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At the end of the Ice Ages ocean levels rose and drowned the canyon of the Susquehanna river, forming the Chesapeake bay. Today, it is one of America's most important economic, historic, and strategic regions.

Its expanse of wetlands (light blue on the map) feeds an extensive tidewater economy. The rich fields of the Delmarva Peninsula provide both produce for supermarkets and the grains needed by a large poultry industry. Baltimore and Norfolk are hubs for trade into America's interior; they are the shortest routes to the Ohio valley, connecting first by canal and later by railroad. The northeastern megalopolis is anchored along the road and rail corridor linking Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

America's bloodiest Civil War battles scarred the farmlands of Virginia and Maryland as the Union and Confederate armies contested the approaches to Washington and Richmond. The broad Shenandoah valley that is now followed by I-81 was followed by General Lee as he marched northward into Pennsylvania to his defeat at Gettysburg.

The Chesapeake region continues its strategic role as host to the Norfolk naval base, Patuxent Naval air station, Quantico Marine Corps station, Fort A.P Hill, and Annapolis Naval Academy, all of which are located near the country's political heart at Washington DC.

The Chesapeake Bay

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In the late 1800's and early 1900's the nation's railroads were enjoying huge economic success. New Jersey lay between the coal fields of Pennsylvania and the New York markets, and lines such as the Erie Rail Road, the Lehigh and Hudson Valley, the Lehigh and New England, the New York Susquehanna and Western, and the Delaware Lackawanna and Western crisscrossed the highlands of New Jersey. These railroads fell on hard times by the mid 20th century and they gradually abandoned many of the routes. The pattern was being repeated across the nation, and in 1983 Congress passed the Federal Rails to Trails Act, which facilitated the conversion of abandoned railroad rights of way into recreational trails, with the added purpose of preserving the rail corridors for possible future use.

In northern New Jersey, two abandoned lines were converted into the Paulinskill Valley Trail and the Sussex Branch Trail. The Paulinskill Valley Trail follows portions of the former New York Susquehanna and Western route for 27 miles from the Delaware Water Gap to Sparta Junction. The Sussex Branch Trail follows portions of the former Sussex Branch of the Delaware Lackawanna and Western route from Port Morris to Branchville. The two trails intersect at Warbasse Junction in Sussex county and result in 57 miles of connected multiuse trails.

A more detailed PDF version of the map is available in a 3.7 Mb download. Click here for the PDF version of the map. Requires the free Adobe Acrobat reader.

Northern New Jersey Rail Trails

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All maps and content Copyright (c) 1999-2005 James R. Irwin.