The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, was designated as one of the best driving tours in the nation by the Federal Highway Administration for its scenic beauty and significant history. It is one of only 31 distinctive “All-American Roads” nationwide.
Meandering through 125 miles of countryside and shoreline in Dorchester and Caroline counties, the Byway invites visitors to experience the region’s Underground Railroad stories in a few hours or a couple of days. In addition to recounting Harriet Tubman’s remarkable life story, the Byway reveals the story of slavery and the pursuit of freedom on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. It weaves through a rare landscape, virtually unaltered for more than a century.
The Byway’s sites, sidetracks and water trails offer more than 30 points of interest — from the Dorchester County Visitor Center, to the marshes of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, to places where Tubman lived and worked as an enslaved child. Visitors are invited to experience and explore the region’s historic sites, scenic vistas and recreational destinations that provide the backdrop for the secret networks to freedom forged by 19th-century self-liberators. At the heart of the Byway is the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center, set to open in 2016, where interactive exhibits, educational programs and experiential tours will be featured. The lands in the area are part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, designated by Congress in late 2014. This is the first national park to honor an African American woman.
Visitors will discover compelling stories that highlight Tubman’s and others’ daring rescues and escapes, and their survival and courage. Set in historic landscapes, these sites recall the struggles of free and enslaved communities, and their complex relationships with slaveholders — struggles that defined the local and national conflicts that drove the nation to civil war. The Byway’s landscapes — marked by rural roads, dense forests, vast marshes, acres of farm fields and quaint villages — are a main attraction for sightseers, bicyclists, boaters, fishermen, nature enthusiasts and hunters.
As it passes through Maryland following the stories of Tubman’s daring rescues, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway meanders northward through Caroline County to the Delaware border at Sandtown. The Byway continues through Delaware, highlighting several more Underground Railroad stops. It is hoped that in the future, the Byway will continue through Pennsylvania and New York, ending in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, where Tubman led many of her charges.
Harriet Tubman fought slavery by constructing her own pathway to freedom. Likewise, the sites along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway reflect the many ways ordinary people did extraordinary things.