At a Glance
Hours: Daytime hours for most sites mentioned. Tome Visitor Center and Turtle Habitat: generally open Friday-Saturday-Sunday 11 AM – 4 PM but hours can change depending on volunteer availability.
Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ There may be hunting on private lands along the Susquehanna River Road north of Port Deposit. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. Consider wearing blaze orange during deer and turkey seasons. ◾ After heavy snow melt or heavy rains, portions of Route 222 from Main Street in Port Deposit north to the Conowingo Dam may be closed because of flooding. Check the State Highway Department website for Route 222 status. ◾ Restrooms are located at Marina Park in Port Deposit. Look for the small green and beige building between the parking lot and the playground.
Best Seasons: Winter, early spring, late summer, and fall. Some of the small parking areas may fill to capacity on weekends during nice weather. Arrive early and try to visit on weekdays.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Havre de Grace NW, Aberdeen NE, Conowingo Dam SE
Local MOS Chapter: Cecil Bird Club
Port Deposit & Susquehanna River Road Driving Tour
Start at Port Deposit Marina Park: 160 South Main Street, Port Deposit, MD, 21904
GPS Coordinates: 39.599417, -76.110015
Port Deposit Town Hall: (410) 378-2121 (business hours Monday – Thursday)
There is no better way to spend a blustery winter or early spring morning in Cecil County than by bundling up, grabbing your scope, and working your way up the Susquehanna River. You can also visit in warmer weather to look for migrants and breeding birds. We provide directions for a 6-mile driving tour that takes you to the best stops, starting at the south end of Port Deposit and working north toward the Conowingo Dam.
Dating back to the 1700s (see Historical Notes below), the town of Port Deposit in Cecil County has a long, linear layout, nestled between the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River and tall, rocky cliffs that tower over the town. The town is defined by its location, just a couple miles below Conowingo Dam. Port Deposit endures periodic flooding when the dam opens its floodgates in response to high waters associated with storms or snow melt. The high-water marks are easy to see on some of the houses that line the town’s Main Street. But high water aside, the town boasts excellent access to the Susquehanna River, which is a major migration corridor and wintering ground for waterfowl, gulls, and other birds.
Port Deposit has several stops along the river that make for a couple of productive hours of waterfront birding. The only tricky part about birding Port Deposit is that there is a railroad that runs the length of the town along the riverbank, and much of the property lining Main Street consists of private residences, so it’s necessary to carefully choose how to access the riverbank for water viewing. Luckily, the town provides several points of easy public access.
The good birding continues along Susquehanna River Road/MD Route 222 north of Port Deposit; the road runs along the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River all the way to Conowingo Dam, offering several stops that complement those in Port Deposit, including several in forested habitat where you can increase your day list of species, especially during migration or breeding season.
The route described here makes for good birding for those who are mobility-impaired in that most of the stops offer wheelchair-accessible surfaces or birding from or near the car.
STOP 1. Our tour starts at the very edge of town at the south end of Port Deposit, where the city-owned Marina Park sits on the waterfront. Marina Park offers excellent views of the open waters of the river, with a vista that takes in a couple of miles of the river. This spot is especially good in early spring for migrating seaducks and gulls. In late summer, it’s a good spot for terns. Directly across the river, on the Harford County side, is the Lapidum Boat Launch Area, part of Susquehanna State Park. If the birds you are looking at are stacking up along the Harford side (it happens, depending on winds and currents), you can take a run across the dam to Lapidum to get a better look.
The Tome Visitor Center and Turtle Habitat, at 1200 Roland Drive, shares the parking lot with Marina Park, and is located in the Gas House, a historic, handsome stone building at the north end of Marina Park. The “turtle habitat” in the name refers to a project involving the endangered Northern Map Turtle; since 2008, the town has partnered with Towson University to study these turtles and conserve their habitat. It’s worth a visit inside but has limited hours, usually only open on weekend afternoons. Behind the Visitor Center is a raised concrete viewing platform that can extend your view of the waters of the river.
