Awards are given for the largest white marlin, blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin, and shark. The lucky angler who reels in the largest billfish overall receives thousands of dollars in prize money.
Seafood restaurants are abundant in Ocean City, but hungry visitors can also find steaks, pastas, fast food, Mexican, and Italian food.
Mo’s Seafood Factory. 82nd Street Bayside, Ocean City. The large and varied menu includes steamed crabs, 23 varieties of fish, and early bird specials. Inexpensive to moderate. Phone (410) 723-2500.
The Wharf Restaurant. 128th Street, Ocean City. Enjoy fresh seafood daily from a menu that includes fish, stuffed lobster, pasta/seafood combinations, and award-winning crab cakes. Inexpensive to moderate. Phone (410) 250-1001.
Jordan’s Rooftop Restaurant. 138th Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City. Enjoy the spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean from this eighth-story restaurant atop the Fenwick Inn. Sunday brunch, casual dining, children’s menu, nightly entertainment. Inexpensive to moderate. Phone (410) 250-1867.
Harrison’s Harbor Watch Restaurant. Boardwalk South, Ocean City. Known for the beautiful view overlooking the ocean, bay, and Assateague Island. Fresh seafood is prepared daily. Homemade pasta specialties, breads, steaks, and chicken. Moderate. Phone (410) 289-5121.
This resort strip has a wide variety of accommodations, ranging from economy motels to plush hotels. Rates for lodging are considerably higher during the summer tourist season. Camping is available at nearby state and national parks and at private campgrounds such as Ocean City Travel Park (410-524-7601) at 105 70th Street and Bali-Hi RV Park (410-352-5477) on St. Martins Neck Road off MD 90, just west of Fenwick Island and Ocean City. Here’s a sampling of the motels and hotels:
Castle in the Sand Hotel. 3701 Atlantic Avenue, Ocean City. This beachfront hotel has a coffee shop, restaurant, nightclub/lounge, outdoor Olympic pool, and spring and fall packages. Moderate. Phone (410) 289-6846 or (800) 552-SAND.
The Dunes Manor Hotel. 2800 Baltimore Avenue, Ocean City. Have afternoon tea in the lobby of this Victorian-style hotel or rock on the oceanfront porch. Located one block from the boardwalk. Restaurant, lounge. Moderate to expensive. Phone (800) 523-2888 or (410) 289-1100.
Econo Lodge Oceanfront. 45th Street, Ocean City. Oceanfront efficiencies and suites have private balconies. Nightclub/lounge, outdoor pool, spring/fall packages. Inexpensive to moderate. Phone (410) 289-6424 or (800) 638-3244.
The Lighthouse Club Hotel. 201 60th Street, Ocean City. Located on the Isle of Wight Bay, this white frame octagonal hotel is a replica of the Chesapeake Bay’s Thomas Point Lighthouse at Annapolis. Pie-shaped suites have marble bathrooms, private decks, and upscale service. Expensive. Phone (888) 371-5400 or (410) 524-5400.
[Fig. 21] In startling contrast to the highly developed Fenwick Island to the north, where Ocean City plays host to multitudes of vacationers, Assateague Island is a narrow windswept barrier island separating and protecting the mainland of the Eastern Shore from the Atlantic Ocean. The island runs some 37 miles from just south of Ocean City and Fenwick Island into Virginia. About 23 miles of the island is in Maryland, and 14 miles are in Virginia.
Assateague Island National Seashore [Fig. 23(1)] encompasses most of the island and the waters around it. Visitor centers are at both the Maryland end and the Virginia end. Three nature trails, a guarded swimming beach (summer season), picnicking, bicycling, camping, clamming, surf fishing, and crabbing are available on the north end. After about 1 mile, the paved road gives way to sand, where only off-road vehicles are allowed, by permit. Wild ponies that roam the island are a major tourist attraction. The Barrier Island Visitor Center at the island’s northern end has an aquarium, exhibits on natural history of barrier islands, maps and publications, and an interesting driving tour of the island on audio cassette tapes.
Two miles of guarded swimming beaches (in the summer season), as well as camping, fishing, picnicking, bicycling, and bayside canoeing are available at Assateague State Park on the Maryland end of Assateague Island. The park was selected by National Geographic Traveler as one of the 50 best parks in the United States. There is a boat ramp on the west side of the bridge to the island.
The island is not a good place to bring pets. They are not allowed anywhere in the state park or on any nature trails in the national seashore, and they must be on short leashes elsewhere.
The dark tannin-stained waters of the Pocomoke River are characteristic of cypress swamps. The Pocomoke’s tannin leaches out of the Great Cypress Swamp at its headwaters on the Maryland/Delaware border. Beginning just a few miles west of the salty Atlantic, the tidal river runs southwestward through Worcester County, carves the marshy border between Worcester and Somerset counties, then empties into Pocomoke Sound on the Maryland/Virginia line on its way to the Chesapeake Bay.
Anglers tackle yellow and white perch, pickerel, catfish, crappie, bluegill, herring, spot, croaker, bluefish, and largemouth bass. No Chesapeake Bay sport-fishing license is required when fishing from the banks at several designated free fishing areas. A list of these places is available wherever licenses are sold. Fishing from a boat requires a license.
The river, where 172 species of birds have been identified, is a favorite of ornithologists. Canoeists may see nesting wood ducks (Aix sponsa), or hear prothonotary warblers (Protonotaria citrea) in the forest. A shadow across the water could prove to be that of a soaring bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucophalus).
[Fig. 21(4)] Pocomoke River State Park is divided into two sections in Pocomoke River State Forest—the seasonally open Milburn Landing Area northwest of Snow Hill and the Shad Landing Area southwest of Snow Hill. The Shad Landing Area is the larger of the two, with camping Facilities, a marina, boat rentals, and a large swimming pool. The park provides access to the Pocomoke River along with Facilities to make river or riverside outings more enjoyable.The Trail of Change at the Shad Landing Area of the park is a 0.75-mile self-guided trail over hard-packed sand on what was once the Shad Landing Road where fishermen would bring in their catches of shad and other fish from the Pocomoke River. The trail leads through uplands of loblolly pine and drops down into cypress swamps where boardwalks and raised berms allow the hiker to view life in the wetlands.American holly, black gum, red maple, sassafras, wax myrtle, mountain laurel, and highbush blueberry are samples of trees and shrubbery found in the undergrowth. Common polypody ferns and Christmas ferns provide a delicate carpet of green in summer. There is also a self-guided canoe trail around an island in the Pocomoke River. Carry insect repellent during warm weather. If there are no trail brochures at the beginning, ask for one at the park office.
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