The Tri-State Trail
Tri-State Marker Trail
Over 250 years ago a team of surveyors from England – Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon – placed a marker at the precise point at which Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania intersect. (See below for a history of the marker.)
This historic tri-state marker remained on private land, which was hard for the general public to visit. That is until now. The Tri-State Marker Trail, 4-mile looping trail, is now open for public access. The trail can be accessed from two places: the Arc Corner Parking Lot (at the end of Arc Corner Road, off Chambers Rock Road, in Landenberg, Pa.) and the White Clay Creek State Park's Nature Center (off Hopkins Road in Newark, Del.).
The Tri-State Marker Trail was a volunteer-driven endeavor led by Wendel Cassel with the support of the Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve. Special thanks to the 64 different volunteers that worked more than 2600 hours in building the trail in addition to the work by the Delaware State Parks Trail Crew and five Eagle Scout Projects. The five Eagle Scout Projects involved an additional 117 volunteers that worked more than 900 hours.
The trail was funded with a series of grants. Thanks to the Dockstaeder Foundation, the American Hiking Society, the Wilmington Trail Club, the White Clay Watershed Association, the Mushroom Festival, PA DCNR, Friends of White Clay Creek State Park, Shone Lumber and a few anonymous donors. The cost for bridge materials and equipment rental for completion of the 3 mile portion of the Trail in Pennsylvania was approximately $21,000. The trail was completed ahead of schedule without any safety or environmental incidents, and well below budget. The Mason-Dixon Trail System received permission from PA DCNR to reroute the Mason-Dixon Trail onto the Tri-State Marker Trail. The Tri-State Marker will be the only actual Mason Dixon marker along the 194-mile Mason Dixon Trail.
A history of the project
In December 2011, the State of Pennsylvania purchased the Pennsylvania lands around the marker. The parcel connected to other holdings in the White Clay Creek Preserve. Although the land was under state ownership, access to the site was still difficult with safe public parking unavailable. Only unmarked existing social trails, some through boggy marshes with many stream crossings, were available for those interested in visiting this historic marker. The only way of finding the marker if you didn’t know where it was located was to go with someone who knew the location.
Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve (FWCCP) partnered with the Wilmington Trail Club to work with the State of Pennsylvania in the hope of building a viable, sustainable, ecologically-friendly trail to the Tri-State Marker. Wendel Cassel, FWCCP and WTC member, is leading the effort on this project.
Throughout much of 2012 and 2013 a trail plan was developed. The plan was changed many times to meet the needs of local constituents. It was then presented to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) for review and approval. Ecological and biodiversity studies were conducted. The plans were revised again and final approval was gained.
The Tri-State Marker Trail (see map above) is an approximately 4-mile looping trail connecting the Preserve’s Arc Corner parking lot with the Tri-State Marker. It will have connecting trails to the Carpenter Area of White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware. The single-lane pedestrian trail with a total of 17 bridges and boardwalks takes visitors on a wonderful hike through beautiful mature woodlands, around farmlands, and over small tributaries of the White Clay Creek to the Tri-State Marker.
The trail was built in phases. Phase One, the Northern Trail was completed at the end of 2014. This 1.7 mile trail with 10 bridges/boardwalks goes from the Arc Corner Parking lot to the Tri-State Marker. This trail gave public access to the Tri-State Marker on a one-way trail.
Phase Two, the Southern Trail, was completed in 2015. The Southern Trail is another two-mile trail with 6 additional water crossings. It will also connect into trails in the White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware.
History of the Tri-State Marker
By Mike Ott
In 1763-67 Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed and marked most of the boundaries between Maryland and Pennsylvania that included the Three Lower Counties that would later became Delaware. The survey was commissioned by the Penn and Calvert families to settle their long-running boundary dispute.
The west line, popularly called Mason-Dixon Line, was set by Mason-Dixon to be 15 miles south of southern most part of Philadelphia and to run due west. Mason-Dixon also surveyed (coming from south) the Tangent line, Arc line, and North line that formed the boundary between Maryland and lower three counties of Pennsylvania (later to become Delaware) The intersection of the North Line with the West line formed the northeast Corner of Maryland.
Most Mason-Dixon mile marker stones had P and M on opposite sides and at 5 miles intervals they had Calvert family and Penn family crests to replace the M and P. The Northeast Corner of Md. stone along with what later became SW corner of Delaware were the only two stones to have double crownstones.
At some point the Marker went missing. Lt. Col. Graham of U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers was commissioned to re-survey and replace the marker. He correctly located the exact position of the missing Mason-Dixon marker. However he had very unusual (and later deemed incorrect) viewpoint that Delaware was only land east of the arc and Maryland was correctly surveyed. That left the wedge shaped area just south and east of northeast corner of Maryland and west of the arc belonging to Pa. Because of this interpretation, the Tri-state point was 5 miles to the south where the arc intercepted the Transpeninsular line. That left the northeast Corner of Maryland being only a border with Pa, so the replacement marker had a 1849 date on north side along with a “M” on two sides and a “P” on two sides and no mention of Delaware. Ironic that it kind of matched the original Mason Dixon crownstone stone that had Crest of Calvert family (Maryland) on 2 sides and crest of Penn family (Pa) on other two sides. Delaware never ratified the re-survey
In 1892 W.C. Hodgkins of U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey was commissioned to re-survey and monument the Delaware-Pennsylvania boundary. This survey corrected the 1849 “mistake” and returned the wedge to Delaware and the Northeast Corner of Maryland then also became the three-state intersection of Md., Pa, and De. Since the 1849 marker was in the correct location, it was not changed. The Arc Corner Marker was added east of this along with new markers along the arc every ½ mile.
So now what you will see at the historic Mason Dixon Survey location that they called Northeast Corner of Maryland is not an original special M-D double crownstone or a stone with three states inscribed on it, but a very old 1849 kind of replica of what was originally there. There is a brass 1935 US Geodetic survey marker drilled into the top of the marker to officially designate it the “MDP Corner, but most people simply call it the Tristate Marker.
Reprinted with permission from the Friends of White Clay Creek State Park Newsletter