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Eastern Shore of Maryland

Coordinates: 38°42′N 75°48′W / 38.7°N 75.8°W / 38.7; -75.8
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Eastern Shore of Maryland
The counties of the Eastern Shore of Maryland
The counties of the Eastern Shore of Maryland
Coordinates: 38°42′N 75°48′W / 38.7°N 75.8°W / 38.7; -75.8
CountryUnited States
Largest citySalisbury
 (2020 Census)[1]
 • Total456,815
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)

The Eastern Shore of Maryland is a part of the U.S. state of Maryland that lies mostly on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay. Nine counties are normally included in the region. The Eastern Shore is part of the larger Delmarva Peninsula that Maryland shares with Delaware and Virginia.

As of the 2020 census, its population was 456,815, with about 7% of Marylanders living in the region. The region is politically more conservative than the rest of the state, generally returning more votes for Republicans than Democrats in statewide and national elections.

Developed in the colonial and federal period for agriculture, the Eastern Shore has remained a relatively rural region. Salisbury is the most populous community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The region's economy is dominated by three industry sectors: fishing along the coasts, especially for shellfish such as the blue crab; farming, especially large-scale chicken farms; and tourism, especially centered on the Atlantic coast and beach resort of Ocean City. Because of its coastal and low-lying geography, the region is vulnerable to extreme weather events, including hurricanes and larger environmental issues like climate change and rising sea levels.

The region contains a few major roads; the main connection to the other parts of Maryland is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which carries U.S. Route 50 and U.S. Route 301. U.S. Route 13 connects the southern part of the Eastern Shore to both Delaware and points north and Virginia and points south.


Crisfield, a seafood center along Chesapeake Bay
A farm in Kent County
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County

The Eastern Shore of Maryland comprises Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.[2] These lie on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River, which is the western border of Cecil County with Harford County. The region borders the Mason–Dixon line with Delaware to the east and north, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and Virginia's Eastern Shore on the south. Maryland's and Virginia's Eastern Shores, along with most of Delaware, form the Delmarva Peninsula.

The location of the southern border with Virginia was a cause for significant dispute amongst colonists prior to 1668, when Phillip Calvert of Maryland and Edmund Scarborough of Virginia demarcated the Calvert-Scarborough Line. This line ran northeast from Watkins Point in the Chesapeake through the James L. Horsey Farm and beyond to the Atlantic, but was ultimately never observed due to poor marking. The line in use today was established under the Award of 1877; this line travels east from Watkins Point, then up the middle of the Pocomoke River before heading due east along the Calvert-Scarborough Line at the point where it intersects the river.[3]

Like New Castle County, Delaware, Cecil County is crossed by the Fall Line, a geologic division where the rockier highlands of the Piedmont region meet the Atlantic coastal plain, a flat, sandy area that forms the coast. The coastal plain includes the Delmarva Peninsula and hence the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The geology of Delmarva is an inseparable part of the Eastern Shore, which has few rocky outcrops south of Kent County.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal crosses from Back Creek on the Elk River to Port Penn, Delaware. While it was a shallow canal with locks after its construction in 1829, it was deepened in the early 20th century to sea level, and physically separates the Delmarva Peninsula from the rest of the United States. Maryland south of the canal is considered the Eastern Shore by residents. The term Western Shore is used by Eastern Shore residents to describe all the counties of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay, but especially those of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and Southern Maryland.

The north–south section of the Mason–Dixon line forms the border between Maryland and Delaware. The border was originally marked every mile by a stone, and every five miles by a "crownstone". The line is not quite due north and south, but is as straight as survey methods of the 1760s could make it. It was surveyed as a compromise solution to a century-long wrangle over colonial territory between the Penn and Calvert families of England. If the Chesapeake Bay/Delaware Bay watershed divide had been taken as the borderline, the state of Delaware would be about half its current size.


Queen Anne's County courthouse

Early history[edit]

William Claiborne was granted land that was then part of the Colony of Virginia in 1629. He named it "Kent County". In 1631, he sailed north up the Chesapeake Bay from its south and west side to the area known today as Kent Island. There he made a fortified settlement that is considered to be the first English settlement within the Province of Maryland. Talbot County was formed in 1662. Cecil County was formed in 1674, by proclamation of the Governor, from eastern portions of Baltimore County and the northern portion of Kent County. Wicomico County was formed in 1867, as the 9th and last county, created from Somerset and Worcester counties.

