Environmental Protection and Sustainability
Print this page.

Loch Raven Reservoir Watershed

Image of a map of Loch Raven watershed.

Loch Raven Reservoir is located just north of the Baltimore Beltway and its watershed occupies almost the entire central portion of Baltimore County. Small parts of Western Harford County and Southern York County, Pennsylvania also drain into this watershed. It encompasses Baltimore County communities from Upperco to Jacksonville including Hereford, Parkton and Cockeysville along the central corridor.

Loch Raven is the largest of three area reservoir watersheds that together provide up to 405 million gallons of water per day to Baltimore City and Baltimore County. The reservoir is protected under a Reservoir Watershed Management Agreement (PDF), originally established 1984 and renewed in 2005, which endorsed a broad range of policy and resource commitments by all area jurisdictions. The source of reservoir water is Gunpowder Falls.

The Loch Raven Reservoir watershed begins at the dam on the Prettyboy Reservoir. The Gunpowder Falls then flows across the rural lands of north central Baltimore County. Almost all of the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed is located outside the County’s urban rural demarcation line (URDL). The URDL separates areas in the county that receive public water and sewer infrastructure, with those that rely on private well and septic systems. Areas inside the URDL can accommodate development, including employment, retail and residences while the areas outside are reserved for agricultural, natural resource protection and low density rural residential development. A substantial agricultural community continues to farm on these lands. The County has worked with these landowners to preserve thousands of acres of land with protective easements.

Many portions of the Gunpowder Falls consist of heavily forested lands that are within the Gunpowder Falls State Park. Gunpowder Falls State Park, Maryland’s largest, is a popular destination for fishing, birding, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The water quality in these reaches is exceptionally good and supports a healthy, self-sustaining brown trout population.

The Reservoir itself not only supplies the city and surrounding suburbs with water, but it is also the area’s preferred destination for bass fishing. The Loch Raven Fishing Center rents small fishing boats and canoes and also has the only boat ramp that provides access into the reservoir. The reservoir area is also a popular spot for picnicking, and bird watching. On weekends a three-mile stretch of Loch Raven Drive along the reservoir is shut down to vehicular traffic and is an excellent place for runners, bikers, walkers and roller-bladers looking to recreate away from the metropolitan traffic. In addition, there are more than 20 miles of trails and fire-roads throughout the watershed that are perfect for running, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.

Small Watershed Action Plans

A small watershed action plan (SWAP) identifies strategies to bring a small watershed into compliance with water quality standards and goals developed by stakeholders in the watershed.  

Loch Raven North

The draft Loch Raven North SWAP is now being developed. The planning area includes much of northern Baltimore County, including Freeland, Parkton, White Hall, Hereford and Sparks, which drain to the Loch Raven Reservoir. 

Loch Raven East

A SWAP has been completed for the Loch Raven East watershed. This planning area includes communities in the Phoenix, Jacksonville, and Long Green vicinity, which drain to the Loch Raven Reservoir.

  • Volume 1 (PDF) outlines the actions identified as part of the strategy
  • Volume 2 (PDF) contains the results of the field and GIS data assessment

Beaverdam, Oregon Branch and Baisman Run SWAP

A SWAP has been completed for the Beaverdam, Oregon Branch and Baisman Run subwatersheds. These watersheds include Oregon Ridge Park, Baltimore County's Center for Maryland Agriculture, many churches and numerous large lot neighborhoods.

  • Volume 1 (PDF) outlines the actions identified as part of the strategy
  • Volume 2 (PDF) contains the results of the field and GIS data assessments

Spring Branch SWAP

A  SWAP has been completed for the Spring Branch subwatershed.

  • Volume 1 (PDF) outlines the actions identified as part of the strategy
  • Volume 2 (PDF) contains the assessment reports and concept plans for the Spring Branch subwatershed

Watershed Management Plan

The Loch Raven Reservoir watershed management plan was completed in January 1997. The plan recognizes four management areas within the Loch Raven Reservoir; reservoir protection sub-watersheds, urban and rapidly urbanizing subwatersheds, parkland and forested subwatersheds and agriculture and headwater subwatersheds. The plan includes pollutant load estimates, a stream stability assessment, identification of problems and a table of management actions. View and download the executive summary (PDF).


To participate in the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed contact the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy.

Contact Information

Watershed Management Program
Phone: 410-887-5683
Fax: 410-887-3510
Email: watersheds@baltimorecountymd.gov

Revised April 20, 2015

Was This Page Helpful?
Fields marked with * are required.
Page Rating*