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The Choptank River Heritage Center is a replica of the 1883 Maryland Steamboat Company’s Denton Wharf featuring a Passenger Waiting Room, Steamship Agents Office, and warehouse space for assorted commodities.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this site was a prominent wharf and port of call for schooners, sloops and skipjacks plying their product. Many are familiar with the famous skipjacks of the oyster dredging fleet. Few are aware, however, that during the off season, many skipjack captains would bring their shallow drafted vessels into the bay’s tidal rivers to supplement their income by carrying trade goods between farming communities and the large cities on the bay. Skipjacks would come up the river bringing manufactured goods, oyster shells for paving roads and fertilizer, and in turn take agricultural commodities such as watermelon, grains, produce from farms to city markets.
As modes of transportation evolved, so did the wharves. In 1882, the MD Steamboat Company bought one of the West Denton wharves and made improvements to the wharf in 1883, which including dredging a “divit” to allow steamboats to turn around in front of the wharf. This wharf was visited weekly by the steamboats Joppa and Avalon over the next three decades and became known to county residents as “Joppa Wharf.”
Joppa was one of two steamboats that ran between Denton and Baltimore from the 1880s to about 1920. The other steamer was the Avalon. Other vessels ran up the Choptank before and after these, but old timers along the Choptank River still have fond memories of Joppa and Avalon steaming into West Denton and other landings along the river.
The Choptank River Heritage Center now houses the Caroline Office of Tourism. To arrange a tour of the facility, please contact 410-479-0655.