Imagine a summer afternoon spent on Tuckahoe Creek. As the waterway narrows, the branches of streamside trees form a canopy over paddlers, painting the sky green from one shore to another.
Image courtesy Serafin Enriquez/Flickr
Located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Tuckahoe Creek borders Caroline, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. Much of the 21-mile tributary to the Choptank River is bordered by wooded marshland. In Tuckahoe State Park, visitors can launch canoes and kayaks into the creek, hikers and horse-lovers can walk or ride 20 miles of scenic trails and fishermen can press their luck in a 60-acre lake.
In Virginia, there is a local legend that explains how the Cowpasture River and its surrounding streams were named: A group of Native Americans stole a herd of cattle from a settler and headed west. The calves tired first, and were left behind at the river now known as the Calfpasture. The cows were able to make it a bit farther, to Cowpasture. And the bulls, with greater strength and stamina, made it to Bullpasture.
Image courtesy Bruce Thomson/Flickr
The tale might not be true, but the names still fit. All three rivers are bordered by pastureland and meadows, a perfect habitat for indigo buntings, northern bobwhite and other open-country birds, as well as local livestock.
The nearby George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and state natural lands offer opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to experience this rustic, rural watershed.
If you would rather explore “underground,” be sure to check out the region’s caves and sinkholes. During periods of extended drought, the Cowpasture River dries up and flows only beneath the ground, through the limestone caves.
Image courtesy Bruce Thomson/Flickr
More from the Cowpasture River:
When you think of the Baltimore-Washington corridor, you don’t often think of rock climbing, trout fishing or horseback riding.
But you can find all of that and more in the 1,400 acres that surround Morgan Run, a stream that begins near Eldersburg, Md., and flows into Baltimore County’s Liberty Reservoir.
Image courtesy Evan Parker/Flickr
In the Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area, miles of trails will transport you to a place far from beltways and buses. Be prepared to weave in and out of different habitats, from open fields to aging forests. Birders can spot songbirds and raptors, and climbers can find bouldering opportunities along streamside trails.
Image courtesy Jive/Flickr
Fishing is a popular sport in Morgan Run. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stocks the stream with eastern brook trout to keep the important fish in our tributaries.
Equestrian trails attract solitude-seeking horseback riders. Local riders created these trails in the early 1990s. Today, there are 11 miles of open field and woodland trails to enjoy.
True to its name, West Virginia’s “Lost River” disappears.
Lost River begins in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. But just a few miles downstream, it flows into a series of caves and is carried underground. Known locally as “the Sinks,” these caves shelter the river until it reaches Wardensville, where it emerges under a different name: the Cacapon.
Image courtesy Mark Plummer/Flickr
Looking for Lost River? Catch a glimpse in the 3,700-acre Lost River State Park. And if the weather is hiker-friendly, take a trip up to Cranny Crow Overlook, where, at 3,200 feet high, you will be able to see five counties in two states. The park also offers opportunities for horseback riding and swimming.
Image courtesy vitia/Flickr
Explore the nearby Trout Pond Recreation Area to enjoy the only natural lake in West Virginia, created by a sinkhole that filled with water from a mountain stream. Trout Pond and the neighboring Rockcliff Lake boast sandy mountainside beaches, optimal fishing and challenging hiking trails.
More from Lost River:
This Halloween, thrill-seeking river rats can take a trip to a graveyard—a ship graveyard! Mallows Bay, located on the Maryland shore of the Potomac River, contains the largest known shipwrecked fleet in the Western Hemisphere. A quick search on Google Maps or a look at this image from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows the fleet’s massive imprint on the waterway.
This steamship fleet was intended to be used during World War I. But faulty construction and the war's end rendered the fleet useless. The steamship vessels, totaling more than 200, were towed to Mallows Bay, where they were packed together so tightly that you could, according to reports, walk for a mile without touching the water.
Local watermen protested, afraid that such a high concentration of “garbage” would affect their livelihoods. Some vessels were burned, but many others were left to sink and rot.
Today, many are visible above water, but some 140 more lurk beneath the Potomac’s surface.
The above-water steamships are now home to non-human inhabitants. Great egrets can be found nesting on the decks, while vegetation peeks out from beneath the rust. On some vessels, trees as high as 50 feet tall have sprouted!
Perhaps the “haunting” nature of Mallows Bay is not one of humans that have been left behind, but resources that have been ill-disposed and forgotten.
Want to see this ghost fleet for yourself? Launch a canoe or kayak at Charles County’s Mallows Bay Park to explore the ships up close!
It’s easy to see why the Iroquois once called Pine Creek Tiadaghton, or “the river of pines.” A mix of hardwoods, including the eastern white pine and the eastern hemlock, now line its banks more than a century after the region was clear cut by Pennsylvania’s once-booming lumber industry.
Image courtesy fishhawk/Flickr
At close to 90 miles long, Pine Creek is the longest tributary to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. But Pine Creek once flowed in the opposite direction—until a surge of glacial meltwater reversed the creek to its current southerly flow, creating the driving force behind Pine Creek Gorge. Named by the National Park Service a National Natural Landmark in 1968, the gorge is better known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.
At its deepest point, Pine Creek Gorge is 1,450 feet deep and almost one mile wide. Visitors can view the gorge (along with dramatic rock outcrops and waterfalls) from the east rim of the canyon in Leonard Harrison State Park. On the west rim of the canyon is Colton Point State Park, which features five stone and timber pavilions built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. And in the Tioga State Forest, approximately 165,000 acres of trees, streams and awe-inspiring views await hikers, bikers, hunters and more. Pine Creek is paralleled by the 65-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail, which a 2001 article in USA Today named one of the top ten places in the world to take a bike tour.
Image courtesy Travis Prebble/Flickr
More from Pine Creek:
Imagine walking or paddling along your favorite stretch of marshland and coming across something hiding in the grass. It's three feet tall and its wings, which open when it sees you, span an impressive four feet across.
The creature is an American bittern, a rare heron with distinguishing moustache-like cheek markings and a talent for blending in with marsh grass.
Such a sighting is unusual; the American bittern is listed as endangered in Maryland and Pennsylvania. So we were surprised to hear that these birds were seen along Pierceville Run, a Susquehanna River tributary that was added in 2002 to Pennsylvania's list of impaired waters and removed just earlier this year.
An American bittern on the banks of Pierceville Run. Image courtesy Pennsylvania Department of the Environment
The American bittern's wetland habitats have declined by as much as 50 percent over the last two centuries, due to sediment pollution, development and an excess of man-made pollutants being pushed into the water.
How did Pierceville Run go from an "impaired" waterway to the home of an endangered bird?
Pierceville Run was listed as impaired because it contained an excessive amount of sediment pollution. In other words, there was too much dirt in the water.
Sediment pollution can cloud water and prevent sunlight from reaching aquatic plants and animals. It can even block the flow of creeks, streams and other waterways.
In agricultural areas, like the Pennsylvania county where Pierceville Run is located, livestock can often cause sediment pollution. When cattle are allowed to run through a stream, they can take portions of the stream bank with them. This can lead to the erosion of stream banks and to excessive sediment in the water.
Another source of sediment is the clearing of land for development. When soil is no longer home to trees and plants whose roots can hold it in place, it loosens and can end up in nearby waterways, especially after a severe storm.
To curb Pierceville Run's sediment problems, partners restricted livestock from entering streamside areas and installed trees along the banks to hold the soil in place.
Image courtesy Pennsylvania Department of the Environment
More from Pierceville Run:
Most people don't associate rock climbing with the Chesapeake Bay, but the sport's biggest fans will tell you that the Bay watershed is home to the only "true peak" on the East Coast of the United States (meaning it is only accessible by 'true' rock climbing techniques).
Image courtesy RoyJr/Flickr
Almost 200 miles from the Bay Program’s offices in Annapolis, Md., the formation known as "Seneca Rocks" hovers above Seneca Creek at its confluence with the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River.
While Seneca Rocks attract climbers from all over the East coast, the 19-mile Seneca Creek is known for another sport: trout fishing. The creek is listed on Trout Unlimited's "top 100 trout streams." Cool, shaded, spring-fed creeks like the Seneca are perfect for eastern brook trout, a species that can survive only in waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, the Seneca flows through heavily forested land, where trees shade the water and keep it cool for these fish.
Image courtesy Lonecellotheory/Flickr
This heavily forested land is the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area in the Monongahela National Forest, a 24,000 acre wilderness area that is pristine enough to attract an influx of solitude-seeking backpackers each summer and house an endangered species - the Cheat Mountain salamander.
While Seneca Creek flows through federal lands, its watershed is constantly threatened by developers and natural gas drillers. The Wilderness Society and local activist groups successfully petitioned the Bureau of Land Management this March, preventing natural gas drilling leases within a designated wilderness area.
More from Seneca Creek:
Follow blueberry bushes along the Eastern Continental Divide, look for Seneca Creek's underground pools, and climb to magnificent vistas: Find your own hike, or follow along with this one from Backpacker Magazine.
Have you visited Seneca Creek- either as a trout fisherman or a rock climber, or maybe something else? Or maybe you are waiting for the right time to visit. Tell us about your experience (or your proposed trip) in the comments below!
Image courtesy dancingnomad3/Flickr
About 100 miles west of Harrisburg Raystown Lake is nestled in the mountains of south central Pennsylvania. This time of year, the 8,000 acre lake is draped in greenery and is bustling with swimmers, boaters and fishermen. At dusk, lightening bugs illuminate the water and bats descend to the lake’s surface, looking for dinner.
Image courtesy shjohns2/Flickr
The lake is created by the Raystown Dam on the Juniata River, a river that starts in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains and flows east into the Susquehanna River. The Juniata was dammed in 1973 to control flooding on the Juniata and Susquehanna. The result is the largest lake in Pennsylvania. With 12 public access sites, campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, hunting, fishing, boat launches and even scuba diving, there is no reason why this lake shouldn’t be explored by all!
Just east of the lake, hiking trails cut through a scenic mountain gorge at Trough (pronounced “troff”) Creek State Park. Be prepared to brave steep and rocky areas, and keep an eye out for waterfalls!
Image courtesy Levy4u/Flickr
More from Raystown Lake:
Take Route 66 west from Washington, D.C. for about one hour, and you’ll find yourself far from the beltways and bypasses, at a place where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet the Shenandoah River, the principal tributary to the Potomac. This is the country for trout fishing, wine tasting, and whitewater rafting.
Flowing through Front Royal, the eight mile long Happy Creek is a lesser known tributary to the Shenandoah that made EPA’s impaired waters list in 2010. But its accessible, yet remote setting and its country charm is sure to put you in a jovial mood.
