Before the Civil War, many enslaved African Americans fled to freedom by way of a secret network of roads, waterways, trails, and hiding places that became known as the Underground Railroad. They were helped along the way by black and white anti-slavery activists. In the Chesapeake region, the Bay's many tributaries were often used as routes for escaping slaves.
Harriet Tubman was the most famous "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. Born a slave on the Eastern Shore in Dorchester County, MD about 1821, she fled to the North in 1849. Over the ensuing decade before the Civil War, despite a bounty for her capture, Tubman returned to the South nearly 20 times and led as many as 300 slaves to freedom, including many of her immediate and extended family.
A drive along the 64 mile Underground Railroad Scenic Byway highlights the life of Harriet Tubman and many historic places connected with her in Chesapeake Bay country. From Dorchester County and scenes of her early life, you can follow the trail north through Caroline County, where many Maryland free blacks and white abolitionists supported the cause of freedom.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway shares the remarkable stories of freedom seekers who risked their lives to escape slavery in the 1800s. With more than 30 sites that include the newly designated Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, the self-guided driving tour shows you the places where Tubman grew up, worshiped, labored, and led others to freedom. This website helps you plan your trip to Tubman’s homeland in Dorchester and Caroline Counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate such trails. The Chesapeake Conservancy, National Park Service, and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials.