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New Chesapeake Gateway Site - The Wharves at Choptank Crossing

Fall 2003: Newly Designated Chesapeake Bay Gateway Site
….on the Choptank River at Denton

The upper Choptank River's most ambitious heritage tourism project has just gained even more momentum with the addition of the Wharves at Choptank Crossing to the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.  Coordinated by the National Park Service, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, is a Bay-wide system of parks, historic sites, refuges, museums and trails for experiencing the Chesapeake Bay’s natural and cultural heritage. 

Designation of the Wharves at Choptank Crossing as a Chesapeake Bay Gateway Site will bring Bay-wide recognition of the Wharves as an important place to learn about and enjoy Chesapeake heritage.    The Wharves at Choptank Crossing will enrich the experience of travelers by connecting the local maritime heritage of the upper ChoptankRiver to the broader heritage of the Chesapeake Bay region.   Visitors will be able to enjoy a historic riverfront steamboat landing and terminal, visitor center, and skipjacks and launch their canoes, kayaks or boats to travel the Choptank and Tuckahoe Rivers Trail.

The Wharves at Choptank Crossing reconnects the historic working riverfront of West Denton with the Town of Denton's riverfront on the east side. Historically, the two sides of the river were linked by maritime trade and the  distribution of goods from the Denton wharves.  Later, with the decline of river freight  (driven by the emergence of automobiles and trucks) and the replacement of the low profile bascule bridge with a high level bridge, the intimate, maritime roots that connected Denton with West Denton were severed.

The Wharves at Choptank Crossing project  links the riverfronts again, providing a unique tourism destination for motorists and boaters, enhancing historic preservation and telling the stories of  the many historic resources nearby. The project encompasses nearly 1,000 feet of Choptank riverfront including over 30 acres, two National Register Sites, an adjacent National Register Historic District, three National Register Vessels and access to the region's most extensive water trail- The Choptank & Tuckahoe Rivers Trail. 

The initial components of the Wharves at Choptank Crossing, which will be open to the public in November 2002, include a half-million dollar (west side) river front visitor's center/museum - the Joppa Steamboat Wharf Terminal and a land-based exhibit featuring the recently restored Chesapeake Bay Skipjack - F. C. Lewis, Jr.  In addition, existing improvements to the east side riverfront include expanded boat ramp facilities, picnic areas, restroom facilities and parking for recreational boaters. Planning has commenced for other east side riverfront improvements and services including outboard wharves, a restaurant/marina and transportation linkages for bus and walking tours as well as a connecting cable barge ferry, linking the east and west sides of the riverfront.

The Wharves at Choptank Crossing represent some of the earliest transportation systems and facilities of the fledgling United States,  including a port and wharves for sail craft, an 18th century ferry crossing and the Eastern Shore's first moveable bridge structure constructed across the Choptank in 1811.  Upcoming interpretive programs and exhibits will relate the unique "riverine trade", which flourished for over three hundred years on the Bay's tributaries and the stories of the people and places who were the heart and soul of this era. 

With its location on the great Choptank River, the Wharves at Choptank Crossing will also link with and provide access to some of the Bay region's most unique places.  This in turn, emphasizes the importance of the Bay’s tributaries.  The combined natural, cultural and historic resources along the Choptank represent the slow, 300-year evolution typical of the Eastern Shore's agrarian economy.  Throughout time, the Choptank and other Bay rivers served as the primary means of commerce, transportation and access to the towns, villages and people that occupy this special place called “the Eastern Shore”. 

Now, the 80 miles of the Choptank & Tuckahoe River Trail links the Wharves to historical, environmental and recreational resources throughout the region including ancient port towns, fisheries and villages, as well as outstanding recreational boating. Three ramp/launch sites will be available to the public at the Wharves location serving both paddlers and trailered motorized craft. In addition, the site falls along the path of the Designated Underground Railroad State Scenic Byway Route.

The Wharves at Choptank Crossing is located within one mile of a major state  roadway (Maryland Route 404) carrying over four million vehicles annually, most of which are tourism-generated trips. It is also strategically located in the center of the Mid-Shore Region providing both land and water access to the site.

To date, over $1 million has been committed for the research, planning, design, construction and operation of the Wharves at Choptank Crossing.  Funding for the  completed components of this project has been provided by the State of Maryland's Transportation Enhancement Program, the Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development's Maryland Historical Trust Grant Programs and the Neighborhood Partnership Tax Credit Program, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service's Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Program, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Preservation Maryland, the Caroline County Government, the Town of Denton and the Old Harford Town Maritime Center.

For questions or additional information regarding the Wharves at Choptank Crossing please contact Carl Scheffel at (410) 241-8661 or visit this web site again for project updates.

For additional information on the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network visit www.baygateways.net.