Image courtesy Suzanne Stout/Flickr
Trout and bass fisherman access the creek at Gertrude Miller Park, maintained by Warren County Parks and Recreation. The local chapter of Trout Unlimited completed a restoration project here, and fishermen often compete for a spot the morning after the creek is stocked.
White water rafting enthusiasts can begin a four mile trip just outside of Winchester. With cool mountain water below, and Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the stream banks, Happy Creek is a lesser known rafting secret. It also makes a great paddling and kayaking destination.
Whether you’re in the area for extreme whitewater, or a romantic weekend getaway, don’t leave the watershed without hiking along the Dickey Hill Trail, just off of Skyline Drive.
More from Happy Creek:
In the late 1700s, European and American settlers arrived in the Canisteo watershed in southwestern New York. They cut down nearly 70 percent of the trees in the region and began farming. The Canisteo watershed remained an important region for the nineteenth century early timber industry, but excessive logging and ensuing development drained nearly all of the river’s wetlands.
(Image courtesy mediafury/Flickr)
Today, many hillsides have been reforested, creating a colorful view during peak fall foliage. The few marshes that dot the valley today serve as reminders of the Canisteo of the early 18th century. The river’s beauty still entertains nature photographers, kayakers, whitewater rafters, and hikers alike.
The 61-mile long tributary of the Tioga River gets its name from a Native American word for “head of water,” an appropriate name for this Susquehanna “headwaters” stream. Rising in the hills of northern Allegany County, the Canisteo flows through a valley of steep hillsides and farmland before joining the Tioga just above the New York/Pennsylvania state line.
(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
More from the Canisteo River:
Fifteen years ago, heavy volumes of stormwater runoff from roads, rooftops, and parking lots, carved Minebank Run into a channelized ditch. The Gunpowder River tributary is located just south of the Loch Raven Reservoir near Towson, Maryland (North of Baltimore). An area that has been settled since the early 1700s, the stream's 2,135-acre watershed was once primarily agricultural land. Iron ore mining in the watershed gave the stream its name, with at least four mines along the stream's banks.
(Image courtesy Greg Wassman/Flickr)
As Baltimore became a central port and industrial center, Minebank Run flowed through residential areas, corporate buildings and the Baltimore beltway; fast-paced development increased stormwater runoff flows, which rendered it "highly impaired."
In the 1990s, Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management (DEPRM) chose to restore the stream, an effort that included the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science.
The 3,000 trees and 6,000 shrubs planted during the 1999-2005 project absorb stormwater instead of allowing it to run off; a reshaped stream slows the runoff to avoid erosion and channelization. This has prevented up to 50,000 pounds of sediment from entering the tributary, and reduced nitrogen in the water by 50 percent.
Today, Minebank Run is a meandering stream that flows from the Lower Gunpowder River, which unlike the Upper Gunpowder, is highly urbanized. However, the various parks along the river and its tributaries give a different impression.
More from Minebank Run:
Just north of the Mason-Dixon line, the North and South branches of the 17-mile-long Muddy Creek transverse farm lands and orchards, and in some places, wild trout flourish. The two forks meet at an old railroad village appropriately named Muddy Creek Forks. The settlement was once a bustling industrial hub along the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, but today, restored general stores and railroad tracks take visitors to a time when “workin’ on the railroad” was a way of life. Take a tour of the town’s historic buildings – structures with names like “milk collection building” and “coal bins” that have escaped the modern vocabulary.
(Image courtesy Bruce E. Hengst, Sr./Flickr)
As the creek flows through York County’s Peach Bottom and Lower Chanceford Township, its character shifts from an agricultural stream to that of a mountain river, decorated with huge boulders, flat pools, mountain laurel, and hemlock groves.
Locals spend hot summer days in the swimming holes along this section of Muddy Creek. Unfortunately, more of these swimming holes are being closed down each year due to illegal dumping violations and the threat this poses to human health.
Other outdoor enthusiasts choose to hike along the a section of the Mason Dixon Trail, which begins at the intersection of Muddy Creek and Paper Mill Road and goes to the Susquehanna River. Paddlers enjoy this section of the creek, particularly in the early spring, when the entire stretch is canoeable.
Trout fishermen from all over the country flock to Muddy Creek. A two-mile Delayed Harvest section between Bruce and Bridgeton is particularly poplar. Still others speak about the scenery between Woodbine and Castle Fin, a section of the creek only accessible via the old railroad bed.
Muddy Creek meets the Susquehanna River north of the Conowingo Dam, shortly before it flows into the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay was among the first regions settled by European explorers, and at one point, much of it was up for grabs. In the 1650s, Dutch conquistadors wanted to extend their rule of New Amsterdam (New York) into Maryland. They sent a man named Augustine Herrman to Maryland’s colonial capital, St. Mary’s City, to present their case to the governor. Herrman’s expedition left from New Castle, Delaware, and sailed down the modern day Bohemia River, to the Elk River, and then into the Chesapeake Bay. Although Herrman and his team weren’t able to convince the Maryland governor to allow the Dutch to move east, Herrman was so impressed with the region’s beauty that he himself decided to settle there.
(Image courtesy William Johns/Flickr)
After striking a deal with Maryland leaders, Herrman received 4,000 acres in northeast Maryland, between the Elk River and the Bohemia River (formerly named the Oppoquermine River). Since Herrman was a native of Prague, which was then Bohemia, he named his new home “Bohemia Manor” and renamed the river.
As part of the deal, Herrman agreed to create a map of the Chesapeake Bay. The detailed account of the region was used throughout the next century.
