At a Glance
Hours: Sunrise to sunset, year-round.
Tips: On weekends, Loch Raven Drive is closed between Providence Road & Dulaney Valley Road. Walk-ins and biking are allowed. ■ Scopes, and sometimes boots, are useful. ■ Open for public hunting; be aware of hunting seasons and plan accordingly. ■ Obey all “No Entry” and “No Parking’ signs. ■ No restrooms.
Best Seasons: Winter and spring are best, but there is something to see year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks (includes the entire extent of the City watershed property): Hereford SE, Phoenix SW, Cockeysville NE, Towson NW, Towson NE, Towson CW, Towson CE
Local MOS Chapter: Baltimore Bird Club
Loch Raven Reservoir
Morgan Mill Road & Loch Raven Drive, Baltimore, MD 21057
Located north of the City of Baltimore, Loch Raven Reservoir is one of three city-owned reservoirs supplying drinking water to the city and surrounding counties. The reservoir was formed in 1914 by damming the Big Gunpowder Falls, a major tributary river of the Chesapeake Bay. The watershed lands surrounding Loch Raven, covering 1,600 acres, are managed in partnership with the MD Department of Natural Resources as a Cooperative Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) and are open to the public for archery hunting (deer), hiking, horseback riding, nature photography, boating, fishing, and bird watching. Management practices are aimed at protecting the watershed and the reservoir.
The wooded areas bordering the reservoir consist of mature, mixed deciduous and coniferous forest and some clear-cut areas, with numerous trails that can be used for birding. Although located in a residential area adjacent to the city, Loch Raven provides a peaceful birding experience and access to prime habitat.
There are numerous foot-trails and old fire roads surrounding the reservoir. The Trail Map provided at the link at left was prepared by local resident Phil Manger and is available on his website in a jpg version. There is a separate link at left for the City of Baltimore’s Mountain Biking Trail Map.
The network of roads surrounding the reservoir provide access to the foot -trails and to the water; major access roads are Dulaney Valley Road (MD Route 146, in part); Jarrettsville Road (MD Route 146, in part); Merryman Mill Road; Warren Road; Paper Mill Road (MD Route 145); Loch Raven Drive; Providence Road; and East Seminary Avenue (MD Route 131). Consult the Parking Locations Map (in actuality this is a map produced by DNR for use by hunters) at the link at left for places to park. See directions below for a suggested driving route around the reservoir.
Over 240 species of birds have been reported on eBird from Loch Raven and its surrounding lands, with a large number of eBird hotspots covering different areas. The ten most productive hotspots are as follows:
- Loch Raven Reservoir and Watershed overall (243+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L453004)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Dulaney Valley Road Bridge (135+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L558368)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Loch Raven Point (192+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L793950)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Northampton Furnace Trail (153+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L558362)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Old Picnic Area Trail (167+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1066445)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Paper Mill Flats (219+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L452698)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Peerce’s Cove (175+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2500237)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Primary Dam (137+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L558364)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Secondary Dam (151+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L558365)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–Skeet and Trap Club (152+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L816069)
- Loch Raven Reservoir–White Pine Circuit (163+ species; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L469050)
Winter brings a selection of waterfowl, loons and grebes. Wood Ducks nest here and can be found in the warm months. Herons can also be found in the warm months; Great Blue is year-round. Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Red-tailed Hawks are also found year-round. Other hawks pass through during spring and fall migration. Ospreys are present spring through fall. A selection of shorebirds may be present, particularly in the Paper Mills Flats area at the north end of the reservoir. Swallows are present near the water in the summer. Flycatchers, vireos, and warblers are present in migration and some stay through the breeding season. Woodpeckers may be found year-round. Pine and Prairie Warblers are common in the spring, as are Chipping Sparrow, Veery, and Cedar Waxwing.
The trails at Loch Raven are not wheelchair-accessible, but there is fairly good birding at the parking areas and at the roadside pull-offs. No restrooms.
Pets are allowed on leash; pick up after your pet and take the pet waste with you when you leave.
Parking is generally alongside the road and it can be difficult to find an open spot. Illegally parked cars are ticketed. See the directions below for suggestions on parking. The DNR Deer Management Area map shows locations of legal parking areas.
Baltimore County Parks and Recreation operates a fishing center off Dulaney Valley Road just east of the bridge over the reservoir; the fishing center provides boat rentals and a launch area. Rentals includes canoes, kayaks, and jon boats with electric-motor boats; personal boats of these types may also be launched here, with a required permit. are permitted. Fishing is also allowed (requires state non-tidal fishing license).
