At first home to Native Americans before settlement, which turned into segregated European and Indian towns
Turned into an industrial hotspot with mills and factories causing awful pollution in the river
Then a busy river full of steamboats, fishing fleets, and those coming inland to cut lumber and to farm the land.
Wicomico River and surrounding area Now:
A growing recreation destination with calm river waters where you can see people enjoying boating and other water sports.
There are no more mills, and only a couple industrial businesses riverside.
Many local businesses have utilized the river front allowing people to relax and enjoy the Wicomico.
A Comparison of Past and Present Day
Source: National Park Service - Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail,
Draft Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Assessment (September 2010)
The earliest recorded history for this region (Delmarva) comes from explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano who arrived to the nearby Atlantic Coast briefly in 1524. Captain John Smith was next in 1608 who made his way up the Pocomoke River. His overland hikes brought him in contact with the Wighcocomoco, the Nause, the Kusk'arawack, and the Nantaquack or Nanticoke tribes. Smith records that the Wicomico had their own distinct dialect and appeared to be generally shorter than the people he met further south.
The present day Wicomico River was known as Rokiawakin (Rockawalkin) river. John Smith never went up the full length of the Wicomico River, but interacted with tribes at the mouth of the river, as well as the tribes along the present day Nanticoke River. The people Captain John Smith encountered in 1608 and referred to in his log and map of 1612 as the Wighcocomoco were in fact located on the Pocomoke River, not the Wicomico River.
Early European towns in the United States were founded on land near rivers because it was convenient for many human needs. Once ships became more efficient, rivers became even more important for our successful country in terms of economic wealth and a means of transportation. By 1635 the total count of European settlers was hovering around 5,000 in the Chesapeake, but population growth hardly stopped there, and in fifty-years population increased from 19,500 in the year 1700, to 144,000 in 1750, and eventually by 1800 it reached a grand total of 1,150,000 people. The Native American people slowly were pushed off their land due to the overwhelming amount of Europeans encroaching on their land. The Tondotank Indian reservation was established in 1678 for this reason located near present day Tony Tank, named after its old name of Tondotank. The Tony Tank neighborhood is along side of Riverside Drive in Salisbury. The town of Salisbury was founded at the head of the Wicomico River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay in 1732. The river was used as a highway in these days and because Salisbury is the farthest boats could go inland, it was and continues to be an important port for boats trying to bring goods from different places. "Cargo once consisting of produce and fish, has become grain, fuel oil, fertilizers, and construction aggregates. The progression of commerce on the Wicomico has also affected the river itself and the landscape on the river. Shallow depths, which once limited travel on the Wicomico, have given way to a dredged channel as mills and steamboat wharves have become docks for barges”. There is $200 million worth of goods brought through Salisbury’s port as of 2014, an amount great enough to make Salisbury the second busiest port in Maryland behind the famous Baltimore as of 2014.