What is the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail?
The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is a 560-mile land and water route that tells the story of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay region. It connects historic sites in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and commemorates the events leading up to the Battle for Baltimore, the aftermath of which inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem. Following existing roads and waterways, the trail traces American and British troop movements, introduces visitors to communities affected by the war, and highlights the Chesapeake region’s distinctive landscapes and water features.
What is a National Historic Trail?
A national historic trail is designated by an act of US Congress. Congress established the Star-Spangled Banner Trail in 2008. The legislation establishing a national historic trail recognizes the proposed trail route’s significance to American history as well as visitor opportunities for recreation and learning. The Star-Spangled Banner Trail is one of 19 national historic trails in the National Trails System, and joins the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail as one of two in the mid-Atlantic region.
Where do I get on the trail?
In Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, you can begin your adventure at more than 25 visitor centers and regional information hubs where 3-sided outdoor orientation kiosks provide information about places to visit nearby. New locations will be added through 2013. Visit the trail’s website to help plan your trip. Trace troop movements in Maryland as you follow the auto route markers with directional signs to points of interest, or pick up a trail travel guide at one of the 25 visitor centers or other sites along the trail. Self-guiding itineraries on the trail website provide suggestions for planning your trip.
How do I find sites along the trail?
Signage and other media will help you get to hundreds of existing historic sites and museums, parks, and commemorative markers with a War of 1812 connection already open to the public and owned and operated by public and private organizations. Over the next year, interpretive signs will be installed at more than 75 sites along the trail. Many sites also offer exhibits, tours, and programs about the War of 1812 time period in addition to other learning and recreation opportunities.
The trail links over twenty national historic landmarks and over one hundred historic districts and properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as two national natural landmarks. As you follow the Star-Spangled Banner Trail you can stop in at 13 national parks, 39 Chesapeake Bay Gateways, and dozens of state and local parks, not to mention explore urban downtowns and historic villages. Many, but not all, of these places provide orientation and information about the trail, and a growing number are identified with trail signage.
Where can I bicycle the trail?
You can bicycle along some of the roadways that the trail follows, or along one of many multi-use trails that intersect the trail’s auto route. Mount a bike rack on your car – you’ll find plenty of parks that are best experienced from a bicycle. And remember to wear a helmet!
How do I get to the water portions of the trail?
The Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac, Patuxent, and Patapsco, Rivers, among others, are all part of the trail. You can launch your boat from public access ramps and docks along any of these waterways. Some public access points, such as Lower Marlboro, Maryland, offer fishing and water views. Guided tours and boat rentals are available in waterfront communities including Solomons, Havre de Grace, and Chestertown.
Eight NOAA buoys in the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System provide brief narrative remarks by Ranger Victor Markland of Fort McHenry. You can listen to the narratives over the telephone (dial 877-BUOY-BAY and choose the “geography” track), or read the narratives online at www.buoybay.noaa.gov.
I’m not really interested in military history. What else can I learn and do along the trail?
You can bike or boat, have a picnic or bird-watch – places along the trail offer opportunities to learn about other aspects of the Chesapeake and host special events and activities for a range of interests. Follow the Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail, a treasure hunt using GPS technology, to discover new places with interesting stories and natural beauty. Visit the trail website to learn about guided and self-guided recreation opportunities and special events that catch your interest. Many trail sites also interpret different perspectives on the War of 1812 time period, such as what society and culture were like, how women were treated or how slaves won or escaped to their freedom. If you are interested in politics or economics, foodways or clothing styles, you will discover that these stories are told, too. Communities through which the trail passes provide other diversions including shopping, lodging, and restaurants. Making use of the trail to plan your trip is a good way to meet the varied interests of groups and families.