The forests of the Loch Raven Watershed are managed by the City of Baltimore to ensure the quality of drinking water from the reservoir. The diversity of the watershed’s plant life is detailed in The Vascular Flora of Loch Raven Watershed, Baltimore County, Maryland, a study by D. Earl Redmond (2004), made available online by the Maryland Native Plant Society.
Local MOS Chapter:
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Baltimore Bird Club. The Baltimore Bird Club is the founding chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, and remains an important hub of birding activity in the state. The club offers monthly meetings with informative presentations and a full schedule of field trips and bird walks, all free and open to the public.
Episode 3202 – Blue Ribbon River: This special episode of Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television explores the rich beauty and natural diversity of the Gunpowder Falls watershed in Baltimore County. Some of the footage focuses on the role of controlled water releases from Loch Raven in maintaining optimal downstream water temperatures for trout. There is also footage from Prettyboy Reservoir in the northern part of Baltimore County.
The trails & access points described here are birders’ favorites; the route will take you on an S-shaped tour of the reservoir, starting at the southeast end. See the Parking Locations Map and Trail Map at the links at left for details. A good printed road map would also be helpful.
To reach the starting point from the Baltimore Beltway/I-695: take Exit 29 to MD Route 567/Cromwell Bridge Road & follow northeast to the intersection with Loch Raven Drive.
• Secondary Dam: Good spot for shorebirds when water is low; also dabblers. From northbound Cromwell Bridge Road, turn left (northwest) onto Loch Raven Drive and look for safe spot to park near secondary dam on right. There is a small paved lot near main dam, about 0.8 miles farther north. Otherwise, park at Willow Grove Farm area of Cromwell Valley Park and use hiking trails to reach secondary dam. See trail map at link below.
• Northampton Furnace Trail: From the main dam on Loch Raven Drive, go north to Providence Road & turn left (southwest). Follow Providence Road to East Seminary Avenue & turn right (west). Take Seminary to MD Route 146/Dulaney Valley Road & turn right (north). Look for Chapelwood Lane on left and park there. Trailhead is across the intersection; trail goes east along a peninsula to end near the water.
• Dulaney Valley Road Bridge: From Chapelwood Drive, go north on MD Route 146/Dulaney Valley Road to the bridge that crosses an arm of the reservoir. The south side of the bridge has a a pedestrian footbridge that includes a couple of small viewing platforms. The pedestrian bridge is a favorite spot for fishing. There is a small parking area on the north side of the road at the west end of the bridge, and shoulder parking on the south side of the road at the east end of the bridge.
• Old Picnic Grounds Road: From the Dulaney Valley Road bridge, continue north and east on MD Route 146/Dulaney Valley Road. After the bridge, bear right to stay on Dulaney Valley Road (Route 146 goes to the left here). Pass the turn for the Loch Raven Fishing Center on the right & turn right at the next road to reach the Old Picnic Ground trailhead. The trail leads south along a peninsula to reach the reservoir; good for waterfowl.
• Loch Raven Skeet & Trap Club: From the Old Picnic Grounds, turn right (east) onto Dulaney Valley Road & go a short distance to paved road into Skeet Club on the right. Parking is allowed near the turnoff from Dulaney Valley Road. Past the club building are trails that criss-cross the peninsula. Good for sparrows, other passerines & waterfowl.
• Paper Mill Flats: The most productive part of the reservoir with more than 200 species seen, both waterfowl and landbirds. From the Skeet Club, turn left (west) onto Dulaney Valley Road & just before the bridge, make a sharp right (north) onto MD Route 146/Jarrettsville Pike. Follow Jarrettsville Pike to MD Route 145/Paper Mill Road & turn left (west). Just after passing the intersection with Poplar Hill Road on the left, and before going up the hill to the bridge, watch for a pull-off on the right side of the road. Park here. A short trail will take you to the Flats. Watch for tripping hazards such as roots and vines on the trail.
Baltimore County: Cromwell Valley Park ■ Fort Howard Park ■ Gunpowder Falls State Park – Hammerman Area & Dundee Creek Marina ■ Hart-Miller Island State Park ■ Holt Park ■ Irvine Nature Center ■ Lake Roland ■ Liberty Reservoir – Baltimore County ■ Marshy Point Nature Center ■ Milford Mill aka Villa Nova Park ■ North Point State Park ■ Northern Central Rail Trail (NCRT) ■ Oregon Ridge Park ■ Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Suburban Neighborhood Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
Features:Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingPets AllowedWater View
Type:Hunting AreasPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsThe Rivers of the Western Shore