Unless you were born and raised in the area, spent some time in the Boy Scouts or like to burn away your weekends cruising the twisting back roads of Harford County, chances are you’ve never heard of Tabernacle Road. It’s really not much of a road – just a winding gravely path through the woods near the Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation – but if you’ve ever tried to traverse it you’re not likely to forget the experience.
Tabernacle Road holds the last public ford in Harford County. That is to say, in order to travel across the county roadway from one end to the other requires crossing a body of open water. Rather than channel the bubbling creek under the roadway or building a bridge over the small waterway, the county has instead allowed Tabernacle Road to plunge right through the meandering flow.
Like the Jericho Covered Bridge in Joppa, the Tabernacle Road ford is a throwback to bygone era and something of a local landmark that you won’t find marked on many maps. It’s also become a rite of passage for many a Harford County high-schooler to test their mettle (and metal too, I suppose) by crossing the ford during periods of high-water – with varying levels of success. But could the ford soon become a distant memory?
Let’s be clear, the Tabernacle Road ford is not of the same magnitude as the famous Susquehanna River crossing at Bald Friar, which was located at the mouth of Broad Creek and Glen Cove and had been used by the Susquehannock Indians and later by General Marquis de Lafayette and his troops in 1781 before being replaced by a ferry and ultimately engulfed by Conowingo Lake when the dam was built.
It’s not even comparable to the old fords through Deer Creek, the county’s longest waterway, which included Wiley Ford, Fife’s Sawmill Ford, La Grange Ford, Priest’s Ford and Deth’s Ford, according to the late C. Milton Wright in his book “Our Harford Heritage.”
As travel picked up, Harford’s many fords gave way to covered bridges, which later were uncovered, or, in the case of the mighty Susquehanna, ferries which shuttled travelers to and fro.
Not so daunting, but still worthy of note, the Tabernacle Road ford is described on a WikiMapia page as such:
Coordinates: 39°42’4″N 76°16’28″W
This is the only known creek crossing in Harford County on a public road with no bridge. There is no convenient turn around and it is steep and surfaced with gravel. The water is upwards of 18-20 inches on average. Many vehicles have been towed from this crossing.
A fan of the ford myself (I nearly bought the house directly adjacent to the ford on Tabernacle Road, especially after the property owners told me how often and how deeply the creek floods), I was surprised recently when I saw Harford County planned on making certain “proposed modifications” to Tabernacle Road.
In my mind, that could only mean one thing – so long to the days of splishing and splashing through the ford. Here is the press release from the county web site:
(Bel Air, MD – April 2, 2008) – – The Harford County Department of Public Works, Division of Highways and Water Resources, will conduct a public meeting to discuss proposed modifications to Tabernacle Road on April 23, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. in the Department of Public Works conference room located at 212 S. Bond Street, Bel Air, on the second floor.
To request disability-related accommodations, please contact Hudson Myers at 410-638-3548 (TTY users call Maryland Relay), by April 16, 2008.
Interested persons who cannot attend the upcoming meeting can send written comments H. Hudson Myers, III, Deputy Director of Public Works, 212 S. Bond Street, Third Floor, Bel Air, MD 21014, or by email at email@example.com
I immediately shot off an email to deputy public works director Hudson Myers, who was able to quickly and completely allay my fears. The Tabernacle Road ford would remain – for the time being.
“The area under consideration is between Md 623 and the Pennsylvania Line. The ford is not located on this section of Tabernacle Rd,” Myers wrote.
And so it seems the Tabernacle Road ford will remain a hidden Harford curiosity – except for those who are inclined to test the wheel-height of their vehicles against the unebbing flow of Deep Run.