Deer Creek Notes

Newsletter of the Deer Creek Watershed Association

Deer Creek Watershed Association Establishes Scholarship for Harford Community College Students

January 12, 2017 by steve 

The Deer Creek Watershed Association Environmental Science Scholarship at Harford Community College was created by the association in 2015. Association board members David Boniface and Albert Isennock recently presented a check to the scholarship’s first recipient, Patrick Donnelly.

The annual $1,000 scholarship will ease the financial burden for a first- or second-year Harford Community College student pursuing an A.S. degree in Environmental Science. The scholarship will help to support a student who intends to continue the major in a related curriculum at a four-year institution and pursue a career in the field.

The Deer Creek Watershed Association promotes conservation of the natural resources of the Deer Creek Watershed, the largest in Harford County, covering 38 percent of the County’s land area. The entire watershed covers approximately 109,400 acres (171 square miles) across two states (Maryland and Pennsylvania) and three counties. There are 86,000 acres in Harford County.

The association endeavors to educate, inform, and encourage citizens, politicians and government officials of environmental concerns affecting the watershed. Their overall goal is for a healthy and vibrant watershed that supports diverse aquatic life in balance with the needs of the community.

Days Down the Deer Creek

April 26, 2013 by steve 

By Phillip McKnight

It was a November night when we pushed our canoe from the sandy shore into the cool trickling creek water. My friend sat in the front and I waded until the 50-degree water reached my knees. I swung a leg over the canoe and continued my journey into the dark and under the stars down northern Maryland’s Deer Creek.

I made the decision to embark on this 7 day sectional paddle of the entire Deer Creek because I grew up as a boy playing, and occasionally peeing in a gravelly stream that I didn’t know at the time was called the Little Deer Creek. Now thirty, I realize that any action I did on the land (or in the water) surrounding that creek would eventually end up somewhere. I made the decision to find out where that somewhere actually was.

I began the journey on a summer day near the intersection of the Maryland/Pennsylvania line and I 83. The Deer Creek, with its headwaters reaching into York, PA, is Harford County’s largest watershed, covering 38% of the county or approximately 171 square miles (Deer Creek Watershed Association). My friend Andrew, who owns property near the creek’s headwaters, offered me the perfect place to launch the old kayak that I had owned since I was 13. I uncomfortably squeezed my body into the small black craft, said goodbye to my friend, paddled 5 strokes and then bottomed out on a shallow rapid. It was an anticlimactic start to a 35-mile journey. Little did I know then that the picture of me bottomed out on a sandy spit would be a common sight. Once grounded, I let out a frustrated grunt, and then used my hands to push myself into deeper water.

The upper reaches of the Deer Creek are dark, cool, and shaded by hardwood and pine forests. The water is clear and cool to the touch and its sandy rocky bottom reflects a greenish brown tone. Underneath the surface of the clear waters swim fish that migrate to the river to spawn their young such as hickory shad, white perch, yellow perch, alewife and blueback herring. Rainbow and Brown Trout are stocked in the Creek to provide recreation for fly fishermen, however, the creek becomes too warm in the summer for year round trout survival (MD DNR). White tail deer, great blue herons, and occasionally bald eagles rest quietly along the forest’s edge or along the worn stonewalls of an old gristmill.

Along the journey, I passed farmland, forest, and cozy cabins with wood smoke rising. The land surrounding the Deer Creek is what affects its health. The land is 54 percent agricultural, 30 percent forest, and 15 percent developed (Deer Creek Watershed Association) I passed families of Caucasian, African American, and Latino descent swimming and wading in its waters. I wondered how the land had changed over time since the days of the Susquehannock (who named the creek) used the area as hunting and fishing ground. The Indians tenacity kept the European explorers out of the Deer Creek area until after 1700 when colonists from Baltimore and German Immigrants from Pennsylvania converged on the area finding its rich soils perfect for growing wheat, tobacco, and grazing livestock. I paddled past abandoned stone gristmills with large oak trees protruding out of the center. These mills used the creek’s power to grind the wheat into flower, which was then shipped to Baltimore and Philadelphia. I wondered how the creek still felt so remote and realized that its location is far enough away from the great cities, that the creek was able to quietly flow unnoticed for the next two hundred years.

I saw fisherman on the banks, heard gunshots ringing into the dusk, and cattle using the water to drink. I wondered how the health of Deer Creek was and if its water quality was getting better or worse. From the look of the clear, cool water and abundant fish, I hypothesized that the creek was in good condition.

I wondered how healthy the cool clear water was that I paddled over. I decided to call Mark Staley, a DNR freshwater fisheries biologist, to ask him about the healthy of Deer Creek. Mark said that fish such as brook trout can be an indicator of the creek’s health and that the Upper Deer Creek (upstream of Rocks State Park) has wild brook. This was great news to hear. “The main factor is maintaining cold water, and expanding riparian buffers,” Mark said. Deer Creek is the recipient of multiple tributaries. Mark said that the brook trout are the most sensitive, while the brown trout is more resilient, therefore if you have brook trout, your water is healthy. I remember this by thinking that brook trout can only survive in a babbling brook while the brown trout is less needy and can survive in browner sediment laden water. The trout don’t move that much and one move up and down 50 to 100 yards of stream has noticed a slow decline in numbers of brook trout in central Maryland.

By the seventh day of the journey, the water was deeper and I was joined by my friend Ted. We rounded the curves of the river, and finally saw an opening of trees, which marked where the creek spilled into the powerful drive of the Susquehanna. We saw a fisherman on the northern bank waiting for a bite. He said he had no bites that day and asked where we had come from. I told him we had begun at the beginning. He had a curious look on his face and didn’t say anything more. When our canoe moved from the waters of the deer creek to the waters of the Susquehanna, we could feel the surge of power coming from the mighty river, which begins in Cooperstown, New York. We drifted down to Havre de Grace where we celebrated our cold fall paddle with warm crab soup.

