Bush River

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Bush River Today

   The Bush River is a scenic river whose entrance is about 23 miles from Fort McHenry, MD, on the Patapsco River. About 7 miles upriver is a very scenic area off the mouth of Otter Point Creek just above the drawbridge (vertical clearing of 12 feet.) There are powerlines at a height of 35 ft. For bridge schedule, see: www.bushriveryachtclub.org

   Keep a sharp eye out for bald eagles, as Aberdeen Proving Ground consistently has some of the highest bald eagle counts in the state. This river gives you a sense of what the Northern Bay looked like in Smith's time.

Braving Enemy Fire

   Very few boaters explore the Bush river today because they are intimidated by the restricted area surrounding Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which is the hub for the army's testing of arms, ammunition and tanks.

   Many boaters, when cruising the northern Bay, mistake the sound of ordinance explosions with thunder.

For the Adventurous Spirit

   Those with an adventurous spirit can easily explore the Bush River. The military does not restrict boating on weekends. On weekdays, arrive after 5 pm and leave prior to 7:30 a.m. the next morning. The Cruising Guide to the Chesapeake will provide all the necessary information. 

   Smith had to brave hostile fire from shore too! At least now, the hostility has a definite start and stop time and there are patrol boats ensuring that visiting boats remains safe.

World's Best Ordinance Museum

   Aberdeen Proving Grounds contains one of the world's best ordinance museums, which includes extensive outdoor exhibits. The museum is about an 8-mile cab ride from Otter Creek Marina.   http://www.ordmusfound.org/

Safety: Follow the directions in the cruising guide and only anchor in the designated areas. APG patrols monitor channel 68.

APG boating safety


Bush River in 1608

   Smith clearly mapped the Bush River, which he called Willoughby's Flu after his hometown in England. However, Smith said little about his explorations of the Bush and Gunpowder Rivers, leading to some historical controversies over when he visited them (see below.)

   Assuming, that he explored the Bush river on the second voyage, he left Jamestown in late July. After spending two or three days due to contrary winds with the Kecoughtans, who lived near what is today Hampton, VA , he sailed a little past the river Bolus [Patapsco] to where he said the Bay "divides into two heads, and arriving there, we found it divided into four."  Is it off the Bush River that the Bay divides into two heads? Take a look for yourselves!

Smith Bluff's Indian Raiders                          

   Regardless, at some point in his explorations of the Northern Bay, while "crossing the bay", Smith came across seven or eight canoes of the fierce Massowomeks that he had heard so much about from other tribes. Unfortunately, only four of his 12 men are healthy. Smith however, understood that appearances are often more important than reality. As the Indians started to attack, Smith covered the sick men with a tarpaulin and placeed their hats on sticks to make them appear to be a larger crew. Smith's ploy worked and the Indians fled to shore at the mouth of the Bush river. Smith sailed after them and anchored near the shore.

   After several invitations by Smith and his crew, two unarmed Indians approached in a canoe, followed closely by armed warriors. Smith presented the two ambassadors with bells and soon they had several Indians on board. Since the visitors spoke a different language then the tribes Smith had associated with to this point, they communicated with gestures. Smith thought they had just come from attacking a village [on the Sassafras] called the Tockwoghs because of their physical wounds.  He was pleased by the meat, fish, weapons and furs that the Massowomeks presented to them.  Smith thought they would trade more in the morning but when they woke up, the Massowomeks had vanished. Smith headed off to the Sassafras River.

Smith Bush River journal entries:Bush River Journal Entry

Bush River Cross

   Smith's cross would be located about a mile and a half up on the Northern shore inside Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Smith 1612 map:http://www.johnsmith400.org/smithsmap.htm

Historical Controversy

 Since there are almost no written references to Willoughby Flu [Bush River] or Smal's Point [Gunpowder River,] some historians think Smith mapped them during his stay along the Patapsco River in May, 1608, during the first Chesapeake voyage.  Others believe it to be in July during the second voyage. Read Smith's journal entries to decide for yourself.

Name that Animal!                                                                          

Smith encountered many new and wonderous animals and plants. See if you can guess these common Chesapeake bay plants and critters from his descriptions by playing NameThatAnimal.

The Gunpowder River:

Smith mapped the mouth of the Gunpowder River, (including Carroll's island and Pooles Island) and named it Smal's Point after Robert Small, a soldier from the first voyage.

Image above: Sketch of Calvert Maritime Musuem replica of John Smith shallop