Anne Arundel County, Maryland lies nearly in the center of the state of Maryland, and is bordered on the north by Baltimore and Baltimore County, the Chesapeake Bay to the east, Howard County to the west, and Prince Georges County and Calvert County to the south. The far northern part of the county is urban in the Brooklyn Park area, but most of the county is suburban, except for a few rural areas in the far southern parts of the county. It is often considered a suburb of both Baltimore and Washington DC.
Anne Arundel County has a temperate climate. The county is usually frost-free from the middle of April until early October. Summers tend to be hot and muggy, with high summer lasting from mid June until Labor Day. After Labor Day it cools off just enough to be enjoyable. and the pleasant weather continues until late October, when winter weather patterns start to bring strong cold fronts through the region, and coastal storms start to lash the area. The Chesapeake Bay tends to accentuate the summer mugginess, and provides fuel for thunderstorms.
Occasionally, a hurricane working its way up the coast will pay a visit near the area during the late summer or early fall, but usually these storms veer off the coast just before they reach the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, ... except about once every ten years or so.
During the winter, the relatively warm waters of the bay help to keep coastal storms mainly rain events, while residents of counties further inland are shoveling heavy wet snow from their driveways. This isn't to say that snow is rare, because if it is truly cold when a coastal storm hits, there can be huge snowfalls since the county is closer to the path of most coastal storms than areas a little further inland. Average daytime temperatures in the winter bottom out in the low 40's (about 5 to 6 degrees Celsius) usually just after New Years Day, and the daytime highs won't consistently reach the 50's (10 C) until the second or third week of March. Rainfall in the county averages about 40 inches (100 cm) per year, but the timing and amount varies considerably from year to year. Because of the effects of the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Appalachian Mountains to the west, it is often difficult to predict the weather with any certainty, and weather forecasts are notoriously inaccurate trying to predict snowfall amounts in this region.
Anne Arundel County has parts of 6 major expressways running through it, including the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, designated Maryland 295, which runs Southwest-Northeast near the Western border of the county, I-97, which runs from I-695, otherwise known as the Baltimore Beltway to where it joins US Route 50 near Annapolis. US Route 50 enters the western part of the county near Bowie, and continues across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, east of Annapolis into Queen Annes County. Maryland Route 100 runs east from Columbia through Elkridge, Hanover, and Pasadena. While not really an expressway, Ritchie Highway is really the main drag of the county. Ritchie Highway runs south from Baltimore and runs through the towns of Brooklyn, Brooklyn Park, Glen Burnie (my hometown for about 8 years), Pasadena, Severna Park, Arnold, and Annapolis in the north part of the county. South of Annapolis, Ritchie Highway is simply known as Maryland Route 2, and runs south from Annapolis through Edgewater, and across the South River and leaves the south edge of the county near North Beach, and continues to Point Lookout where the road dead ends. Md Route 10 is a 6 lane expressway that parallels Ritchie Highway from I-695 to Md Route 100.
Anne Arundel County is also the home of Baltimore Washington International Airport aka BWI, which is the busiest airport in the Baltimore Washington area, slightly edging out Dulles Airport in terms of passenger traffic. Over the last 20 or 30 years BWI seems to have become the main economic engine of the entire Baltimore area, and the land around the airport has been transformed from scattered farms and woodland as late as the 1970's to today's landscape of high-tech Industrial Parks, Defense Contractors, Shopping Malls, Highways, and Housing Developments. It is a glorious example of Suburban Sprawl. Nearly 60,000 passengers fly in and out of the airport every day, and over 15,000 people work for the airport. Tens of thousands of people work in the surrounding industrial parks, hotels, and other businesses that have grown up around the airport, and the whole area seems like one big construction site at times!
Anne Arundel County is also served by the Baltimore MTA bus system, the Baltimore Light Rail which stops in Linthicum, Ferndale, and BWI. In addition, there is MARC and AMTRAK train service from BWI.