STOP 2. A paved sidewalk starts at Marina Park, wraps around the Visitor Center, and then heads north along the seawall of the river. This is the town’s Promenade, open to the public. The Promenade runs about a mile north, to a condo development called Tome’s Landing. Birding from the Promenade allows you to peek into the hidden corners of a couple of marinas, looking for gems that may be lurking with the usual dock Mallards, and to get good looks at interesting gulls that may be perched on docks and boats.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to walk the whole Promenade, you can drive to 600 Rowland Drive, where a large paved parking lot serves Lee’s Dock Bar (left turn onto Rowland Drive from Main Street, then another left into the parking area). Lee’s Dock Bar is right behind the Promenade, so you can go past the bar and out onto the Promenade for a look at the water.
After birding the Promenade, return to your car (which will be at Marina Park if you birded the Promenade on foot, or at Lee’s Dock Bar). Turn left out of the parking lot to go north along Route 222, the town’s Main Street.
STOP 3 (optional). The next stop involves a small detour off Route 222 that can be good during spring or fall migration or during breeding season, but can be skipped during winter. About 2.4 miles north of Marina Park, from Route 222/Main Street, turn right onto MD Route 269/Granite Avenue. In 600 feet, at a fork, bear left to stay on Route 269, now following Race Street. Your destination is the little-known Spot-in-Rock/Earline Brown Memorial Park, located at 23 Race Street on the left (west side) in just 400 feet. The town-owned park has a few picnic tables, a basketball court, and a small playground. The park’s 68 wooded acres occupy the former site of Hopkin’s Quarry (see Historical Notes below). From a birding perspective, the woods at Spot-in-Rock (sometimes written Spot n’ Rock) are the southern extent of a forested strip along the east bank of the Susquehanna that extends north to the Pennsylvania line and beyond. This is a migration corridor par excellence, but has been eclipsed in local birding fame by Susquehanna River Park on the west side of the river in Harford County. But the birding here can be just as good in spring and fall migration, as well as during breeding season. Spot-in-Rock Park has no developed or maintained trail system, but there are casual trails, many created by rock climbers heading for the old quarry. Watch your footing because unfortunately, the park has long been a dumping ground, and apart from the rocky ground, there are hazards such as discarded metal pieces and other trash.
Return to your car and turn right out of the park to go south on Race Street and then Granite Avenue to return to Main Street/Route 222, and turn right to go north. If you skipped Spot-in-Rock Park, you’ll be continuing with the route here.
STOP 4. Just north of Granite Avenue, Route 222 will pass under a stone railroad bridge at an S-curve.bImmediately after Route 222 passes under the railroad bridge, make a hard left onto Rock Run Landing Lane, part paved, part gravel, part dirt, that heads south, parallel to the railroad tracks and the river. (Mind the oncoming traffic as you turn left from Route 222 – the line of sight at this S-curve is very bad). You’re heading for the tiny Rock Run Landing Park and Boat Launch, owned by Exelon (the company that operates Conowingo Dam) and open to the public. To reach the park, continue past an Artesian Water Company building on the right, following the lane south through a wooded area. The lane will emerge at a gravel parking area in sight of the riverbank. (Warning: the lane is not maintained regularly and may be impassable after heavy rains, snows, or floods. Be careful not to get your car stuck.) In bygone days, there used to be an actual marina here, but now all that remains are a few pilings sticking out of the water. But the view of the river is spectacular. You will be looking out on a rocky section of the river with many small islands. During winter or early spring, it may be brimming with waterfowl and gulls.
STOP 5. Return up Rock Run Landing Lane to Route 222, named Susquehanna River Road at this point, and turn left to go north. (Again, mind the traffic as you pull out at this S-curve). Go north for a quarter-mile to a pull-off on the right, at the ruins of a small stone building set in front of the railroad tracks, and with a small clearing and stone cliffs visible in the background. The building is the abandoned office building of the former quarry. This pull-off presents another opportunity to view the river, as well as to check for birds in the woods and on the stone cliffs of this abandoned quarry site. The land here is part of the Town of Port Deposit’s Spot-in-Rock Park. Take a good look at the cliffs while there – there is some speculation that Peregrine Falcons that currently nest at Conowingo Dam could eventually take up residence here.
STOP 6. Continue north on Route 222 for another quarter-mile to a large paved parking lot on the right, at the Jerry Skrivanek VFW Post. The main reason to stop here is to gain a view of Smith’s Falls, an especially rocky section of the Susquehanna River, named for Captain John Smith (see Historical Notes below). Sometimes during migration, it is possible to find shorebirds on the rocks here; otherwise, it’s a good spot for ducks, gulls, and terns.
