Susquehanna State Park is a public recreation area located on the banks of the lower Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace, in Cecil County, Maryland. The state park’s main feature is its restored 19th-century ironworks and mills that are operated as part of the adjacent Harford Heritage Center. The park also offers access to the river for fishing and swimming and trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. It is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The park has several miles of paved roads and paths open to bicycles, pedestrians, and horses. There are picnic areas and shelters, playgrounds, boat ramps, and cabins for overnight accommodations. The park features the historic Lost Sister Mill building foundations and ruins, which can be toured, and the Head House, built in 1890. The park hosts a number of annual events, including the MasonDixon Trail Half Marathon and 10K Run, the Susquehanna Greenways Festival, and the Masters Indoor Championships. Susquehanna State Park is used as a venue for equestrian sports such as show jumping and polo.
The park’s forested hillsides offer opportunities for hunting, although no hunting licenses are issued here. The park’s visitor center/museum complex contains exhibits about the history of the Susquehanna River Valley, local ecology and conservation issues, and activities and attractions available at the park. The museum store sells food, gifts, and souvenirs. Programs offered include hayrides, guided trail walks and hikes, naturalist-led programs, children’s days, and seasonal craft workshops. The park provides a habitat for a variety of wildlife, some of which may be seen during regular tours of the grounds.
Visitor center overview map showing location of park grounds. View looking east toward head house and main barn. Head House, one of three buildings still standing at the park. Main Barn, another surviving structure. Path leading past remnants of foundation of the Lost Sister Mill. Path past remnants of foundation of the Lost Sister Mill. Remains of the mill race, visible only after excavation. Aerial view showing park, millrace, and fields. Map of park grounds. Picnic shelter #1. Shelter #2. Group campground. Cabins accommodating up to six people.
Campsite for tents or RVs. Modern restroom facilities with hot showers are provided at both the group campground and the shelter. Additional campsites are available seasonally at the Boyds Creek Day Use Area. Backcountry camping permits must be obtained from the Parks & Recreation Office. Hunting is permitted on about 1,000 acres (400ha) of Susquehanna State Park. Hunters are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the Maryland Game Commission. Common game species include squirrels, pheasant, ruffed grouse, turkey, white-tailed deer, and black bears.
In 1876, industrialist Charles Macdonald purchased land along the West Fork of the Susquehanna River with plans to build an “industrial village” that would harness the power of the waterway for his textile mill. He enlisted the aid of Alfred I. du Pont, who was looking for new sources of income for the family business, A.I. du Pont Company. An agreement was made between the two families in 1880 under which du Pont would provide financial support to Macdonald’s venture in return for a controlling interest in any company formed there.
Two years later, when the project fell through, it was because Macdonald had failed to secure the necessary funding. At this point, du Pont bought out his partner; however he continued to help fund various projects including railroads, housing developments, and schools in the Baltimore area until his death in 1922. One of these ventures included the construction of what would become known as the Lost Sister Mill near present day North Point Marina. This mill produced yarn and fabric from woolens and linens. It burned down long ago, but the foundations remain and have been reconstructed to form part of the site of the Harford Heritage Center.
After the mill failure, Macdonald left the area and moved to Florida. However, he maintained ownership of the land and allowed friends and former employees to continue developing it as a recreational facility. These friends were Ethel Sturges Dummer and her husband Robert G. Byram Sr., Harry F. Byrd Jr., and Edward W. Bennett, all members of the prominent Byrd family of Virginia. They agreed among themselves to call their newly created entity “The Trust,” and signed over the management rights of Susquehanna Mills (later renamed) to the group, which then sold half of its shares back to the individual owners, retaining control of the other half. With the help of du Pont’s son, Robert G. Byram Jr., the property was given to the state of Maryland for use as a state park in 1950. The park officially opened to the public in 1954.
- mountain biking
- cross country skiing
Mammals observed include:
Birds observed include:
- bald eagles
- wild turkeys
- red-tailed hawks