A variety of places to have fun

October 27, 2002|By SPECIAL TO THE SUN

From the 2,500-acre Susquehanna State Park to tiny neighborhood green spaces, Harford County is blessed with parks offering a variety of resources and recreational activities.

Forests, waterfalls, rivers, huge rock formations, nature centers, historic sites, sports facilities and trails for hiking, horseback riding and cycling -- Harford County parks offer them all.

State parks

The State of Maryland provides detailed descriptions of its park facilities in Harford County on its Web site, www.dnr.state. md.us. Among the highlights:

Rocks State Park, which covers 855 acres and includes 3.5 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas with playgrounds and shelters, fishing, canoeing, swimming and tubing on Deer Creek and bow hunting. A campfire program is held at 7 p.m. Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day at the Rock Ridge Amphitheater.

Its most famous feature is the King and Queen Seat, described by the state Department of Natural Resources as a natural rock outcrop that "soars above Deer Creek at a height of 190 feet" and once served as a ceremonial site for members of the Susquehannock nation. This natural feature is a draw for hikers and experienced rock climbers.

The park is eight miles northwest of Bel Air on Route 24.

Information, 410-557-7994, or visit www.dnr.state.md.us/public lands/central/rocks.html.

In addition to the main park, Rocks State Park includes two other areas.

Falling Branch, 67 acres of undeveloped land five miles north of the main park off Falling Branch Road and home to Kilgore Falls, the state's second-highest vertical drop waterfall. The falls can be reached by a hiking trail.

Hidden Valley Natural Area, another undeveloped parcel that offers hiking trails and fishing along Deer Creek, five miles north of the main park area at Madonna, Telegraph and Carea roads.

Susquehanna State Park, along the Susquehanna River valley, notable for its heavily forested areas and rock outcroppings. The park offers a campground with campsites and cabins, campfire programs, a picnic area with new pavilions, a playground and more than 15 miles of marked and unmarked trails. Other features include trails appropriate for mountain bikers and pets, cross-county skiing, a boat launch, flat-water canoeing, a bow-hunting area and an archery range.

Rock Run Historical Area features the working 200-year-old Rock Run Grist Mill, Jersey Toll House, Archer Mansion and remains of Susquehanna Tidewater Canal. The mill, toll house and mansion are open for tours on weekends, May through September.

Also in the park is the privately operated Steppingstone Museum (410-939-2299, www. steppingstonemuseum.org), with rural artifacts from about 1880 to 1920, a turn-of-the-century furnished farmhouse and a barn, sheds and shops housing displays of tools and implements once used by farm families and skilled rural craftsmen such as the blacksmith, woodwright and wheelwright.

The park is three miles northwest of Havre de Grace, off Route 155.

Information: 410-557-7994, or www.dnr.state.md.us/ publiclands/central/ susquehanna.html.

Gunpowder Falls State Park covers 18,000 acres, mostly in Baltimore County. But most of the primarily undeveloped Sweet Air section of the park ( in Baldwin, with access from Dalton-Bevard Road) is in Harford County and popular with hikers, horseback riders and cyclists.

Also in Harford County is the park's Jerusalem Mill section (2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville), which includes the park headquarters, containing a small museum with historic photos of the area. Jerusalem Village is the location of the restored Jerusalem Mill and other structures, including a blacksmith shop and a gun factory where gun stocks were made during the American Revolution.

Events at the village include blacksmithing demonstrations, Colonial living history demonstrations, the annual Colonial Craftsmen Weekend, a concert series and art contests.

From the Jerusalem area, visitors can hike blazed trails along Little Gunpowder Falls, upstream and downstream. One of the trails leads to the nearby Jericho Covered Bridge, which connects Harford and Baltimore counties.

Fishing is popular along the stream, which is stocked with trout in put-and-take fishing areas.

Information, 410-592-2897 or visitwww.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/cen tral/gun powder.html.

Locally run parks

Harford County also is home to more than 75 county, city and town parks, ranging from large regional parks with hundreds of acres to small neighborhood parks of less than an acre.

Some parks are developed, with athletic fields or other sports facilities, picnic areas and pavilions, or piers and boat launches. Others feature historical sites. Still others are partially developed or are undeveloped, suitable for passive recreational activities such as hiking or picnicking.

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