After checking the river, turn right out of the VFW parking lot to continue north on Route 222/Susquehanna River Road. As you drive north, the road will veer away a little from the banks of the river, with a wide wooded strip between the road and the river. Pay attention to this strip as you drive. This section contains the remnants of the old Susquehanna Canal (see Historical Notes below); all that is left of the canal are some water-filled ditches that can hold waterfowl, especially during migration, and that seem to be attractive to migrating songbirds. Be aware that, because of the canal ditches, it is virtually impossible to reach the river on foot in this section.
STOP 7. Your next stop is about 1.8 miles further along Route 222, at the Union Hotel, a tavern and restaurant (no longer offers lodging) on the right (east) side of Route 222. The large parking lot of the Union Hotel is nestled in a wooded clearing, and the hotel backs up to the ever-present cliffs. The hotel sometimes hosts large events and can be quite lively, but if the parking lot is quiet, you can pull in and bird the edges of the woods. This is a good spot for warblers and other forest-dwelling birds during migration or early breeding season.
STOP 8. From the Union Hotel, drive north another 1.1 miles to the entrance to Conowingo Park, on the left. This tiny sports-oriented park contains a birding gem, the Octoraro Creek Trail, that runs along the south bank of the Octoraro Creek to its junction with the Susquehanna River. See the separate entry in this Birder’s Guide for the Octoraro Creek Trail at Conowingo Park.
STOP 9. After birding the Octoraro Creek Trail, turn left out of the parking lot to continue north on Route 222, but in a short distance, immediately after crossing a bridge over Octoraro Creek, make a hard right turn onto Moore Road, which goes south and then east, following the north bank of Octoraro Creek. There are several places to pull over on the shoulder, especially near the ruins of a high arched railroad bridge, to gain a view of the Octoraro Creek; you’ll likely be sharing the creek with fishermen at any time of year. Apart from waterfowl on the creek in the winter, the main birding interest here are the wooded hillsides that overlook the Octoraro, where sycamores tower over the stream, and where you can find interesting songbirds such as Yellow-throated Warbler, Warbling Vireo, and Yellow-throated Vireo.
STOP 10. Continuing further east on Moore Road, you’ll come to the intersection with Dr. Jack Road on the right. Turn right onto Dr. Jack Road to immediately cross an old iron bridge over the Octoraro Creek; as you cross the bridge, a short distance to the north (left), you’ll see the mouth of Basin Run, a tributary of the Octoraro. You are now in the historic village of Rowlandsville, an old mill town. Follow Dr. Jack Road a short distance east to a fork; bear left at the fork onto Basin Run Road, which runs parallels to Basin Run on your left (north side of the road as you drive east). A convenient place to stop for a look is the tiny Rowlandsville Fishing Park, on the left, about 450 feet after the fork, almost directly across from the ruins of an old stone church. Basin Run is one of the most pristine small streams in Cecil County, and the wooded hillsides along Basin Run Road host warblers, vireos, flycatchers, thrushes. Usually, a Belted Kingfisher can be found flying along the stream.
Fun fact: there is a small segment of Susquehanna River Park in this area, wedged between Route 222 and the village of Rowlandsville. As most local birders know, the main part of Susquehanna State Park is on the west side of the river, in Harford County, but there are three parcels in Cecil County (including the grounds of the church ruins between Basin Run and Dr. Jack Roads) totaling about 100 acres. However, there are no maintained trails or public access to this section of the park.
You can continue driving east on Basin Run Road, but at some point, you will want to turn around and retrace your route to return to Route 222. (Go west on Basin Run, straight ahead at the fork to Dr. Jack Road, over the iron bridge and turn left onto Moore Lane, which takes you back to Route 222.)
STOP 11. As Moore Road merges onto Route 222, you’ll see a wide shoulder on the right at a power line cut that goes down a tall hill on the right. You can pull over here for a brief stop to look at the power towers, but stay on the shoulder of the public road; the brushy swath beneath the power towers is posted No Trespassing and is strictly off-limits to foot traffic. But it’s worth a look – the power towers are often festooned with Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and (in the warm months) Ospreys. This is the prominent power line that you can see from across the river at the Conowingo Dam Fisherman’s Park. Note that there is no access to view the downstream side of Conowingo Dam from the Cecil County side; the land adjacent to the dam is strictly off-limits.
