If you want to see Annapolis—to really see and know Annapolis—take a walk across the Spa Creek Bridge.
Spanning lovely Spa Creek, the bridge connects Compromise Street in downtown Annapolis with 6th Street on the Eastport side. The view from the top is awesome in every direction, showcasing the constant boat traffic that is the heart and soul of Annapolis. Sidewalks along both sides of the bridge roadway make it easy to walk or run across, and the sunsets and sunrises over the water are gorgeous.
Under the bridge, tidal Spa Creek is the main waterway through Annapolis for sailors, powerboaters, kayakers, and paddleboarders. Passage underneath gives a closeup look at the bridge’s steel underpinnings and briny pylons. For the paddler below, the creek’s quiet calm is interrupted by the resonating thrum of cars crossing metal grates overhead, but only for a moment.
The Drawbridge and Its History
The Spa Creek bridge is a bascule drawbridge that opens for marine traffic on a detailed schedule available on the Annapolis Harbormaster website. Mariners in vessels too tall to pass under the center span can hail the bridgetender in the control house by phone or VHF radio. The bridgetender’s familiar clang-clang-clang warning tells all whenever the drawbridge is about to open.
The first Spa Creek Bridge was an 1868 wooden span that connected Duke of Gloucester Street with the foot of 4th Street in Eastport, where a street-end park now commemorates the bridge’s history. A 1907 metal swing-span was later built in the same location.
That low bridge was replaced in 1947 by today’s shorter 832-foot metal drawbridge, relocating the crossing to Eastport’s 6th Street. That was in 1951, just before the City of Annapolis annexed the Horn Point peninsula, better known today as Eastport.
About the Maritime Republic
In 1998, the authorities closed the Spa Creek Bridge for needed repairs. Eastport residents jokingly called this event an “unprovoked act of aggression on the part of the City of Annapolis,” because the temporary closure cut off Eastport residents and businesses from the rest of the city.
Thus, all in mischievous good fun, the Maritime Republic of Eastport (MRE) was born, when “patriots residing on the Horn Point peninsula rose up in revolt against the snobbish suppression of ‘Annapolis Proper’ across the harbor” and pretended to secede from Annapolis. The MRE’s motto: We like it this way.
Festivals & Festivities
More than just a quiet neighborhood across the Spa Creek Bridge, the Maritime Republic of Eastport (MRE) carries on today as a registered nonprofit, doing good works while having fun celebrating the eclectic, quirky Eastport neighborhood and its maritime heritage. To date, the MRE has raised more than $500,000 for charity, one of the biggest events being the annual Tug of War.
With a dose of hilarity, Eastport and Annapolis teams face off in an all-day War of Independence on opposite sides of the “Gulf of Eastport” (aka Spa Creek), pulling on a huge rope extending over the harbor. The Tug of War is facetiously called “a celebration of the geographical and, some would argue, philosophical differences between Eastport and Annapolis,” conducted yearly “lest anyone forget this dark period of Annapolis-Eastport relations.” This year’s Tug of War will take place on November 2, 2019.
Another eccentric Spa Creek Bridge tradition began years ago when the MRE created an extreme athletic competition. The annual event is the whimsical Maritime Republic of Eastport .05K run across the Spa Creek Bridge. That’s point-zero-five-K. A humorous take on the serious running event, the race is facetiously billed as a ‘grueling test of physical and mental endurance’. The .05K begins at the “crack o’noon” and is over by 12:05 pm. Former first place champions have completed this punishing run in about 32 seconds. The tongue-in-cheek fundraiser generously provides competitors with course maps, a mid-span rehydration station, warm-up sessions, and a pace car to follow.
The winter holidays bring more action to the Spa Creek Bridge. In December each year, look for a collection of brave half-clad Santas running down Main Street and across the bridge in the annual Santa Speedo Run and Toy Drive. The charity run is not an MRE event, but it is nonetheless followed by a post-run party.
One of the few occasions on which the drawbridge stands open for an extended time is the Eastport Yacht Club’s Parade of Lights. This must-see winter spectacular is held yearly on the second Saturday of December when boats parade Spa Creek and Ego Alley decked out in their finest holiday lights.
In the summertime on the Fourth of July, the Spa Creek Bridge is a favorite perch for watching the fireworks. The span is closed to traffic, and crowds fill the bridge for the occasion. Any hour of the day or night is a beautiful time to enjoy the scenery from the top of the Spa Creek Bridge–or from a boat as you cruise underneath. In every season, the bridge gives us some of the most unique events and stunning views in Annapolis.