(Image courtesy Maps of Pennsylvania)
Herrman and his surveying crew predicted the concept of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, constructed nearly 150 years later. In 1661, he wrote, “the Mingaskil and aforesaid Bohemia River run there within a league [3 miles] from each other from where we shall in time have communication with each other by water."
As Herrman’s reputation and importance grew, he convinced Maryland leaders to make northeastern Maryland its own county; as a result, Cecil County was born, and the region was separated from Baltimore County.
Although the Bohemia was navigable in Herrman’s time, today, the 5-mile tributary to the Elk River in southwestern Delaware and northeastern Maryland has since filled with sediment from agricultural operations, rendering it unsuitable for boat navigation.
A drawbridge, known as the “Bohemia River Bridge,” allowed people and farm goods to cross the Bohemia until the late 1990s, when it was demolished. Today, Maryland Route 213 crosses the river in its place, providing gorgeous views of the meandering river.
More from the Bohemia River:
A trip down the Manokin River in Somerset County, Maryland, is like taking a trip back in time. Many area residents make a living harvesting and selling fish and shellfish. Restaurants, highways and shopping centers are hard to come by. At least one large property (at the mouth of the river) has been nearly untouched since the 17th century.
(Image courtesy Wayfarer Cruiser/Flickr)
The 17-mile long Chesapeake Bay tributary cuts through farm fields and small towns as it flows southeast from Princess Anne and into Tangier Sound. A large portion of that land is designated as habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, ensuring that the river remains abundant with critters. On the north side of the Manokin, Deal Island Wildlife Management Area’s 9 miles of trails and scenic roads offer views of great egrets and colorful summer sunsets. To the south, Fairmont Wildlife Management Area is home to waterfowl in the winter and migratory shorebirds in spring and autumn.
At the river’s mouth, historic buildings dating from the early 18th to the mid 20th centuries paint a picture of the Manokin’s past inhabitants. The buildings are located on a property known as the “Manokin Settlement,” and are united by a web of family connections. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, the Manokin Historic District offers a vista downriver to Tangier Sound and upriver to Princess Anne that’s believed to remain unchanged from the 17th century.
Surrounded by preserved forested marshes, early 18th century town buildings, and residents that understand the tides the way most of us understand a clock or a calendar, the Manokin seems to be a river out of the past. Unarguably, it’s a past worth protecting.
(Image courtesy forest_choir/Flickr)
More from the Manokin River:
By the 1760s, the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s first settlers were pushing farther west; they negotiated new lands and redrew the lines between European and Native American territories. But when surveyors visited one of the newly acquired regions – Lycoming County, Pennsylvania – they met a European settler named Larry Burt. Disregarding the “territories” concept, Larry had lived in the area for several years, trading with the Native Americans and marrying a Native American woman. The stream became known “Larrys Creek,” and is the only creek in the county whose Native American name remains unknown.
(Image courtesy AWCattani/Flickr)
For the next few years, this 23-mile-long tributary to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River would become a disputed border between colonial and Native American lands. Settlers living in the area were considered “Fair Play Men.” These residents were not governed or protected by the colonial government of Pennsylvania, and even made their own Declaration of Independence.
The first fork of Larrys Creek begins in northern Lycoming County in Cogan House Township, just south of a stretch of Appalachian Mountains known as Steam Valley.
Flowing southwest, the creek runs through the village of Cogan House and under the Cogan House Covered Bridge. The oldest of Lycoming County’s three covered bridges, the Cogan House Covered Bridge has survived massive floods and storms since its construction in 1877.
(Image courtesy Gregg Obst/Flickr)
Larrys Creek then winds through Pennsylvania State Game Lands Number 114, where a rough trail follows the stream for a few miles. It meets the second (westernmost) fork of Larrys Creek at Salladasburg, and flows south into the mouth of the Susquehanna River at the town of Larrys Creek.
If you travel to Larrys Creek today, you may find it to be a rather remote destination. But just over a hundred years ago, the creek and its watershed were home to 53 sawmills, making Larrys Creek a bustling industrial center. A 1903 newspaper article claimed, “No other stream in the country had so many mills in so small a territory.” As a result, much of the land was clear cut and virtually devoid of forests.
Today, more than 80 percent of the watershed is forested and nearly 9,000 acres of second-growth forest are protected for hunting and trout fishing.
More from Larrys Creek:
Ask any local about the 12 odd-shaped “Lone Star Lakes” in southern tidewater Virginia, and you’re bound to hear some fish stories about crappies, bluegill and catfish. Although these lakes were originally dug out to excavate marl (minerals such as clay and limestone), they now provide abundant fishing for enthusiasts, as well as drinking water for the nearby city of Suffolk.
Crane Lake is rumored to be the most fruitful of the Lone star Lakes, perhaps because it’s connected to Chuckatuck Creek, a 13-mile-long stream that parallels the Nansemond River before flowing into the James River. During high tide, salt water spills into the lake, sometimes sending croaker, big stripers and flounder into the hands of lucky fisherman.
Native Americans also fished in these waters; Chuckatuck Creek was a valuable resource for the Nansemond tribe. But when Englishmen arrived in the early 1600s, they robbed the tribe’s corn and burned their homes and canoes. This was the beginning of hostility between the communities, and resulted in the Nansemond tribe losing its last reservation lands in the late 1700s. Today, most Nansemond Indians still live in the Suffolk/Chesapeake area.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Chuckatuck Creek was packed with boats. Watermen made a living from harvesting oysters, fish and crabs, and taught their sons their craft for generations. Families visited one another via watercraft, depending on each other when there was little to catch.
