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 byway is open at all times.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
There are no fees for touring the byway.
Interpretive and educational materials are currently somewhat limited.
The Byway’s sites, sidetracks and water trails offer more than 30 points of interest — from the Dorchester County Visitor Center, to the marshes of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, to places where Tubman lived and worked as an enslaved child.
At the heart of the Byway is the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center where interactive exhibits, educational programs and experiential tours will be featured.
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.