STOP 12. Continue north on Route 222, entering an area where both sides of the road are heavily wooded. Ahead and to the left lies Conowingo Dam. All of the land here is owned by Exelon, the owner of the dam, and all of it is off-limits to the public. There is no access to view the downstream side of Conowingo Dam from the Cecil County side. The woods, however, offer a rich habitat for forest-dwelling birds, and if you can find a safe place to pull over on the road shoulder, a brief roadside birding stop here can add to your day list in any season. Conditions change from time to time, so we cannot give precise locations of any pullovers. Exercise extreme caution when pulling over here, especially when on foot, as traffic moves fast and there are blind spots near the intersection of Route 222 with Route 1.
End of the tour. Continue north on Route 222. In just 0.65 miles, Route 222 will emerge at a T-intersection with US Route 1, with Conowingo Dam immediately to the left. This marks the end of our tour
Optional Add-ons. If you wish to continue birding, this tour combines nicely with a visit to Funk’s Pond and the Old Conowingo Area, which provide access to the Susquehanna River/Conowingo Lake above the dam on the Cecil County side. Turn right at US Route 1 to reach Funk’s Pond, and see the separate entry for Funk’s Pond and the Old Conowingo Area in this Birder’s Guide. Or, you can turn left on US Route 1 to travel across Conowingo Dam to reach Fisherman’s Park at the base of the dam in Harford County; see the separate entry for Conowingo Dam Fishermen’s Park in this Birder’s Guide.
The stops on our tour have an aggregate of 229+ species reported to eBird. In order from south to north, there are seven eBird hotspots relevant to this tour, but as you can see, not all of the stops on our tour have specific eBird hotspots:
- Port Deposit overall (STOPS 1 through 4) – 147+ species
- Marina Park, Port Deposit (STOP 1) – 124+ species
- Rock Run Landing (Cecil Co.) (STOP 4) – 119+ species
- Susquehanna River Road (STOPS 5 through 7 plus 11) – 102+ species
- Conowingo Park (STOP 8) – 177+ species
- Octoraro Creek at Moore Road (STOPS 9 & 10) – 86+ species
- Conowingo Dam (Cecil County) (STOP 12) – 175+ species
Note that there is no public access into the wooded area represented by the hotspot for Conowingo Dam (Cecil County), located on the eastern bank of the Susquehanna immediately below the dam (STOP 12). Many of the larger birds reported there have actually been observed from the opposite side of the river at Conowingo Dam Fishermen’s Park, with the remainder (songbirds, woodpeckers, and flyovers) coming from the shoulders of the public roadway along Route 222.
The primary feature of this birding tour is maximum exposure to waterfowl and waterbirds of all kinds, including loons, grebes, gulls and terns. In all, 33 species of ducks, swans, and geese have been reported along the route; most of these would be found from the river overlook points in Port Deposit (Stops 1 through 4), but there are some exceptions: for example, Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers can be found in the remnants of the old canal that lie between Susquehanna River Road and the river north of Port Deposit (Stops 5 through 7 plus 11), and sometimes Common Goldeneyes and Ruddy Ducks appear on Octoraro Creek (Stops 8, 9, and 10). The Port Deposit stops are especially good for seaducks such as Long-tailed Duck and scoters, which may appear in fall or in late winter/early spring.
Other possibilities on the river in appropropriate seasons include American Coot; Pied-billed, Horned, and Red-necked Grebes; Double-crested Cormorant; Common Loon; an assortment of gulls and terns, the usuals being Bonaparte’s, Laughing, Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed, with sporadic Lesser Black-backeds; Caspian Terns and occasional Common and Forster’s Terns.
Some of the rarities that have shown up include Pomarine Jaeger, Red Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, Black-headed Gull, Little Gull, Iceland Gull, Black Tern, Red-throated Loon, Northern Gannet (!), and American White Pelican.
Great Blue Heron and Great Egret are easy to find along the river, with Great Blues present year-round. Green Herons come through in late summer through fall, and Black-crowned Night-Herons might appear in spring or early summer.
