One mile down the hill, the road crosses the Anacostia River, forever altered by two centuries of silting and an enormous Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project. But along the revitalized Bladensburg waterfront, a colorful new orientation kiosk describes the bold British attack across the river — then known as the Eastern Branch — that led to the capture of Washington.
Bladensburg is one of the featured stops along the new Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, a 560-mile land-and-water route through Virginia, Maryland and the District that traces the paths of the British invasion.
The trail, a major National Park Service project marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812, is being inaugurated Monday at Fells Point in Baltimore by Park Service officials and members of Congress.
By land or water, by bike or on foot, in a car or on a boat, visitors can follow the routes taken by the British during the 1813 and 1814 invasions of the Chesapeake, which resulted in the burning of the White House and Capitol, the capture of Alexandria and the battle for Baltimore, culminated in the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The trail, authorized by Congress in May 2008, is one of 19 national historic trails, among them the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Pony Express and the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches. The most recent, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, was designated in 2009.
The Star-Spangled Banner trail links some 20 national historic landmarks, including the White House and the Capitol, and more than 100 other historic properties, museums and sites. Some spots, such as Bladensburg, have long since been developed, but others, including some of the southern Maryland landscape, are unchanged over two centuries.
The trail crosses a mix of local, state and federal lands, ambling past fields and through towns, and sometimes following little more than ripples in the water.
“It’s not as simple as having a national park,” said trail superintendent John Maounis. “It’s a national historic trail. These are things that have to live beyond the moment.”
There is also a trail Web site, www.starspangledtrail.net, and a trail app for mobile phones is set for release later this summer.
A multi-state “geotrail,” which organizers describe as first of its kind, allows participants to use hand-held GPS devises and coordinates to locate 40 geocache sites along the trail.
An illustrated companion book published in June, “In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake,” by historians Ralph Eshelman and Burt Kummerow, examines the war’s history in the region and includes a guide for visiting the trail.