Harpers Ferry/Maryland Heights

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, which cut through the northern extension of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The setting is dramatic and historically it has been an important location for water and rail transportation between the Shenandoah Valley and Appalachian mountain regions to the south and west and the coastal plain, including the Washington DC area, to the east. Consequently, it also had significant military importance during the Civil War.

In 1859, when the area was in Viriginia, John Brown made his famous, but unsuccessful, raid on the military facilities hoping to spark anti-slavery activities. Many of the buildings there at the time have been preserved or reconstructed and are now part of a National Historical Park that is about a 1.5 hour drive from the Washington area. See the National Park Service Site for more information about the area and activities.

The C&O Canal Towpath, another National Historical Park, is across the Potomac in Maryland. It is featured elsewhere on this site as another Washington pleasure. A pedestrian bridge over an old railroad bridge enables visitors to move between the two historical parks. It can also be reached by car by a couple of back roads from the main highway in the area, US 340.

There are steep hillsides on the east side, across the Shenandoah, and the north side, across the Potomac, of Harpers Ferry. There are trails up these mountains to historical military sites and overlooks. The one to the north on the Maryland Heights Trail provides a spectacular view of the town, the rivers, and the surrounding hills. It is especially scenic in the fall during leaf color season. The photo below was taken on October 25, 2009 from the Maryland Heights overlook and shows the town, the confluence with the Potomac in the foreground crossed by railroad bridges and the piers of an older bridge, the hills to the east, and some of the leaf color.

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