Shorebirds are possible along the river during migration, and can be found on mudflats along the shore, feeding on algae mats, or hopping about among the many rocks in the river. You’re unlikely to see large flocks; instead, it’s a game of looking for singles and small groups in likely spots. The expected species include Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and – if you’re very lucky – Red-necked or Red Phalarope, most often found feeding on algal mats.
Black and Turkey Vultures are always present, as all Bald Eagles, and Ospreys are around from March through September. Red-shouldered Hawks frequent the wet woods north of town, and Red-tailed Hawks are also common. There are sporadic sightings of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks as well as Northern Harriers. Likely owls include Great Horned and Eastern Screech-Owl. All three Maryland falcons can be found: American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine, mostly in migration, but Peregrins do breed at Conowingo Dam and are present all year.
Belted Kingfishers are present year-round and are easy to see, cruising along the river or perched on low-hanging branches at the water’s edge. Five species of woodpeckers breed in the woods along the river and are present year-round: Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers can be found from October through early April.
Breeding populations of five species of flycatchers are present: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested, and Eastern Kingbird. There are four breeding vireos: White-eyed, Red-eyed, Yellow-throated, and Warbling, and Blue-headed comes through during migration.
Blue Jays, American Crows, and Fish Crows are common. Common Ravens are increasingly seen; they are expanding their breeding range eastward in Maryland. In fact, Cecil County’s first record of Common Raven occurred along the Susquehanna north of Port Deposit. Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice are common in the wooded areas year-round, and are joined by Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets in winter. Red-breasted Nuthatches are scarce but are another possible winter visitor. Brown Creepers occur from November through March. White-breasted Nuthatches bread and are present year-round. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are an abundant breeder, present from April through September.
Swallows put on a good show over the river during the warm months. Purple Martins, Tree, and Barn Swallows breed locally, and Bank Swallows migrate through in late summer.
House Wrens breed and can be found from May through September; Carolina Wrens also breed in the vicinity and are present year-round; and Winter Wrens are easy to find from October through early April. Northern Mockingbirds are common year-round, while Gray Catbirds are present during the breeding season from May through September, and a few Brown Thrashers may be around from in the same time span.
In the thrush department, Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins are plentiful year-round. Wood Thrushes breed in the wooded areas and can be found from May through August. Hermit Thrushes spend the winter, arriving in November and staying until March or April. Other thrushes come through on spring or fall migration: Veery, Gray-cheeked, Swainson’s. Cedar Waxwings can often be found in mixed flocks with bluebirds and robins, particularly in winter when they feed on berries in the woods.
Surprisingly, American Pipits can sometimes be found, mostly as flyovers during migration in early spring. Stay tuned for their pip-pip-pip calls along the river in Port Deposit or at Conowingo Park.
House Finches and American Goldfinches are common year-round. With luck, Purple Finches or Pine Siskins might be found in winter.
Breeding sparrows include Chipping, maybe a few Fields, Song, and Eastern Towhee. During the winter, there are Dark-eyed Juncos and Fox, White-throated, Savannah, and Swamp Sparrows. House Sparrows are abundant throughout Port Deposit and around scattered homes along the river.
It is possible to find a few Yellow-breasted Chats in the spring or summer, mainly in the power line cuts along Susquehanna River Road or at Conowingo Park. The trees along the river and its tributaries are a stronghold for breeding Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, present from late April through summer. Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Brown-headed Cowbirds are abundant for most of the year, but might be absent during the depths of winter. Rusty Blackbirds might be found in early spring in damp woods – essentially, anywhere along the tour. European Starlings are abundant year-round throughout the area.
The woods along the entire tour are great for warblers – remember, Susquehanna State Park, often called the Warbler Capital of Maryland, is right across the river. Thirty-one warbler species have been reported, the majority being spring or fall migrants, but at least twelve species have breeding populations along the tour route, notably Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary, Kentucky, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Cerulean, Northern Parula, Yellow, Yellow-throated, and Prairie.
Scarlet Tanagers (spring trough summer), Northern Cardinals (year-round), Rose-breasted Grosbeak (spring and fall migration) and Indigo Bunting spring through summer) round out the bird populations along our route.
A challenge: No Blue Grosbeaks have been reported for this area. Can you be the first to find one for the Third Breeding Bird Atlas?
Most of the tour stops are in paved parking areas or on wide shoulders of paved roads, presenting good birding opportunities for those who are mobility impaired. The promenade in Port Deposit is wheelchair-accessible. The Octoraro River Trail at Conowingo Park is not wheelchair-accessible, but the park has a paved walking loop that is.