The economy of Anne Arundel County has grown rapidly over the last few decades, mostly due to Government Spending. Most of the growth has taken place around 3 major government enterprises in the county which include:
The NSA is the government acronym for the National Security Agency, which is said to be responsible for gathering electronic intelligence from around the world, and disseminating it for the DOD. Its work is naturally very secretive, and at one time the government actually denied its existence and the running joke was that the acronym NSA stood for No Such Agency, despite a rather large building that sat on the edge of Fort Meade just off the Baltimore Washington Parkway. What is known about NSA is that they employ about 30,000 people, and spend billions of dollars worth of taxpayer's money on really cool technology devoted to gathering electronic intelligence. Lets just say they are probably able to intercept this humble writeup. Seriously, in recent years NSA's role in National Defense has become more public, and in fact they have even opened a cryptology museum near the main headquarters. Check out some of the excellent writeups about NSA that are linked to this one.
Baltimore Washington International Airport BWI
BWI as mentioned above, occupies about 5,500 acres in the area beween I-97 and the Baltimore Washington Parkway. BWI serves about 60,000 passengers daily, and employs about 15,000 people as airport employees. Due to its proximity to Baltimore, Washington DC, NSA and Fort Meade, not only the airport has grown, but the area around it has become a major center for the Military Industrial Complex, with Northrup Grumman, NSA, the Naval Academy, and dozens of smaller defense contractors within less than an hour's drive of the airport.
Annapolis MD is located at the mouth of the Severn River and is not only the center of Maryland's legislative and administrative offices, but is also a center of a number of high-tech firms and defense contractors but it is also home to the Naval Academy and NSRDC. Annapolis is also a major tourist destination with a downtown that retains a colonial flavor and a favorite destination of recreational boaters.
Major Commercial Centers
is the major commercial hub of the northern part of the county. The main drag is Ritchie Highway
, which is home to the MVA
, several Malls
, and countless Strip Shopping Center
s, car dealer
s, and Big Box Retailers
. You can get just about anything you need there if you can stand the traffic
. Ritchie Highway's commercial strip extends not only through Glen Burnie
, but nearly uninterrupted to the south to Severna Park and another stretch in Arnold. Ritchie Highway is fed by residential developments of many kinds including quite a few waterfront communities
which line just about every navigible river and creek of the Chesapeake Bay within the county's borders. There are some 70,000 boat
s registered in the county, most of them docked along the 4 tidal rivers
which include the Patapsco River
, the Maggothy River
, the Severn River
and the South River
, as well as the numerous creeks and tributaries of these rivers.
Annapolis is also a major commercial center, with a large concentration of malls, superstores and shopping centers just west of the city in Parole. Annapolis also is a major tourist destination, particularly for boaters both local and distant, and its location close to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge makes it the main gateway to Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Crofton is located in the southwestern part of the county, near the intersection of Crain Highway and US Route 50. Mostly a bedroom community for Washington DC, but also features Capitol Raceway a dragstrip where the weekend racer can get his fix.
Hanover is an up and coming commercial mecca with the opening of Arundel Mills Mall, and all of the obligatory commercial stuff that is opening around it. Sitting adjacent to BWI, Hanover formerly consisted mostly of industrial park buildings built during the real estate boom of the 1980s, a couple of small strip shopping centers and a few hundred homes. The Mega Mall promises to convert Hanover if not into a city, into at least a real town. Like other Mega Malls built by the Mills Corporation, Arundel Mills has all sorts of stuff that nobody really needs, but most people will spend good money on. At least they built a Wal-Mart as part of the mall complex. I work in the industrial park nearby, and the Wal-Mart is the most useful store there for the little stuff I need for work. They even have cheap oil changes.
Anne Arundel County Maryland is mostly coastal plain, interlaced with hundreds of miles of shoreline on the rivers and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Proximity to the waters of the bay are probably the county's main attraction, a close second to the county's proximity to major government installations and to Washington DC and Baltimore. For this reason I will divide the landmarks into two types: On the Land, and On the Water.
On the Land:
Annapolis is the State Capitol of Maryland, and also one of its oldest cities, and was founded in 1694. It is located near the mouth of the Severn River about 25 miles south of Baltimore and about 30 miles east of Washington DC.The downtown Historic District is built around 2 circles a block apart from each other State Circle and Church Circle The State Capitol is located on State Circle, a few blocks north of City Dock, which is located on Spa Creek. East of State Circle is the United States Naval Academy, established in 1845 to train American Naval Officers. To the west of State Circle is Church Circle, where St John's Episcopal Church is located. St John's College is located north of State Circle. The downtown Historic District, in addition to the usual tourist trap type establishments has many upscale restaurants where Maryland's finest lobbyists wine and dine the State Legislature on some of the tastiest seafood preparations to be found anywhere.
was originally named Friendship Airport
when it was opened in 1950, and was considered one of the most advanced airports of its time. Today it has 3 main runways, and handles an average of 60,000 passengers a day.