Formation of counties[edit]

19th century[edit]

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels

Ocean City was founded on July 4, 1875,[4] when the Atlantic Hotel opened on Assateague Island. At the time, Assateague Island was continuous from the Delaware state line to well south of Ocean City: the Ocean City Inlet was not formed until a hurricane in August 1933 cut across the south end of the town. The inlet was cut not by waves sweeping inland, but by 4 or 5 days' worth of freshwater runoff from the coastal creeks running seaward. By 1935, government money had built jetties to make the inlet permanent, dividing Fenwick Island (north) from Assateague Island (south). Early transportation to the island was by train.

Until the 1820s, travel and commerce between the Eastern Shore and Baltimore were less important than the connections between it and Philadelphia. Water travel by sailboat and steamer linked the Eastern Shore to Baltimore more tightly beginning about 1813, when the first steamboat traveled the Bay. By the 1880s, railroad lines linked the Eastern Shore to Philadelphia and later, Norfolk, Virginia, by way of a railroad line straight south from Wilmington to Dover, Delmar, Salisbury, and Cape Charles. Maryland's Eastern Shore was served by branch lines running generally southwest from the main route. See List of railroad lines in the Delmarva Peninsula. The Eastern Shore's many branchlines were built after the Civil War by local companies; by the late nineteenth century, all were controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad (which also bought control of the steamboat and ferry routes), then Conrail and Norfolk Southern. Today the remaining active railroad tracks on the Eastern Shore are operated by short-line railroads Delmarva Central Railroad and the Maryland and Delaware Railroad.

Commercial east–west ties between Delaware towns and Maryland towns were culturally significant in Colonial and Early American periods despite the border line, which largely cut through woods and swamps. Trade with Philadelphia was conducted by overland routes to Delaware towns such as Odessa (then called Cantwell's Bridge) and Smyrna, then called Duck Creek. Agricultural products and milled grain were taken up the Delaware River by "shallop men" in small vessels called shallops. These cultural connections continue to this day.

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

An east–west rail route ran from a ferry terminal at Claiborne, west of St. Michaels, to Ocean City, via the Baltimore and Eastern Shore Railroad and the Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad. Travelers could also take a ferry to Love Point on Kent Island, board a Queen Anne's Railroad train, and travel east to Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Automobile transportation across the Chesapeake Bay was by ferryboat until 1952, when the first Chesapeake Bay Bridge was opened for traffic.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, developers began selling lots on Assateague Island, south of the inlet. However, a storm on March 6, 1962 destroyed houses, shacks, and roads.[5] The state and federal governments intervened before reconstruction by creating the Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park to preserve this area rather than have it be developed.

An Eastern Shore Baseball League operated during three periods between 1922 and 1949.[6] It was a Class D minor league with teams in all three states of Delmarva.


Although the Eastern Shore comprises a large part of Maryland's land area, it had a population of 456,815 as of the 2020 Census, representing about 7.4% of Maryland's total population.[1][7] The most populous city in the region is Salisbury, and the most populous county is Cecil.[8][1]


The Eastern Shore is considerably more conservative than the more densely populated and urban Western Shore. Since the late 20th century, when conservative whites shifted to the Republican Party, the region has strongly supported Republican candidates for governor. The three Republican nominees for governor from 1994 to 2018Ellen Sauerbrey, Bob Ehrlich, and Larry Hogan– swept all nine counties. This streak ended in 2022 when Democrat Wes Moore won Kent and Talbot counties, though Republican Dan Cox still won the Eastern Shore overall.

At the presidential level, the Eastern Shore also leans Republican. But Kent and Somerset counties have flipped back and forth in supporting Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The last Democrat to win Dorchester County was Bill Clinton from Arkansas in 1996. Cecil County has not gone Democratic since Jimmy Carter from Georgia won the county in 1976. Queen Anne's, Caroline, Wicomico, and Worcester counties have voted Republican at every election subsequent to Lyndon Johnson's landslide. Up until 2020, this was true for Talbot County as well, but it was won by Joe Biden.[9]

The Eastern Shore has long been a part of Maryland's 1st Congressional district.[10] Democrat Roy Dyson represented the 1st district from 1981 until 1990, when he was defeated by Republican Wayne Gilchrest. Gilchrest held the seat until 2008, when State Senator Andy Harris defeated him in the Republican primary. Harris narrowly lost the subsequent general election to Democrat Frank Kratovil, Queen Anne's County state's attorney. In 2010, Harris again ran for the district and handily defeated Kratovil after a single term in office. Harris has held the seat without serious difficulty since.