Pets are allowed on leash; pick up after your pet.
The Port Deposit riverfront and Susquehanna River Road lie within the Susquehanna River Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society.
The entire town of Port Deposit is listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and the town, as well as additional places along the Susquehanna River Road, are also listed within the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties.
We’re including historical notes because the history of the area is impossible to ignore as you bird it – without efforts at historical preservation in Port Deposit, we might not have any sites for birding today.
Port Deposit, originally known as Creswell’s Ferry, was settled in the 1700s; its early economy was dependent on handling freight goods such as grain, potatoes, whiskey, lumber, and coal that were being transported on the Susquehanna River. Smith’s Falls at the north end of town was a barrier to boats and barges, and the town became a “port of deposit” – a temporary storage and transfer station in the movement of the goods.
Smith’s Falls were named by Captain John Smith himself. During his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in 1608, he made it upriver on the Susquehanna only as far as the falls (actually a rocky section of the river, not a freefalling waterfall). A ferry existed at Port Deposit as far back as 1729. There were several early failed attempts to build a bridge across the Susquehanna, but by 1818, a covered wooden bridge ran from Port Deposit to the Lapidum area; it was the first bridge to span the Susquehanna. It was abandoned around 1857, but the stone piers of the bridge can still be seen in the river.
Hopkin’s Quarry, the McClenahan Brothers Quarry, and other quarries (all now closed) at the north end of Port Deposit were the source of “granite” (actually gneiss) for many local buildings as well as for national landmarks such as Fort McHenry, Fort Carroll, Fort Delaware, the US Naval Academy, the Boston Public Library, Catholic University of America, the US Treasury Building, and the Lincoln Tunnel. The quarries were active from the town’s earliest days. An abandoned stone office building for the McClenahan Brothers Quarry, built circa 1870, still stands north of Port Deposit (see Stop 5 above).
Built circa 1725, the Rock Run Mill at the north end of Port Deposit was a grain mill. The stone mill and the adjacent miller’s house still stand; they are privately owned and not open to the public. Are you confused because you thought that the Rock Run Mill was in Harford County? Indeed, there is a mill of the exact same name almost directly across the river, in what is now Susquehanna State Park. The mill in the state park on the Harford County side is open to visitors.
The historic Tome Gas House adjacent to Marina Park in Port Deposit was built circa 1850 of Port Deposit granite. Originally used to generate power for the Jacob Tome mansion, it has been faithfully restored and now serves as the Tome Visitor Center as well as housing a small research facility.
The Susquehanna Canal ran for 9 miles on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, from the Pennsylvania state line to Port Deposit. The Susquehanna Canal was chartered by the Maryland legislature in 1783 and opened in 1803. The canal allowed boat traffic to carry goods in both directions, while bypassing Smith’s Falls. However, the Susquehanna Canal ceased operations in 1840 when a competing canal, the Susquehanna and Tidewater, opened on the Harford County side of the river. All that is left of the Susquehanna Canal now are some water-filled ditches that parallel the river and Route 222, along with few scattered remnants of the masonry canal lock structures, now crumbling. Birders will encounter these remnants if they attempt to bushwhack through the woods to reach the riverbank from Route 222 (not advised).
The main building at the Union Hotel (Stop 7) looks older than it is – it was built in the twentieth century for its current use as a tavern and restaurant. However, an adjacent log house that is currently used as a private residence dates back to 1790.
Although it is not a stop on our birding tour, we must mention the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center, which was an integral part of Port Deposit’s twentieth century history. The Bainbridge property is perched high on the cliffs overlooking Port Deposit, occupying about 740 acres. Bainbridge was built on the site of the former Tome School, a private preparatory academy, and incorporated some of its buildings. Bainbridge was built to support the US military effort during World War II. Now closed, the site is studded with a vast number of buildings of various sizes in various stages of deterioration. There is a long recent history of stalled efforts to convert the site for mixed-use development, but development plans have stalled for various reasons, including the presence of hazardous materials. Bainbridge is privately owned and is strictly off-limits to the public, which is why is not part of our birding tour.
