A Brief History of New River Ranch

Grand Ole Opry performers at Carnegie Hall
Grand Ole Opry performers at Carnegie Hall | © Library of Congress / Public Domain / WikiCommons
Kristina Gaddy

On the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, there used to be a country music mecca. While northeastern Maryland isn’t thought of as the home of country music, the stage at New River Ranch saw the biggest stars of early country music, from George Jones to the Louvin Brothers. Here’s how a small outdoor stage located between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia became a famous country music scene.

The Reed and Campbell families

As a young girl, Ola Belle Campbell learned how to play the banjo and sing in the mountains of North Carolina. Her family moved to southern Pennsylvania when she was a teenager, and in 1949, she married Bud Reed, who was born in Maryland just across the border. Ola Belle loved old-time country music and wanted to bring that music to the area around Rising Sun, Maryland. With Bud, she started and operated Rainbow Park across the state line in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, just a year after they were married.

The couple then partnered with Ola Belle’s brother Alex Campbell and opened New River Ranch close to Rising Sun. Ola, Alex, and other local musicians would play at the park, but then they managed to book bigger acts that had way more appeal. The two parks were about an hour outside of Baltimore and an hour-and-a-half outside D.C., and on the weekends, thousands of folks from the whole area would come up to hear country music’s biggest stars.

“Maryland’s Only Country Music Ranch”

New River Ranch was a pre-Woodstock, pre-music festival venue. It was a time when touring acts of all types of music would get shows where they could find them, including high school gymnasiums and community centers. Country musicians passing through northeast Maryland welcomed the opportunity to play for a crowd on a Sunday afternoon, even if it was at what basically looked like a summer camp. Leon Kagarise took thousands of photos and recordings from New River Ranch (and nearby Sunset Park), capturing the image of a little white shed with a green roof and wooden stage, and planks sitting on cinder blocks for the seating. When there wasn’t enough seating, the people would sit on the ground or even the edge of the stage.

The Acts

Washington, D.C. was actually the country music capital of the East Coast in the 1950s and early 1960s. Men and families had come from the South for work during and after World War II, and were eager to hear country music, whether it was at bars in D.C. or a park in northern Maryland. New River Ranch saw acts including the harmony-perfect Louvin Brothers, the pioneers of bluegrass Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe, country music royalty June Carter and Johnny Cash, Texas troubadour Ernest Tubb, and many more. Today, New River Ranch is just a memory, but Kagarise’s photos showcase one of Maryland’s lost treasures in the book Pure Country.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.