DEP’s Blue Spotlight On series is a new feature for residents to learn about the County’s local watersheds.This is the second blog in the Blue Spotlight On series (check out our spotlight on the Anacostia River). Today’s highlighted watershed: Muddy Branch!
The Muddy Branch watershed is one of the smaller watersheds in Montgomery County, covering 20 square miles or approximately 4% of the County. It begins its meandering course in Gaithersburg and flows in a southwesterly direction to its confluence with the Potomac River near Pennyfield Lock on the C&O Canal.
Numerous unnamed tributaries extend into areas of the watershed around Quince Orchard, Kentlands, North Potomac and Darnestown, collecting water that either runs off quickly during storms or seeps slowly through soil, eventually flowing into tributaries to maintain baseflow during dry periods.
Development patterns play an important role in the quality and quantity of water flowing into Muddy Branch, and ultimately the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
In the Muddy Branch Watershed, development is most dense in the Gaithersburg / I-270 area, and it becomes progressively less dense downstream to the Potomac River. Stream condition, as rated by the County’s biological monitoring program, is Fair to Poor in the upper portions of the watershed and Good in the lower portions of the watershed. This means that there is a greater diversity of wildlife downstream, and that the wildlife upstream can tolerate the impaired stream conditions.
To help mitigate the impacts of development, the County is currently constructing 4 restoration projects in the Muddy Branch watershed, including:
There are many recreational opportunities in the Muddy Branch Watershed. Much of the Muddy Branch stream in Gaithersburg is in city parks, including Morris Park and Malcolm King Park.
At the point where Muddy Branch flows under Route 28, it leaves the City of Gaithersburg and enters parkland maintained by Montgomery County Parks. The Muddy Branch Greenway Trail, a 9- mile natural surface trail, begins at Route 28 and follows the Muddy Branch to its confluence with the Potomac River.
Other areas to access the Muddy Branch Watershed are Blockhouse Point Conservation Park and Pennyfield Lock Conservation Area.
If you would like to volunteer in the Muddy Branch Watershed, join the Muddy Branch Alliance or become a Montgomery County Stream Steward.