Today, a decline in oyster populations has left few generational watermen on the Chuckatuck. Nevertheless, the creekside villages of Crittenden, Eclipse and Hobson still possess a small-town ambience, with close-knit residents and colorful local folklore.
(Image courtesy Tom Powell/Flickr)
More from Chuckatuck Creek:
Like many buildings in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County’s Herrity Building is surrounded by traffic and occupied by government workers. But Herrity also sports a landscaped pond that’s not just a parking lot decoration. It’s the headwaters of Difficult Run, a Potomac River tributary that winds through development-burdened Fairfax County before ending near Great Falls Park, where it’s enveloped in lush vegetation, dotted with boulders and surrounded by scenery that seems straight out of a time period from long ago.
(Image courtesy gawnesco/Flickr)
Difficult Run’s health fluctuates dramatically throughout its 15-mile run. In cities like Reston and Vienna, unsustainable land use practices have led to eroding stream banks and poor water quality. At 58 square miles wide, Difficult Run’s watershed is the largest in Fairfax County, which means the waterway is affected by development and pollution that happens very far away from its banks.
Luckily, in other places, forest buffers hug the stream’s edges, helping to keep soil in place, provide wildlife habitat, and shade and cool the water. These forested areas have become a favorite of locals who enjoy walking through the woods.
For an excellent weekend hike or bike ride, follow Difficult Run on a secluded 12-mile trail from Glade Drive in Reston to Great Falls Park. Will Difficult Run be difficult? Rumor has it that the trail is perfect for intermediate bikers and beginner hikers.
Perhaps the “difficulty” of Difficult Run lies in reversing the effects of development that has led to pollution in many parts of the stream. Fortunately, Fairfax County and others have begun work to restore this important local waterway. In 2008, the Herrity Building installed a green roof atop its parking garage. This colorful garden of native plants prevents stormwater runoff from carrying oil, trash, auto exhaust and other pollutants from the parking lot into Difficult Run.
Image courtesy Capitol Green Roofs
Along Difficult Run’s banks, the Virginia Department of Forestry has conducted streamside restoration projects and an outreach effort that now serves as a model for other local stream restoration initiatives in the state.
In Maryland’s Washington, D.C. suburbs, Beaverdam Creek flows past agricultural fields, an abandoned airport, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and parts of the University of Maryland campus before flowing into Indian Creek, and then the Anacostia River.
(Image courtesy thisisbossi/Flickr)
The diverse suburban surroundings of Beaverdam Creek bring many challenges, including litter, polluted stormwater runoff and eroding stream banks. Luckily, the area’s dense population provides lots of volunteers to plant trees and organize cleanups that help improve habitat and water quality in and around this beautiful stream.
Although Beaverdam Creek may be a lesser-known Anacostia River tributary, it is one of the most scenic. The stream flows through Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, acres of federally owned farm fields used for experimental composting, weed control and honeybee projects. Beaverdam Road, which runs through this facility, offers an excellent view of the area. The road is a favorite of bike commuters traveling between Laurel and Greenbelt.
Beaverdam Creek’s 14-square-mile watershed is home to plants and wildlife you might not expect to see just a few miles outside the nation’s capital. Pitcher plants – large, insect-eating plants – grow in bogs near the creek. You may also see river otters flirting along the banks, great blue herons hunting for fish, and bald eagles swirling overhead.
(Photo courtesy taoboy49/Flickr)
More from Beaverdam Creek:
Don’t go chasing waterfalls along Gwynns “Falls,” the 25-mile-long stream that originates in Reisterstown, Maryland, and empties into the Patapsco River in Baltimore City. You won’t find any. Despite the stream’s name, there are no natural waterfalls along Gwynns Falls’ course.
(Image courtesy Jim Carson/Flickr)
The term “falls” was first used by Captain John Smith, the first known Englishman to navigate the stream. Smith wrote how the stream tumbled over “felles,” or large rocks and boulders. This confusing reference to rocky streams as “falls” was also applied to Baltimore’s Jones Falls and Gunpowder Falls, neither of which have natural waterfalls.
Although Gwynns Falls’ rocky bottom prevented the stream from being used for navigational purposes, its fast-flowing waters powered 26 mills that boosted Baltimore’s industry into the 20th century. Perhaps the most successful of these mill operators was the Ellicott family, which built a series of millraces and a dam that diverted more water towards their mills. Several historic mill sites are located along the Gwynns Falls Trail, one of the largest urban wilderness parks on the East Coast. The 15-mile-long greenway connects 30 Baltimore neighborhoods and transverses five public parks.
(Image courtesy Jim Carson/Flickr)
An afternoon along the Gwynns Falls Trail is a lesson in both history and nature. Go back in time as you explore the site of the historic Windsor Mill; awe at the miniature railroad and Crimea mansion at Leakin Park; look for a waterwheel that pumped water to the Crimea mansion; and walk among tulip poplars, sycamores and sweetgum trees. It’s all just a few miles from the Inner Harbor, but you’ll feel worlds away from urban life.
Gwynns Falls also cuts through Owings Mills, an area that has experienced a high rate of development in recent years. Fortunately, additional public land holdings have allowed a portion of this area to remain forested. Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area consists of 1,900 acres of unique serpentine habitat that protects rare insects and endangered wildflowers. Soldiers Delight’s seven miles of trails are open to hikers and hunters most of the year.