In the Maryland General Assembly, the Eastern Shore encompasses a portion of district 35B and all of districts 35A, 36, 37A and 37B, 38A, 38B and 38C. All seats are held by Republicans except for a state delegate seat in district 37A.

Gubernatorial election results
Gubernatorial election results
Year Republican Democratic Other Total
2022[11] 55.33% 91,425 41.24% 68,137 3.43% 5,661 165,223
2018[12] 75.80% 131,649 23.02% 39,986 1.16% 1,279 173,657
2014[13] 71.45% 100,608 26.93% 37,919 1.62% 2,277 140,804
2010[14] 59.35% 92,231 38.19% 59,343 2.46% 3,827 155,401
2006[15] 62.05% 90,319 36.92% 53,748 1.03% 1,502 145,569
2002[16] 68.07% 90,000 31.19% 41,241 0.73% 970 132,211
1998[17] 59.02% 66,434 40.94% 46,079 0.04% 50 112,563
1994[18] 62.60% 65,585 37.40% 39,187 0.00% 3 104,775
1990[19] 59.43% 52,288 40.57% 35,692 0.00% 0 87,980
Presidential election results
Presidential election results[20]
Year Democratic Republican Others
2020 41.0% 94,716 56.6% 130,622 2.4% 5,588
2016 36.3% 77,104 58.4% 123,991 5.3% 11,329
2012 42.0% 86,879 56.0% 115,669 2.0% 4,062
2008 42.9% 87,700 55.5% 113,518 1.6% 3,285
2004 38.8% 71,435 60.1% 110,661 1.1% 1,942
2000 43.0% 64,336 53.7% 80,329 3.2% 4,787
1996 42.8% 54,537 46.7% 59,522 10.6% 13,510
1992 36.5% 50,121 44.1% 60,518 19.4% 26,713
1988 36.3% 41,797 63.3% 72,886 0.5% 551
1984 32.5% 34,934 67.1% 72,235 0.4% 454
1980 42.9% 43,447 51.3% 52,000 5.8% 5,919
1976 48.6% 43,838 51.4% 46,301
1972 27.5% 23,215 71.2% 60,020 1.3% 1,088
1968 30.0% 25,506 46.6% 39,578 23.3% 19,808
1964 57.0% 45,899 43.0% 34,585
1960 47.1% 38,722 52.9% 43,534



Ocean City, Maryland's beach, looking north from the pier

Ocean City's skyline, containing tall hotels and condominiums, stands out within Delmarva. At the southern end of the town, a recreational boardwalk spans over thirty blocks, containing carnival rides and games, restaurants, bars, arcades, and clothing boutiques.

Tourists visit St. Michaels on a neck surrounded by water; the colonial former port of Oxford; Chestertown; and isolated Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. North of Crisfield is Janes Island State Park, with camping and kayaking trails through marshlands. Cambridge continues to be a popular destination for tourism because of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay Resort, Spa & Marina, and the Harriet Tubman National Park.


At the southern end of the Chesapeake coast of Maryland, the town of Crisfield is home to a fishing, crabbing, and seafood processing industry.


In the 21st century, the main economic activities on the Eastern Shore are vegetable and grain farming, seafood, large-scale chicken breeding (Perdue Farms was founded in Salisbury and is still headquartered there today), and tourism. Tobacco was the chief commodity crop during colonial times. The agricultural economy switched to mixed products, including grain, in the second half of the 18th century.[21][unreliable source?]


Energy in the Eastern shore is provided by five oil and natural gas plants.[22]



As part of the broader Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Eastern Shore confronts common environmental issues of the watershed, such as nutrient runoff from agriculture, but it is also vulnerable to climate change.

Because of its low-lying geography and sandy soil, the region is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and salt water intrusion.[23] Moreover, because of the coastal geography, infrastructure is already being damaged both due to sea level rise, and storm surge from tropical storms and hurricanes.[23]

The Eastern Shore's economy depends on the larger fisheries and farming, both of which are sensitive to climate change.[23]


Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which connects the Eastern Shore with the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan area and the rest of Maryland

Various waterways provide a medium for commerce and boaters: the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River, and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

There are three major routes to the Eastern Shore:

  • The Chesapeake Bay Bridge spans 4.35 miles (7.00 km) of the Chesapeake Bay, and at the time of construction in 1952, was the longest continuous over-water steel structure.[24] A second parallel span was added in 1973 and a third has been discussed, most recently in 2006. A third span would not open, according to state officials, until about 2025. The bridges have eased commuting to larger cities. Kent Island, site of the first English settlement on the Shore, has become a bedroom community for Washington, DC; Annapolis, and Baltimore. Kent Island is part of Queen Anne's County.
  • U.S. Route 13
  • Maryland Route 213

The two major highways on the Eastern Shore are U.S. Route 13 and U.S. Route 50, which meet in Salisbury.


Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport, in Salisbury,[25] is the only commercial airport on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Airports for private aircraft include:


The Eastern Shore has made several attempts to separate from Maryland. Proposals were debated in Maryland's General Assembly in 1833–1835, 1852, and 1998. There were earlier proposals visualizing a state encompassing the Delmarva Peninsula. The 1998 proposal by state Senators Richard F. Colburn and J. Lowell Stoltzfus did not specify a status for Eastern Shore's nine counties following secession, but suggested the new state's name could be "Delmarva".[31]


Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds Minor League baseball team

The Delmarva Shorebirds are a minor league baseball team who play Class A baseball in the South Atlantic League at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.

Notable people[edit]

Towns and cities[edit]

County seats:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Maryland Department of Planning. "2020 and 2010 Census Population by Jurisdiction" (PDF). Maryland.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2023.
  2. ^ "About Maryland's Eastern Shore". Maryland.com.
  3. ^ Clark, Charles Branch (1950). The Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. Vol. 1. Lewis Historical Publishing Co. pp. 232–233. OCLC 3198545.
  4. ^ Ocean City History Archived 2008-05-13 at the Wayback Machine. ococean.com. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  5. ^ Assateague Island Administrative History Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine The Becoming of the Seashore
  6. ^ MLB Top 100 Teams Archived 2008-06-22 at the Wayback Machine. MLB.com. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  7. ^ "QuickFacts: Maryland". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 1, 2023.
  8. ^ "Maryland Regions". VisitMaryland. Retrieved July 1, 2023.
  9. ^ Sullivan, Robert David; ‘How the Red and Blue Map Evolved Over the Past Century’ Archived 2016-11-16 at the Wayback Machine; America Magazine, in The National Catholic Review; June 29, 2016
  10. ^ "Maryland Election Districts Map". mdelect.net. Retrieved 4 May 2018.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Official 2022 Gubernatorial General Election Results for Governor / Lt. Governor". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  12. ^ "Data Files for the 2018 Gubernatorial Election Results". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  13. ^ "2014 Gubernatorial Election". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  14. ^ "2010 Gubernatorial Elections". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  15. ^ "2006 Gubernatorial Election". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  16. ^ "2002 Gubernatorial Election". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  17. ^ "1998 Gubernatorial Elections". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  18. ^ "1994 Gubernatorial Elections". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  19. ^ "1990 Gubernatorial Elections". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2022-02-01.
  20. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  21. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana: A Library of Universal Knowledge, Encyclopedia Americana Corp., 1919, p. 352, retrieved 2008-03-02
  22. ^ "The Future of Power Generation on the Eastern Shore". www.commonsenseeasternshore.org. 2019-03-20. Retrieved 2020-12-11.
  23. ^ a b c "What Climate Change Means for Maryland" (PDF). United States Environmental Protection Agency. August 2016.
  24. ^ Baltimore Sun - Chesapeake Bay Bridge Summary. baltimoresun.com. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  25. ^ Wicomico County Tourism Transportation
  26. ^ Queen Anne's County Bay Bridge Airport
  27. ^ Dorchester County, Maryland Archived 2011-04-01 at the Wayback Machine Airport Division
  28. ^ Somerset County, Maryland Airport
  29. ^ Talbot County Government Archived 2011-04-19 at the Wayback Machine Airport Information
  30. ^ Town of Ocean City Archived 2011-04-02 at the Wayback Machine Official Ocean City Municipal Airport
  31. ^ Michael Dresser (February 11, 1998). "Saying so long to city bullies". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on January 11, 2013.
  32. ^ Lynch, Heather (1998-02-11). "Johnson recalled in a landside". The Daily Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-07-15 – via Newspapers.com.
  33. ^ "Birckhead Appointed Adjutant General By Governor; Snow Hill Alumna Becomes Nation's First Black Woman To Lead State Military In Country". News Ocean City Maryland Coast Dispatch Newspaper. 2023-04-11. Retrieved 2023-07-02.
  34. ^ "Education Makers, Earl S. Richardson". The History Makers (www.thehistorymakers.com). Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  35. ^ "Paul S. Sarbanes, U.S. Senator (Maryland)". msa.maryland.gov. Archived from the original on 2 March 2018. Retrieved 4 May 2018.

External links[edit]