Describing a place as "one of Marylandís best kept secrets" is over-used, but in the case of Point Lookout at Green Ridge State Forest, it is true - it really is one of Marylandís best-kept secrets. Not to be confused with the better-known southern Maryland state park of the same name, visitors are always pleasantly surprised by Point Lookoutís spectacular view over the ancient Potomac River valley in Marylandís Ridge and Valley Province.
The overlook is accessed from Oldtown Road, the oldest colonial road in eastern Allegany County. In 1758 during the French and Indian War, Colonel Thomas Cresap, Marylandís great pathfinder, blazed this road to improve and shorten the route between Fort Cumberland and Fort Frederick.
It is believed that the name "Point Lookout" originated during the Civil War when Union troops stationed at neighboring Little Orleans were assigned to protect the C&O Canal and Railroad from Confederates intent on destroying the bridges and aqueducts along the Potomac River. Lookouts were established at Point Lookout and other nearby ridges from which Union troops could observe the canal, railroad and Confederate movements through the valley.
Visitors to Point Lookout today can enjoy the same view that the Union troops had 140 years ago. From the overlook can be seen 243 acres of land that was once owned by George Washington. The father of our nation traveled back and forth over what was then trackless wilderness more than 16 times as a surveyor, landowner, military officer, and later as the President of the United States. In the 1840s, this serpentine section of the river was appropriately known as "General Washingtonís Horseshoe Bend".
In the early 1800s the ownership log becomes a bit more complicated: Partners Richard Caton of Catonsville lore and William Carroll of Rock Creek owned much of the land that is today Green Ridge State Forest, including Point Lookout. Caton was the son-in-law of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, while (William) Carroll was the grandson of Daniel Carroll, a framer of the U.S. Constitution. Located near Point Lookout off Carroll Road are the ruins of Carroll Chimney, built in 1836 as one of the nationís early steam-powered sawmills. It is the only surviving structure remaining from the period, as the duoís business ventures into iron ore and timber cutting eventually proved unsuccessful.
In the late 1800s, the Merten family of Cumberland acquired Point Lookout and the Green Ridge property from the Carroll family. The Mertens cut, burned and converted the forest into an apple orchard, which they promoted as "the largest apple orchard in the universe". They then subdivided the land into more than 3,000 ten-acre lots and sold each lot to individual owners all across the country.
To impress potential buyers, the Mertensí first stop on their orchard tour was
Point Lookout. The family proclaimed the overlook as the most beautiful spot on
the East Coast: "I can say that from Point Lookout is the most beautiful view my
eyes have ever fallen upon. It excels Pikeís Peak or any other.... There is no
view equal to it." However, in 1918, the Mertens fell into bankruptcy and
abandoned the orchard and Point Lookout.
Point Lookout, once part of the "largest apple orchard in the universe", is now part of Green Ridge State Forest, Marylandís largest contiguous block of forestland within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As one of the Merten familyís publicity men described the area roughly 100 years ago, "Tourists have traveled thousands of miles and then pronounced it the most beautiful view in the United States...[Yet] there are few people in Maryland who know the place exists". Still not well known, it is just one more reason Point Lookout is one of Marylandís best-kept secrets.
Consider a visit and enjoy its scenic wonders yourself.
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