More to see and learn about Gwynns Falls:
Agricultural ditches in Kent County, Delaware, flow through farm fields and into Marshyhope Creek, a 37-mile-long tributary of the Nanticoke River. This scenic waterway begins in Harrington, Delaware and runs across the Maryland state line, meandering through Caroline and Dorchester counties before emptying into the Nanticoke River at Sharptown.
(Image courtesy WWJB/Flickr)
Outdoor enthusiasts should explore the 3,800-acre Idylwild Wildlife Management Area, located east of the Marshyhope in Caroline County. A mix of agricultural fields and forests attract red-crested pileated woodpeckers, as well as bluebirds, beavers, wild turkeys, woodcocks, gray foxes and more. Idylwild will please anglers, hunters and wildlife watchers alike. Bring your bike, ATV or hiking shoes and hit the trails.
Marshyhope Creek also winds through Federalsburg, a quaint Maryland town whose slogan is “Pride in the Past, Hope in the Future.” The town’s name comes from a Federalist Party meeting in the early 19th century. If you’re fond of hiking and biking, you’ll want to check out the 2.5 mile Marshyhope Hike and Bike Trail in town. Be sure to cross the Harrison Ferry Bridge to get an excellent view of the Marshyhope.
(Image courtesy of Nathan Bolduc/Bridgehunter)
Have you been to Marshyhope Creek? Tell us what you thought about it!
You may recognize the name “Sideling Hill” from the impressively steep mountainside interrupted by Interstate 68 in western Maryland, about two hours outside of Washington, D.C. If you’re the type that’s impressed by scenery, a westward trip means stopping at the Sideling Hill Rest Stop and Visitors Center to explore the mountainside, which is almost desert-like in its lack of forests.
(Image courtesy dlhdavidlh/Flickr)
Despite its barren appearance, Sideling Hill Creek, which runs through this mountain, is one of the healthiest streams in the entire state of Maryland. With 287 stream and tributary miles and only 2,200 residents in its watershed, this Potomac River tributary is a fortunate one because it suffers from few human impacts.
Here’s a few ways to explore Sideling Hill Creek:
Look out for rare wildflowers
Sideling Hill is so pristine that it supports an endangered wildflower called harperella (Ptilimnium nodosum). In fact, harperella can only be found in ten places in the world! It’s rumored that this flower also grows in West Virginia along Sleepy Creek and a few Cacapon River tributaries.
Trout, turkey and more
The 3,100 acre Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area provides opportunities for hunters, anglers and anyone else who enjoys beautiful mountain scenery. In the spring, look out for turkey gobblers as they display their colorful feathers. Old logging roads challenge hikers with a variety of terrains. If you love to canoe or kayak, be sure to visit Sideling Hill in spring to explore one of the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s most scenic local waterways.
Learn about what you’re viewing
With its steep ridges and deep valleys, Sideling Hill is home to unique plants, wildlife and geologic formations. So when you visit, take some time to learn about what you’re looking at! The Nature Conservancy offers a Sideling Hill Creek audio tour that will introduce you to the specific types of rocks and plants found in the area. When your trip is over, you’ll not only be refreshed from the beautiful scenery, but also more knowledgeable about the creek’s link to the greater Bay watershed.
(Image courtesy mdmarkus66/Flickr)
Have you been to Sideling Hill? Tell us how you liked it in the comments!
Named after the nearby Catoctin Mountains, Catoctin Creek begins near Myersville, Maryland, and flows south for 28 miles, entering the Potomac River near Brunswick. Frederick County residents and National Park Service employees have dedicated the last few years to restoring bridges and waterfowl habitat in the creek’s watershed.
(Image courtesy Chesapeake Bay Foundation/Flickr)
Little Catoctin Creek converges with Catoctin Creek near Doub's Meadow Park in Myersville, a spot that's a favorite of Little League Baseball teams and residents looking to take a nature walk. Close by, a stream restoration project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation improved the creek's streamside habitat. The location now serves as a place for local students to learn about stream ecology.
Catoctin Creek transverses the quaint town of Middletown, Maryland, and the new Catoctin Creek Park and Nature Center. The nature center's activities run throughout the year. An upcoming Green Roof Astronomy Series leads visitors in star-gazing and marshmallow roasting. A springtime nature festival celebrates Catoctin Creek with family-friendly activities.
Nearby, you may be able to watch waterfowl thanks to potholes constructed by the Potomac Watershed Partnership. When it rains, the potholes fill with water and provide ducks a place to breed in spring and migratory birds a place to stop for food in winter. Before it was restored as a wetland, the property was a poorly drained agricultural area.
Further south, where the Catoctin flows into the Potomac, the restored 140-year old Catoctin Aqueduct spans the creek. Of the 11 stone aqueducts on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the Catoctin Aqueduct was known to be the most beautiful. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
(Image courtesy Steve 1828/Flickr)
After a series of storms and floods collapsed two of its three arches in October 1973, the aqueduct was replaced by a steel frame bridge that allowed C&O Canal bikers and hikers to cross the creek. The Catoctin Aqueduct Restoration Fund began raising funds to restore the aqueduct in 2006; the aqueduct restoration was completed this past October.
More near Catoctin Creek:
A few miles outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania, stands the 240-foot-tall Tunkhannock Viaduct, a railroad bridge that held the record for the largest concrete bridge in the United States for more than half a century. Today, the structure still draws ooos and ahhs from passersby. But many of them don’t pay mind to the creek that runs below the bridge.
