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Article Archive >> Autumn Tourism

Devil's Backbone--Waterfall Island

Devil's Backbone--Waterfall Island

Although it is not clear how or when Devil's Backbone got its unusual name, early local historical accounts describe it as a "strange rocky ridge...rising between two creeks, abrupt and bristling with boulders...called the Devil's Backbone" (The Antietam Creek and its Bridges, 1910).
Devil's Backbone opened to the public on June 26, 1966. This beautiful park is the second oldest of Washington County's parks. This nine acre park includes a picnic pavilion, restrooms, play equipment, picnic tables, grills, a drinking fountain, horseshoe court and parking area. A footbridge across the Antietam Creek, which divides the park, provides access to the "island" section of the park as well as to a nature trail which ascends to the summit of the ridge from which the park takes its name. The park also offers fishing and an access for canoes to the Antietam Creek. There's plenty to do at this large park.
Potomac Edison Company gave the land Devil's Backbone sits on to Washington County in 1964. Directed by Rupert Cuneen in 1965, a team from the Park Conservation Corps, cleared the land from fallen trees and debris in preparation of park development. Mr. Cuneen built the footbridge over the Antietam Creek while Thomas C. Blickenstaff constructed the pavilion.
Throughout the years, Devil's Backbone Park has undergone several improvements with the plan to provide a charming and restful spot for many park patrons who visit annually. However, due to the park's location, it has occasionally been the victim of natural disasters. In 1972, Hurricane "Agnes" caused massive damage to the park, uprooting trees, play equipment and picnic tables as well as destroying the original footbridge. The Army Corp of Engineers helped the county with debris removal and restoration of the washed out terrain. The State of Maryland's Program Open Space made the replacement of walkways, fencing, play equipment, and the pedestrian bridge possible. Three years later, in 1975, Hurricane "Eloise" again caused considerable damage to the park, which was repaired through Federal Disaster Assistance after Washington County was included in Maryland's State of Emergency Declaration issued by then Governor Marvin Mandel.
Through the Maryland Conservation Corps, directed by the Parks Department personnel, gabions, enclosures filled with earth or rocks, used in building a support or abutment, were installed on both sides of the Antietam Creek, south of the waterfall, in order to prevent erosion of the stream bank.
The park is filled with trees, picnic areas, and restful spots, all donated by individuals, civic groups, and other organizations.
The stone arch bridge, located just outside the park's boundaries is often called the Devil's Backbone Bridge, when in fact it is Booth's Mill Bridge. The true Devil's Backbone Bridge, a one-arch span constructed by Jabez Kenny in 1824, is located approximately one-quarter mile south of the park on Route 68 over the mouth of Little Beaver Creek.
Although walk-in access is permitted throughout the year, Devil's Backbone is officially open the first Saturday in May through the last Sunday in October, from 9:00AM until sunset. Use of the large pavilion is possible by making reservations by contacting the Washington County Buildings, Grounds & Parks Department at 240-313-2700. Devil's Backbone Park is located along Route 68 near Lappan's Crossroads.

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