The Blackwater region is steeped in history. It is believed that Harriet Tubman used farms that abut and are within the boundaries of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to hide escaped slaves on her Underground Railroad journey.
Located in Cooper County, Blackwater is home to a small town of about 200 people. There are no stop lights or gas stations in this quaint, historic community.
The Blackwater Depot
Originally built in 1888, the Depot at Blackwater was once an important and busy railroad station, serving as a ticket office and a telegraph center. Today, it is an excellent space to host private and community events.
The town of Blackwater is a small, charming village on the Cooper River. It has no stop lights or gas stations, but it has plenty of history and a lot to offer its visitors.
Blackwater’s first railway station was established in 1883 by the narrow-gauge Toronto & Nipissing Railway as it made its way north towards Coboconk. It was a simple wooden structure that likely saw few passengers due to its remote and isolated surroundings. However, it would grow in importance over the coming years, and by the 1920s service to Blackwater had increased to eight departures each day.
Today, Blackwater Station is managed by First Great Western, who provide services on the North Downs Line between Reading and Gatwick Airport. The station has two platforms, and platform 1 serves trains towards Gatwick Airport while platform 2 sees services towards Reading. The station is unmanned, but has emergency telephones on both platforms along with small sheltered seating areas. There is also cycle storage available off platform 1, and a council-managed car park located nearby. Passengers are advised to stay away from the edge of the platform at all times, and to not cross the white line until it is safe to do so.
The Blackwater Museum
The Blackwater Museum was first opened in 1969 to showcase the artifacts uncovered at the Blackwater Draw archeological site. The museum is now housed at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales and has expanded its focus to a larger scope of North American archaeological history.
The National Historic Landmark is a popular destination for tourists and scholars alike. Discoveries at the famous Clovis site pushed back the cultural chronology of North America by hundreds of years. The well-defined stratigraphic horizons exhibit numerous archaeological sequences from prehistoric Clovis times through the southwestern archaic and into the historic period. Investigations at Blackwater Draw also have produced protein residue on the flint projectile points that anthropologists have found there, indicating they were used for hunting and possibly butchering extinct Pleistocene animals.
Southsea is a seaside town and geographic area located on the Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire borders in England. The town became a fashionable seaside resort in the 19th century and developed into a diverse community of houses, businesses, and public facilities.
The station is served by trains on the Main Line operated by Great Western Railway, with services to Redhill and Gatwick Airport. The station is unmanned and has emergency telephones on both platforms along with a number of shelters and seating. Cycle storage is available off platform 1.
The Blackwater Preserve
The preserve is named in honor of Ruskin Freer, a Lynchburg College professor of biology. Freer was a beloved teacher who inspired generations to love and protect wildlife. The preserve is a great place to see the different stages of plant growth and is home to many wildflowers. The 115-acre preserve also has five interpretive signs and 36 plant identification signs. Please remember to use foot travel on the marked trails and help preserve this beautiful natural area.
The pristine landscape is also home to other species, including birds, insects and plants, and reptiles such as snakes and turtles. The Blackwater River is tidal, making it one of the best places in the region to see large numbers of Common Mergansers.
Visitors can enjoy a scenic 3.5-mile paved Wildlife Drive, and the refuge is surrounded by miles of hiking, paddling and hunting opportunities. Leashed pets are welcome except at swimming areas. Some recreation areas charge a day-use fee, and overnight camping is allowed with advance reservations. Hunting is permitted seasonally.
The community of Blackwater sprung up around the station in the early 1900s, as it was a major stop on the narrow-gauge Toronto & Nipissing Railroad during its construction of the line north to Coboconk. Today, the small town is one of Cooper County’s treasured gems. It has an excellent school, a few restaurants, and a quaint little post office.
The Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
The Blackwater Wildlife Refuge is a national wildlife preserve, first established in 1933. The 28,000 acres largely consist of tidal marshes that – together with freshwater ponds, forested and cultivated lands, and managed impoundments – create an important haven for migrating waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway. It is also home to the largest natural population of formerly endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrels and one of the highest concentrations of nesting bald eagles in Maryland.
The park’s inland waterways are also popular with kayakers and canoeists, while its land trails offer plenty of opportunities for hiking, running, biking, and birding. In fact, the paved Marsh Edge Trail and Key Wallace Trail are both fully accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, so this is a great park for people with limited mobility.
During the day, visitors can enjoy the full-service visitor center and four-mile Wildlife Drive. And at night, the dark skies over the wetlands offer some of the best night sky viewing in Maryland.
In addition to the wildlife and landscape, the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge preserves the historic legacy of Harriet Tubman. It is located near the places where she lived and worked as a slave before she began her journey to freedom. The forests, marshes and waterways she knew are largely unchanged today, as is the landscape of Dorchester County that she traversed in her quest to free others and bring them to freedom on the Underground Railroad.