A Mountain Heritage
On Catoctin Mountain you can read the story of a group of people and the effect they had on the land. It is written in old stone fences, logging roads, and the growth that now covers the land. You can find it along the old Hagerstown-Westminster Turnpike that crosses the mountains from east to west and separates the two parks. Catoctin Mountain Park is managed by the National Park Service and Cunningham Falls State Park, by the Maryland Forest, Park, and Wildlife Service.
Man's story here begins with the Indians, although little evidence remains of those who lived in Maryland before the arrival of Europeans. We do know that many small tribes farmed, hunted, and fished here. When the first Europeans arrived in Maryland, the Indians were engaged in a series of wars, and Maryland had become a middle or neutral ground where no Indians lived permanently. In 1732 as settlers began to arrive in the Monocacy River Valley, Indians were seldom seen. Tradition says, however, that the name "Catoctin" came from a tribe, the Kittoctons, who lived at the foot of the mountains near the Potomac.
The first Europeans were second-generation Americans and German immigrants. They had pushed west from Philadelphia until they reached the Susquehanna River and then turned southwest. They settled along the Monocacy River because of Lord Baltimore's attractive offer of 200 acres of land rent free for three years and one cent an acre each year thereafter. At mid-century more Germans, and some Swiss and Scotch-lrish pioneers came into the area.
Some of these settlers became loggers or charcoal makers supplying the Catoctin Iron Furnace, the remains of which are in Cunningham Falls State Park. Others supplied oak and chestnut bark, rich sources of tannin, to the developing tanneries in the Monocacy Valley. Farms were established in the mountain-top valleys. Today, you can find remnants of these old farms-stone fences and cellar pits-as you walk through the woods.
Over the years people started to leave the Catoctin area because the resources were becoming depleted from the clear-cutting for charcoal making, the stripping of bark for tanning, and logging. It was becoming more and more difficult for the people on the mountain to eke out a living.
In 1935, more than 4,046 hectares (10,000 acres) were acquired by the Federal government and developed as the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area. Under the management of the National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service, the land has been permitted to develop into an eastern hardwood climax forest, much as it was when seen by the first Europeans.
As you walk the trails you will find chestnut oak, hickory, black birch, and a scattering of other trees. Old fields in the mountain valleys are now covered with black locust, wild cherry, sassafras, and yellow poplar. In moist areas you will find red oak, beech, yellow poplar, yellow birch, hemlock, ash, and white oak. And along the way you may encounter some of the animals that make Catoctin their home. Take a walk or a hike in the parks, and with an open mind and keen eyes, let the mountain tell you its story.
The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.
A photo album for this park can be found here.For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.
Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.
Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout
The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!
Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.
Information about the park's research program is available on the park's research webpage.
For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.
The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.
A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.
NPS Geology and Soils PartnersAssociation of American State Geologists
Geological Society of America
Natural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
U.S. Geological Survey
Currently, we do not have a listing for any park-specific geology education programs or activities.
General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.