(Image courtesy jasonb42882/Flickr)
That waterway is Tunkhannock Creek, a 40-mile-long tributary of the North Branch Susquehanna River that runs parallel to Pennsylvania Route 92 in Wyoming and Monroe counties. Like many of the streams and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, "Tunkhannock" has Native American origins. The Lenni-Lenape translations include "wilderness stream" and "meeting of the waters."
Although the industrial coal towns the creek bypasses may not fit a typical expectation of "wilderness," there are places where the Tunkhannock seems relatively remote. The creek is even becoming a whitewater rafting destination. Classified as a Class I-III by American Whitewater, Tunkhannock Creek offers the perfect experience for beginners.
If fishing is your thing, you'll want to check out the creek's East Branch (in Herrick Township) and South Branch (in Scott Township).
Rumors of a swimming hole on the creek near Factoryville sound like trip back in time. But be careful – we're not convinced this recreation area is on public property.
Hikers can sneak views of the creek on Choke Creek Trail, a 6-mile trek through blueberry bushes and the Lackawanna State Forest. The nearby Endless Mountain region is overflowing with recreational opportunities.
(Image courtesy katecav/Flickr)
The health of Tunkhannock Creek, however, remains questionable. Efforts to manage polluted stormwater runoff are attempting to keep up with the effects of sprawling development throughout the South Branch's 100-square-mile watershed.
More to see around Tunkhannock Creek:
Start in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital city and home to about 50,000 people, and follow a few winding roads north. Soon, the hustle and bustle dissolves to a typical rural Pennsylvania scene: hardwood and conifer forests, cold-water trout streams, and family farms scattered across the base of the Appalachians.
Take a turn onto Pennsylvania Route 325 and you’ll find yourself traveling parallel to Clark Creek, a 31-mile-long tributary of the Susquehanna River and a popular destination for hikers, hunters, cyclists and fly fishermen alike.
(Image courtesy Chris Updegrave/Flickr)
Clark Creek begins in Tower City, Pennsylvania, a coal town in the Schuylkill Valley. It flows through an area appropriately known as Clark’s Valley in the Blue Mountains, the easternmost range in the Pennsylvania Appalachians. It then runs beneath a highway into the Susquehanna River near Dauphin.
But what’s with all this “Clark,” anyway? William Clark began as a farmer and statesman in Pennsylvania. He then served as treasurer of the United States from Pennsylvania and returned to Dauphin after his stint in Washington.
In the 1940s, the Works Progress Administration dammed Clark Creek to create DeHart Reservoir, which still provides water for Harrisburg residents. The reservoir, which is still pristine today, is a popular destination for cyclists. Many speak of the veil of mountain fog that hovers over the reservoir in the early morning hours.
For fly fishermen, the most interesting part of Clark Creek is the 15 or so miles south of DeHart Reservoir. This 35-foot-wide section of stream is stocked with brook trout. A canopy of thick forest over the stream keeps the water cool year round. Most of the stream is easily accessible from Route 325.
Hikers and hunters will also find this area desirable. The nearby Appalachian Trail goes over Stony and Second mountains, both of which alongside Clark Creek. The trail takes you through an area known as the St. Anthony Wilderness, the largest roadless tract of land in southeastern Pennsylvania. Hikers pass through two ghost towns that were once flourishing mining settlements and report several century-old abandoned coal mines served by the Reading Railroad. Another sight to watch out for? Black bears.
Here are some more great spots on Clark Creek and around Clark’s Valley.
Have you been to Clark Creek or the surrounding Clark’s Valley? Tell us about your adventures!
The story of upstate New York's Cayuta Creek begins as all good stories do: once upon a time, when – according to local folklore – a young and talented princess named Kayutah was born into a local Seneca tribe. Kayutah was so extraordinary that one of the neighboring tribes kidnapped her. Her devastated mother cried so many tears that they filled the entire valley, creating what is now known as Cayuta Lake.
(Image courtesy Chris Waits/Flickr)
Cayuta Lake, known locally as Little Lake, drains north to south instead of south to north, just like the nearby Finger Lakes. It empties into the 40-mile-long Cayuta Creek, which meanders south before emptying into the Susquehanna River. Cayuta Lake’s waters, or “Kayuta's tears," travel some 300 miles south before reaching the Chesapeake Bay!
Although the aforementioned legend affirms that the lake was born out of sadness, the surrounding region is now a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts and vacationers alike. Like most of the region’s small lakes, Cayuta Lake completely freezes during the winter, offering opportunities for ice skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There have even been reports of people racing their cars on the lake – although we don’t endorse that idea!
Cayuta Lake and the surrounding areas provide a pristine habitat for rare plants and animals. The best example is a freshwater sponge (Spongilla) that is so sensitive to pollution and human disturbances that the only other place in the world it can be found is Siberia! The sponge lives in the Cayuta Inlet, an area known as the James W. and Helene D. Allen Preserve that’s a favorite study spot of Cornell University students. These sponges are the only food source for the Spongilla fly, a rare insect.
And where there are insects, there are also...fly fishermen! Freshwater trout are abundant in Cayuta Lake and Cayuta Creek. But if you don't want to get in the water, the Finger Lakes Trail provides the perfect opportunity to view this scenic stream. The trail runs from Watkins Glen State Park over State Route 228, and follows Cayuta Creek for miles south. Rumor has it that spring is the best time for hikers, as Watkins Glen is home to rare native flowers and ferns. Not to mention the park's magnificent gorge, rapids and waterfalls, formed by glaciers during the last Ice Age.
