The ruins of Clopper Mill have all the usual mysterious charm of dilapidated places.
Yet, this unassuming site has a part in presidential history and popular music, though 100 years apart.
What was Clopper Mill, and why is it in ruins? Why is it significant?
Let’s find out!
What Are the Ruins of Clopper Mill?
Clopper Mill was once a working mill, but it became obsolete, and then a 1947 fire destroyed it. All that remains now are ruins of the three-story walls and a couple of juicy pieces of history.
Clopper Mill became famous, or infamous, rather, in April 1865. John Wilkes Booth had just assassinated President Lincoln, and his co-conspirators had other targets.
A man named Lewis Powell severely injured Secretary of State William Seward. A German-American carriage repairman named George Atzerodt was assigned to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson.
Atzerodt booked a room in the hotel Johnson was staying but couldn’t go through with it. Instead, he got drunk and wandered the city, dropping his knife in a gutter. Witnesses reported the blade as well as his suspicious behavior at the hotel. Police searched his room and found weapons and a ledger belonging to Booth.
Meanwhile, Atzerodt had fled, planning to stay with relatives in Maryland. He also knew the miller at Clopper Mill and hid there for the night before being apprehended and hanged.
Clopper Mill also has a much brighter spot in history. In 1970, songwriters Billy Danoff and Taffy Nivert were traveling the winding roads nearby. They began writing a song, which they gave to John Denver to finish. That song is the legendary “Take Me Home Country Roads,” though it’s set in West Virginia instead of Maryland.
Where Are the Ruins of Clopper Mill located?
The ruins of Clopper Mill are in Germantown, Maryland. They sit on the banks of Seneca Creek and are now part of Seneca Creek State Park.
You can access the ruins, but it’s not easy. You have to either wade through Seneca Creek or walk via Clopper Road, a challenge given the traffic and lack of sidewalk.
Pro Tip: Road tripping to Maryland to see the ruins of Clopper Mill? Come prepared with roadside assistance! Check out the debate on RV Roadside Assistance Showdown: Good Sam Versus AAA.
How Old Are the Ruins of Clopper Mill?
The original mill was built in the late 1700s and expanded in the early 1800s.
What Was the Purpose of the Clopper Mill?
Clopper Mill was a steam-powered grist mill that turned grains into flour. The owners chose the location because of the ability to harness the creek’s energy.
Best Hikes Near the Ruins of Clopper Mill
The Clopper Lake trail is 3.3 miles and suitable for all skill levels. Though, some hikers have clocked it at 3.7 miles. It’s heavily trafficked, especially in the peak season of April through September.
This hike is easy and mainly in the forest, so watch out for any downed limbs. You’ll also see a lake and possibly some beavers. Reviewers say it’s not suitable for mountain biking.
Play areas, picnic tables, and fishing options make this an excellent place for a family outing. In addition, dogs are welcome if they’re on a leash.
There’s a $3 parking fee, but they have a free parking lot before you get to the gate.
Black Hill Trail Loop
This trail is a moderate 3.8-mile loop with the primary difficulty being uphill portions.
You’ll find that the trail is well-maintained and in a pretty forest setting. Paths are a mix of dirt, paved, and gravel. If you want an easy hike, just do the paved areas and turn around. Some visitors do the trail with a mix of hiking and biking.
You can rent kayaks and paddleboats here, too, making this a popular summer destination. Dogs are welcome on-leash, and they love all the shade!
Best Camping Near the Ruins of Clopper Mill
Little Bennett Campground
This campground has 91 sites for RV and tent camping. All RV sites are spacious, level, and paved, and they all have full hookups and WiFi. One advantage to this park is that it’s close to Washington DC and a more affordable option than city hotels.
Amenities include a basketball court, picnic areas, a game room, a volleyball court, a general store, and showers. Pets are permitted.
The last rate paid was $66.
Note: This campground was significantly upgraded in 2018, so earlier reviews may not be applicable.
Pro Tip: Want to go camping while in Maryland? Check out these 7 Ways to Creatively Go Camping.
Cherry Hill Park
This park has RV sites, tent camping, cabins, a cottage, and even a glamping pod!
If you’d like to do some sightseeing in DC, this is a super convenient place to stay. They have a bus depot with several tour buses, and they also offer crash courses in DC tourism so you can decide where to go.
You’ll find tons of amenities here as well, including a hot tub, splash park, dog run, mini-golf, movie nights, propane delivery, and even the option to try panning for minerals. Your kids are unlikely to get bored here, and your pets are welcome too.
They also have other conveniences, including an RV shop for any parts or accessories you may need. In addition, you’ll also find a grocery store and souvenir shop.
Every RV site has a full hookup, cable, water, and WiFi. Back-in sites are $85/night, and pull-through sites are $90/night.
Is a Road Trip to the Ruins of Clopper Mill Worth It?
You can easily see the ruins from a distance or brave the creek or traffic to get close. There aren’t tours there, but it’s still worth a stop. In addition to the natural beauty of the creek, the mill holds a peculiar history. From an insurgent’s hideout to a John Denver classic, the ruins of Clopper Mill are full of stories.
If you’re going to be seeing all the hot spots in the DC area, why not stop here as well? It’s a peculiar place, memorable not for what you do there but for all the history the ruins have seen.
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