Steam Age


Steamboat Travel

 Throughout the 1800's, steamboats traveled the waters of the Patuxent River, carrying passengers and cargo. During this era, when these boats were the sole source of long-distance transportation, many roads along the Patuxent became named for the boat landings or private ferries that plied its waters. Some steamboats reached 160 feet long, with a 500 ton capactiy and drew 6 feet of water.

From 1885 to 1907, Pig Point was at the head of steamboat navigation on the Patuxent and the largest shipping place on the river. The name is derived from the low-grade “pig iron” shipped downriver from the Snowden Iron Furnace at Montpelier near Laurel during colonial times. In 1747, a tobacco inspection station existed at this site; in 1764, a store at Pig Point advertised East Indian, European, and Caribbean goods.

But the river’s load of mud would eventually hinder navigation. At Pig Point, sediment had built up to the degree that the Army Corps of Engineers dredged a ten-foot deep channel, 450 feet long, in 1888, and again in 1904. By 1905, however, the steamboat had been eclipsed by the railroad in commercial importance. 



                    Steamboat of the Weems Line


 The Chesapeake Beach Railway 

They called it the "Honeysuckle Route" because the railbed was "banked on either side with fragrant clumps of honeysuckle." And its purpose was just as fanciful: to carry vacationers from Washington, D.C., to the popular resort town of Chesapeake Beach, which boasted a boardwalk, a casino, dance pavilion, two hotels, and a roller coaster over the water. 

This railroad passed right through the middle of today's Sanctuary. The railroad and resort ceased operation in 1934 during the depression and the railroad was dismantled soon thereafter and sold as scrap metal.

Today a hiking trail goes out along the old railroad bed on a causeway into the marsh. It ends at the main river channel and in the middle of the river sits remains of the old railroad drawbridge pivot.