(Image courtesy She Who Shall Not Be Named/Flickr)
There are plenty of other natural areas surrounding Cayuta Lake and Cayuta Creek. Here are some of my favorites:
Bald cypress trees emerge from the water, their branches convoluted and their greenery draping, haunting and lush. Their structure is impressionistic, and somehow looks more like a painting than a photograph. The scene seems to belong in Louisiana, Mississippi or any other place you’d expect to find alligators, Cajun river monsters and Spanish moss…
But this is Delaware – Sussex County, home of the Great Cypress Swamp. This forest – the largest of its kind on the Delmarva Peninsula – forms the headwaters of the 73-mile-long Pocomoke River, the Chesapeake Bay’s easternmost tributary. With depths ranging from 7 to 45 feet and a width of less than 100 feet, the Pocomoke is rumored to be the deepest river for its width in the world.
At the Great Cypress Swamp, you can walk (or boat) among the northernmost stands of bald cypress in the United States. How do these swamp giants survive in high water? Their “knees,” of course! Bald cypress trunks have “knees,” or knots near the water’s surface, which allow the trees to send oxygen from the air down into their root system underwater…kind of like a snorkel!
Acid from the bald cypress roots contributes to the Pocomoke’s dark, tea-stained color. This may be what gave the river its name; locals will tell you that Pocomoke means “black water.” However, experts will tell you that it means “broken ground,” referring to the indigenous tribes’ farming methods. I’m not sure who’s right or wrong, but the color of the water is unique. As one writer put it, the Pocomoke’s water offers the perfect reflection surface for cypress and other trees that line the river banks.
As the Pocomoke flows south into Maryland, it forms the boundary between Wicomico and Worcester counties. At Porter’s Crossing, the river begins to narrow as it flows southwest. It runs through Snow Hill and Pocomoke City before emptying into Pocomoke Sound in the Chesapeake Bay.
Along the way, you can find birds – and lots of them! One hundred seventy-two different species have been recorded in the area. The Pocomoke’s marshes are some of the best places in the Atlantic Flyway to observe both warblers and waterfowl.
If you’d like to take to the “black water” yourself, check out local canoe and kayak rental companies in Pocomoke City and Snow Hill. Hiking trails in Pocomoke River State Forest, Pocomoke River State Park and the Nassawango Preserve of The Nature Conservancy reveal views of the swamps surrounding the river. If you’re lucky, you can get up-close and personal with some of the river’s non-human residents!
For you history buffs, be sure to visit the Furnace Town Living History Museum, a nature and archeology site dedicated to preserving the history of the Nassawango Iron Furnace, started in 1829 near Snow Hill.
(Image courtesy Uncommon Fritillary/Flickr)
Fishing is also excellent in the Pocomoke. Expect to find largemouth bass and panfish, but keep a lookout for pickerel and longnose gar. Since the Pocomoke is a tidal tributary, figuring out the tides is key to having a good fishing experience!
Have you been to the Pocomoke River? Tell us all about it!
Whether your ideal autumn weekend includes scenic trout fishing, white water rafting, backcountry hiking, or simply taking in views of fall foliage, Loyalsock Creek in north central Pennsylvania has something for you.
The 64-mile long tributary of the West Branch Susquehanna River is one of the Chesapeake Bay watershed's more hidden and pristine streams. Loyalsock Creek runs through Loyalsock State Forest and World's End State Park – a serene recreation area as other-worldly as its name suggests – before meeting the Susquehanna River at Montoursville.
What makes Loyalsock Creek so special? Some say it's the Haystacks, the name given to the creek's quartz sandstone boulders, which glisten in the sunlight and make a challenging path for kayakers and rafters. Others say it is the 200 miles of trails that run along the creek, or the views of colorful fall foliage over the water.
Have you been to Layalsock Creek? Tell us about it, and let us know what your favorite part of the creek is.
Just a scenic two-hour drive from Washington, D.C., the 38-mile-long Passage Creek weaves in and out of Fort Valley, Virginia, a part of the Shenandoahs so sheltered that it has been called "a valley within a valley."
In the 1800s, Passage Creek was home to five- and six-pound trout. Today, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries stocks the creek with trout three times each summer. Fisherman, local residents and conservationists are working together to protect habitat for trout and other important species.
Although there aren’t any gigantic trout (yet!), stepping onto the banks of Passage Creek is, in many ways, like taking a step back in time.
Passage Creek is considered to be a relatively healthy stream compared to other Virginia waterways, many of which have degraded habitats due to agriculture, urbanization and logging, according to the Potomac Conservancy, which has launched a restoration campaign in the area.
In addition to fishing its waters, visitors to Passage Creek cancamp in the adjacent George Washington National Forest, view the nation's first Civilian Conservation Corps camp or hike around the Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area, one of many iron ore furnaces constructed in Shenandoah Valley during the 1800s.
Visiting? Look for freshwater mussels (a sign of good stream health), salamanders, black bears, coyotes, wild turkeys and luna moths!
And if you're thirsty, look around! The area's freshwater springs first came to the public's attention in the 1850s, when a man named E.H. Munch built a "Seven Fountains" resort that treated guests to each of the seven kinds of mineral waters found in the area. Although the resort closed after the Civil War, many friendly area residents can lead you to a spring or two.