Laurel is a city in Maryland, United States, located almost midway between Washington and Baltimore on the banks of the Patuxent River. While the city limits are entirely in northern Prince George's County, outlying developments extend into Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Howard counties. Founded as a mill town in the early 19th century, Laurel expanded local industry and was later able to become an early commuter town for Washington and Baltimore workers following the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1835. Largely residential today, the city maintains a historic district centered on its Main Street, highlighting its industrial past.
The Department of Defense is a prominent presence in the Laurel area today, with the Fort Meade Army base, the NSA and Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory all located nearby. Laurel Park, a thoroughbred horse racetrack, is located just outside the city limits.
Many dinosaur fossils from the Cretaceous Era are preserved in a 7.5-acre (3.0 ha) park in Laurel. The site, which among other finds has yielded fossilized teeth from Astrodon and Priconodon species, has been called the most prolific in the eastern United States. From the Late Glacial age in 10,700 B.C. to 8,500 B.C., Laurel's climate warmed and changed from a spruce forest to a hardwood forest. In the Late Archaic period from 4,000 to 1,000 B.C., Laurel would have been covered primarily with an oak and hickory forest.
Laurel was formed from land on the fall line of the Patuxent River patented by the Snowden family in 1658 as part of the 12,250-acre New Birmingham plantation, which included the later Montpelier.