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Only a mile long, the Savage Mill Trail rolls through a significant piece of Howard County’s industrial heritage as it crosses the grounds of an old textile mill complex on the Little Patuxent River. The mill has been renovated into a restaurant and shopping destination and, together with the former company town located just north, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Start alongside a four-story brick-and-stone building at the edge of the complex, parts of which date to 1822. The compound harnessed the power of the Little Patuxent River to run the textile looms, as well as a gristmill and sawmill. Upwards of 300 people were employed at the mill during peak production.
The trail crosses the river on the unique Bollman Truss Bridge, an iron structure used to carry a spur from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s (B&O’s) Patuxent Branch into the plant. Built for another location in 1852, the twin-span bridge was installed here in 1887 to replace a stone arch bridge. As the lone surviving example of a style of iron bridge widely used in the 1800s, it has earned a National Historic Landmark plaque.
Crossing the 160-foot span, you’ll notice the train tracks have been left in place on one side so you can imagine the train rolling past. Across the river, the trail follows the old corridor of the B&O branch that heads upstream. The B&O built the connection from the main line a few miles south in the 1880s but closed it beyond Savage Mill in 1928.
The trail on the south bank runs on compacted ground-up asphalt and then becomes dirt before ending abruptly in the woods. Stairways lead down to the river’s edge, where you can get views of the mill complex and fishermen.
Although you are near a major highway and a bustling shopping center, the white oaks surrounding the trail and the music of the river spilling over large boulders create the impression that you’re in the wilderness. It’s easy to stop and savor the natural oasis at one of the trail’s many picnic tables.
About 0.5 mile north of the mill complex, in Savage Park, you can find the trailhead for the 4.5-mile Patuxent Branch Trail that roughly follows the B&O railroad corridor and the river valley to Lake Elkhorn near Columbia and connects to many trails in the southern part of the county.
From Interstate 95, take State Route 32/Patuxent Parkway east to merge onto US 1/Baltimore Washington Boulevard, heading south. Turn right on Gorman Road then right on Foundry Street. The Savage Mill parking lot is on your left.
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