Currently the airport is undergoing an ongoing multibillion dollar rennovation and expansion to keep pace with the ever-increasing demand for air travel in and out of Baltimore, Washington DC, and all of the region between these two cities. To be honest, I do not remember a time in the last 20 years or so when BWI has NOT been under construction, and the events of September 11, 2001 have barely put a damper on the bulldozers and cranes. BWI is located on about 5,000 acres about 2 miles south of I-695, and about 1 mile east of the Baltimore Washington Parkway. Access to the main terminal of BWI is by using I-195, a short piece of Interstate Highway that connects the airport to the Baltimore Washington Parkway, US Route 1, and I-95. An aircraft viewing area is located just south of BWI on MD 176, also known as Dorsey Road.
Fort Meade was established during WW1 to train GIs for service in the fields of France. It was expanded again during WW2 but in recent years much of Fort Meade has been closed, and eventually much of this land will be sold back into private hands. Its main function today is home for NSA, which sits on the northern edge of Fort Meade. There is a Cryptology museum at the Visitor's Center, but due to the nature of activities at NSA, the main facility is strictly off-limits to all but carefully accredited personnel.
On the Water
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge
, also known as the William Preston Lane Memorial Bridge
started construction in 1948 and opened in 1952, finally ending the need to take ferries
across the bay to reach Ocean City
and other resorts and ended the isolation of Maryland's Eastern Shore
. The bridge spans 4.3 miles of open water from Sandy Point
just east of Annapolis
to Kent Island
on the Eastern Shore. Marylanders
could not get enough of the bridge, and by the 1960's
it was necessary to route the traffic one way eastbound on Saturdays, and one way westbound on Sundays to cope with all of the traffic headed for Ocean City
, Rehoboth Beach
, and Assateague Island
. In 1973, a parallel span was opened, though weekend traffic jams
are still the rule during the summer. While no single element of the bridge broke any records in terms of length of span for its time, it is still an impressive feat of Civil Engineering
, and it is one of the most graceful bridges ever built, rising from the bay starting as a conventional bridge with short girder spans, to an overhead Cantilever Truss
span near the middle. The main shipping channel is spanned by a quarter mile long suspension bridge
about 200 feet above the bay.
On the first Sunday in May for the last 25 years, one of the spans is closed to vehicle traffic for the day, and is opened to pedestrian traffic. In recent years as many as 60,000 people have taken the opportunity to walk the bridge during the annual Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk.
There are 3 lighthouses that help guide boaters and ship captains in the Chesapeake Bay waters off Anne Arundel County MD. Sadly none of them are manned anymore, their lights automated decades ago. Thomas Point Lighthouse guards the mouth of the Severn River, the entrance to Annapolis. It was built in 1875 as a Screwpile Lighthouse , meaning its support is actually screwed into the mud at the bottom of the bay. It is the most photographed lighthouse on the bay. Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse is built just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge off Sandy Point. It was built in 1883 supported by a caisson. A mile or two north of Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse is Baltimore Light. Baltimore Light was built in 1904, and held the distinction for a while of being the first nuclear powered lighthouse in 1964, but the isotopic power plant was removed after two years due to public outcry.
While not really a lighthouse, and techically it sits just inside Baltimore City waters, Fort Carroll sits in the middle of the Patapsco River just south of the Key Bridge. Built in the 1840's and never occupied, it was built to guard Baltimore from another attack like it suffered at the hands of the British Navy in 1812. Ironclad Ships and improved artillery made the fort obsolete by the Civil War, and the stone fortress has been sitting there ever since. While it is illegal to tresspass on the fort, I have frequently seen boaters tie up and explore the old battery, though I was satisfied to drop anchor and dangle bloodworms in the water in pursuit of Spot, Croaker, Catfish, and Striped Bass while sipping on a Natty Boh.
Population: 490,000 (2001)
Area: 416 square miles
Median Household Income: $61,768
Shoreline: 517 miles
Established in: 1650
County Seat: Annapolis
I hope to node in the future some of the locations in the county that I mentioned, so stay tuned!