Marina Park in Port Deposit has a paved parking lot, a few picnic benches (including a couple under a small water-edge pavilion, handy when it’s raining or snowing), a boat ramp, a playground and other visitor amenities, including restrooms. Shoreline fishing is allowed.
Towson University has a Research and Education Center in the Tome Visitor Center adjacent to Marina Park in Port Deposit. Students based here have studied local populations of Northern Map Turtles and restored habitat for them since 2008. According to the Susquehannock Wildlife Society, which supports the Towson University project, the Northern Map Turtle is only found in the Lower Susquehanna and its tributaries in Harford and Cecil Counties. The Susquehannock Society has collaborated with Towson on a publication about the local population of Northern Map Turtles.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Cecil Bird Club, offering field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
Parking is available in paves parking area and on road shoulders, as noted in the tour description for each stop.
The following directions take you to the start of the tour at Marina Park in Port Deposit.
The street address is: 160 South Main Street, Port Deposit, MD, 21904
GPS Coordinates: 39.599417, -76.110015
From Elkton: Get on I-95 at MD Route 279. Take I-95 west toward Perryville. Take Exit 93 for MD Route 222 north. From Exit 93, follow signs for MD Route 222 north toward Port Deposit. In just a half-mile, at a traffic light, note that Route 222 turns left (west) to follow Bainbridge Road; make that left turn and follow Bainbridge Road. In about 2.5 miles, after descending a hill, Route 222 makes a sharp right within view of the Susquehanna River, straight ahead. Immediately after the sharp curve, make the first left into the Port Deposit Marina Park
From the Baltimore or Washington, DC areas (including Prince George’s County): Travel north on I-95, crossing the Susquehanna River at the high bridge just past the exit for Havre De Grace. Take Exit 93, which is the first exit after the bridge. From Exit 93, follow signs for MD Route 222 north toward Port Deposit. In just a half-mile, at a traffic light, note that Route 222 turns left (west) to follow Bainbridge Road; make that left turn and follow Bainbridge Road. In about 2.5 miles, after descending a hill, Route 222 makes a sharp right within view of the Susquehanna River, straight ahead. Immediately after the sharp curve, make the first left into the Port Deposit Marina Park.
From Western Maryland: Use I-70 to reach the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), then follow directions from Baltimore as shown above.
From Annapolis and points south (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties): From points south of Annapolis, use MD Routes 2 or 4 to reach US Route 50 west of Annapolis. From Route 50, take Exit 21 to I-97 and follow I-97 north to reach the Baltimore Beltway (I-695). Follow the Outer Loop of the Beltway east to reach Exit 33 for I-95 North. Follow I-95 north to Exit 93 and then use directions above for the Baltimore or Washington, DC areas.
From points south on the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 50 and then MD Route 213 to reach Elkton. From Route 213, turn right to go north on MD Route 279. Elkton-Newark Road. At the interchange for I-95, follow signs to get on I-95 westbound toward Perryville. Take Exit 93 for MD Route 222 north. From Exit 93, follow signs for MD Route 222 north toward Port Deposit. In just a half-mile, at a traffic light, note that Route 222 turns left (west) to follow Bainbridge Road; make that left turn and follow Bainbridge Road. In about 2.5 miles, after descending a hill, Route 222 makes a sharp right within view of the Susquehanna River, straight ahead. Immediately after the sharp curve, make the first left into the Port Deposit Marina Park.
Cecil County: Elk River Park & Elkton Marsh ◾ Elkton – Meadow Park, Eder Park, Hatchery Park, & Howard’s Pond ◾ Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area ◾Funk’s Pond Recreation Area & Old Conowingo Area ◾ North East Community Park ◾ Octoraro Creek Trail at Conowingo Park ◾ Perryville Community Park ◾ Woodlawn Wildlife Area / New Beginnings
Harford County: Bradenbaugh Flats & Upper Deer Creek Valley ◾ Conowingo Dam / Fisherman’s Park (Harford County Side) ◾ Eden Mill Nature Center ◾ Havre De Grace Marina | Tydings Memorial Park ◾ Rocks State Park ◾ Susquehanna State Park ◾ Swan Harbor Farm & Tydings Park (Oakington)
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Lawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseUrban or Small Town Landscape Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
Features and Amenities:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBirding By CarBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasCommunity and Urban ParksCounty ParksDriving Tour (Roadside Birding)The Rivers of the Eastern Shore