Susquehanna River

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Havre De Grace and Port Deposit, MD         

Lower Susquehanna River,

     The Lower Susquehanna River delta offers a scenic blend of verdant marshes, thickly forested bluffs and wide expanses of blue water. There is wonderful fishing, bountiful bird watching and amazing sunsets.

      The Susquehanna Flats are aptly named, most of the depths here are 1 to 1.5 ft, so keep strictly to the channels.  On a windy day, the chop can get steep, especially when there is wind against tide. Also keep a sharp lookout for debris, particularly after a storm.

Susquehanna River in 1608

        Smith most likely did a cursory exploration of the Susquehanna prior to his unexpected meeting with the Massowomeks in the middle of the Bay. However, after sailing up the Sassafras and hearing from the Tockwoghs about the northern tribe the Sasquesahanocks, Smith convinced the Tockwoghs to help contact the tribal chiefs for him and allow Smith to act as a peace emissary. Smith sailed from the Sassafras to the Susquehannock River (probably near Port Deposit, MD) carrying two Indian interpreters*.

    The interpreters traveled by foot up the Susquehanna and after four days arrive back with five Sasquesahanock chiefs and about 60 warriors. Smith most likely spent most of the waiting time near Garrett Island, where he would be protected from a unexpected shore ambush and yet still have a nice campsite.

   Smith noted that they lost their grapnel (or anchor) in the rocks. The loss of their anchor almost killed them five weeks later.  In the middle of the night, a very large storm blew them out of their Poquoson, VA, anchorage into the mouth of the Bay where they almost flipped over and drowned.


Giant Warriors Arrive

   Smith was so impressed with the Sasquesahanocks with their giant size (~7 ft,) echoing voices and strange adornment that he illustrated one of the chiefs on his map. For centuries, lay people and historians alike did not believe Smith encountered such giant people. However, modern archeology has redeemed Smith, unearthing many skeletons well over six feet tall. For more information, see: Giant Susquehannocks


No Northwest Passage to Riches

   Smith tried to find out whether or not the Susquehanna River is the Northwest Passage. Even though the translation was difficult, Smith deduced that the Susquehanna was not the Northwest Passage, but there was a large sea to the Northwest beyond some mountains. This was probably the Great Lakes, but could perceivably have been the Pacific Ocean.


Smith Ferries Chieftains across the Bay

     Since the weather was too windy for the Sasquesahanocks to use their river canoes, Smith sailed the five chieftans over to the Sassafras River to meet with the Tockwoghs. During the voyage the Indians were puzzled and/or impressed by the daily prayer service held by Smith and his crew. The chiefs, in turn, held a religious ceremony, which was equally strange to the Europeans! Smith dropped off the chieftains at Tockwough and departs, promising to return next year to trade more.

 See Susquehanna Journal Entries: Susquehanna Journal Entry


Smith Cross:

    While it is pretty certain that Smith's boat did not travel much beyond Port Deposit, MD, the site of Smith's Cross is debatable. It was most likely near the village of Coniwingo, but it could have been at the northern part of Susquehanna State Park or even much farther north near Castleton, MD. Perhaps, Smith even voyaged to Slate Hill, PA. See for yourself.


See Smith 1612 map:

See Topo map: Suquehanna Topo Map


*The first interpreter could translate the language of the Sasquesahanocks into the language of the Tockwoghs. The second one translated the Tockwogh language into Algonquin, which was spoken by most Chesapeake tribes spoke and Smith understood.

Susquehanna River Today

Havre De Grace, MD

   Located at the top of the Bay (~13 miles north of the entrance to Bush River,) Havre De Grace (Harbor of Mercy) is a lovely town with broad streets and Victorian architecture. It is pleasant to walk about and explore its stores and restaurants.

   Tidewater Marina is the closest  marina to town with transient slips, but it is a little pricey if you are only staying for a few hours.  Havre de Grace has rich 19th-century history, so it is worth fast-forwarding through history to take a brief sail on the Martha Lewis, one of the few skipjacks (oyster dredging sailboat) left on the Bay, or watch some of the town’s master duck decoy carvers at work.


Port Deposit

   Located about 5 miles North of Havre De Grace, the tiny town of Port Deposit sits just below the fall line for the Susquehanna River. Marina Park offers transient slips within easy walking distance of town. Fuel and repairs (but not slips) can be found at Tomes Landing Marina.

    Across the river, accessible by dinghy,  is the Susquehanna River State Park.  One can explore the Rock Run Historical Area with its working grist mill, the Archer Mansion and Jersey Toll House. While the park does have a boat ramp, it does not have any transient piers.

    Garrett Island is also worth exploring. Smith most likely camped here.


State of the Susquehanna

"State of the Bay" interactive map