It rises in western Chester County, Pennsylvania, with two branches joining about 10 mi (16 km) south of Coatesville, between East Bradford Township and Pocopson Township. The combined stream flows southeast through Chester County, past Chadds Ford, Delaware County, Pennsylvania then enters the northern portion of the state of Delaware approximately 5 mi (8 km) north of Wilmington. It flows south through Brandywine Creek State Park, into Wilmington, where it flows through Brandywine Park near the city center. It joins the Christina 1 mi (1.6 km) east of downtown Wilmington and approximately 2 mi (3 km) upstream from the mouth of the Christina on the Delaware River. The mouth of the Christina is on the Delaware River estuary and is the approximate dividing point between the freshwater Delaware River and the saltwater Delaware Bay. The Lower Brandywine (including a number of smaller tributary streams) is a designated Pennsylvania Scenic River.
The Brandywine was called Wauwaset by Lenni-Lenape (or Delaware) Indians and Fiskiekylen, or "Fish Creek" by early Dutch and Swedish settlers. The current name may be from an old Dutch word for brandy or gin, brandewijn, or from the name of an early mill owner, Andreas Brainwende.
The creek lends its name to the 1777 Battle of Brandywine of the American Revolutionary War. The battle field is in southeastern Pennsylvania on the banks of the creek near Chadds Ford. The Brandywine Battlefield Park covers 50 acres, but British troops marched north of the confluence of the east and west branches during the battle.
The log cabin was introduced in America by Swedish and Finn settlers in the Brandywine Valley. The Conestoga wagon, which later became known as the "prairie schooner" was first built to haul grain from the Conestoga Valley to Brandywine flour mills. Early paper mills were also located along the creek, which supplied Benjamin Franklin's print shop and also supplied the paper to print Continental currency and the Declaration of Independence.
A group of painters, including N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth and Howard Pyle, are sometimes informally referred to as the "Brandywine School" especially for their landscape works which depict the Brandywine valley. Many of their works are on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford.
Brandywine Creek (Christina River) has also been known as:
By 1687, a Swedish colonist, Tyman Stidham opened the first mill on the Brandywine, near Wilmington. About 1735, Brandywine Village was founded across the creek from Wilmington. Quakers Elizabeth Levis Shipley, her husband William Shipley, and Thomas Canby were important in establishing the village and its supporting flour mills. By 1743 Thomas's son, Oliver Canby owned 3 mill sites. A dam and a millrace south of the creek had been built.
In 1760 a bridge was built at the current site of the Market Street Bridge, and the north race and two more flour mills were built by Joseph Tatnall.
The millers cooperated in maintaining quality and branding the flour. "Brandywine Superfine" flour was shipped all along the Atlantic coast and to the West Indies before the American Revolution.
Before the Battle of Brandywine, General Anthony Wayne had his headquarters in Brandywine Village and Continental troops camped nearby, on the site of Lovering Avenue.
The DuPont powder mills may be viewed at the Hagley Museum and Library. A mill race once used to provide water power is still in working condition in Brandywine Park near downtown Wilmington. This park was designed in the 1890s by Frederick Law Olmsted.