Deer Creek Watershed Association Supports Stormwater Management Bill; Suggests Further Fee Reducation For Landowners Who Control Stormwater

March 30, 2013 by steve 

The following testimony was presented to the Harford County Council in support of bill 13-12 with an amendment, by Richard Norling, President, Deer Creek Watershed Association.

The Deer Creek Watershed Association, Inc., supports passage of bill 13-12, and suggests an amendment that we believe will make the bill even more effective.

Before people began paving roads and parking lots, and constructing large buildings, rain water had many opportunities to soak into the ground instead of rolling over the surface directly to rivers and streams. Some of the water that soaked into the ground went deeper and replenished the aquifers that our water wells tap into. The water that stayed near the surface did migrate slowly towards rivers and streams, but tree roots along the way pulled the nutrients out of the water as it passed by.

Today when it rains much of the water flows quickly over impervious surfaces that prevent it from soaking into the ground. When the water leaves the pavement, the heavy flows pick up particles of soil, causing erosion. When the heavy flows all pour at the same time into a stream, the result is flooding, gouging of the streambanks, and undermining of large trees until they fall into the stream. That happens now in Deer Creek, Winters Run, and to some extent probably every creek and stream in Harford County.

The heavy currents of stormwater running across the surface of the land carry not just soil particles, but also the nutrients and other pollutants that harm the Chesapeake Bay. That is why a few years ago the state revised the way stormwater is managed in new developments, to give the water more opportunities to soak into the ground.

The bill you are considering tonight responds to a state requirement to begin improving stormwater management in areas that were built before current stormwater regulations were in place, and to start repairing past damage.

The state law has two ways of spurring action:

First, the state law requires our county to create a local watershed protection and restoration fund, with fees on properties that have impervious surface. Money in the local fund would be spent on stormwater management and watershed restoration projects as described on pages 8 and 9 of Bill 13-12.

The second way the state law spurs action is the incentive in the state law for individual property owners to act on their own initiative. The state law requires the county to establish guidelines for reducing the annual fee for properties that have advanced stormwater best management practices or agricultural activities, and the county’s guidelines are also to account for the costs and level of treatment provided by stormwater management facilities funded and maintained by the property owner. Reduction of the annual stormwater remediation fee can be a powerful incentive, motivating property owners to act on their own initiative instead of waiting for the county to solve the problem.

Bill 13-12 as proposed limits the potential reduction to no more than 50% of the annual fee (page 5, line 11). The 50% limit is not required by state law, and removing the limit would provide flexibility for the county to allow a greater reduction in the fee – and therefore a greater incentive for landowners – for properties that effectively control stormwater.

In summary, the Deer Creek Watershed Association supports Bill 13-12 and believes the amendment we suggest will make the bill even more effective in reducing flooding and the flow of pollution towards the Chesapeake Bay.

Suggested Amendment to Bill 13-12:
On page 5, in line 11 strike “REDUCE, UP TO 50%,” and insert in lieu thereof “REDUCE”.

Note: the text of the state law is online at

Deer Creek Valley Trail Ride Benefits Darlington Volunteer Fire Company

October 21, 2012 by deercreekmd 

Benefit Trail Ride
Saturday, Nov. 3
Benefits Darlington Volunteer Fire Company

Ride the Deer Creek Valley through beautiful private farms surrounding Darlington

Ride will start at 10:00 am from Elberton Hill Farm, Darlington, MD
~ Registration and Parking open at 8:30 am ~

Ride will be limited to 100 riders. • Riders must pre-register.

NO registrations accepted the day of the ride.

Three Different Guided Ride Options:

• Walk Only • Walk/Trot • Walk/Trot/Canter •

Rest stop with drinks and snacks along the way.

Lunch provided by DVFC at end of the ride.

Negative Coggins and helmets required.

Minors must be accompanied by an adult.

Cost: $50 (includes lunch)
Lunch: $5 for non-riders

For Information and Registration Forms:

Check online: • E-Mail:
Call: Diane Jones at 410-404-9180 or Carollyn Phillips at 443-807-9087

Deer Creek Rural Legacy Area Receives $700,000 for Land Preservation from State Board of Public Works

October 21, 2012 by deercreekmd 

The Rural Legacy Program will receive approximately $5.6 million in Fiscal Year 2013 grants to permanently protect agricultural and ecologically significant working landscapes throughout Maryland. Governor Martin O’Malley and the Board of Public Works approved the funding recently in Annapolis.

“Through these conservation easements, we are able to protect our landscapes that are part of the rich history we share as Marylanders,” said Governor O’Malley.

The grants approved include the following Rural Legacy Areas and associated counties:

Anne Arundel South (Anne Arundel) $45,308

Coastal Bays (Worcester) $320,000

Deer Creek (Harford) $701,367

Dividing Creek (Somerset & Worcester) $130,632

Fair Hill (Cecil) $113,699

Mid-Maryland Washington (Washington) $1,260,000

Nanticoke (Dorchester) $650,000

Piney Run (Baltimore) $568,000

Upper Patapsco/Little Pipe Creek (Baltimore) $617,995

Mattapany (St. Mary’s) $775,000

Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program provides funding to preserve large tracts of forestry and agricultural land and natural resources, and for environmental protection while sustaining land for natural resource-based industries. Enacted by the General Assembly in 1997, the program has to-date provided more than $243 million to protect 75,435 acres of valuable farmland, forests and natural areas.

The 11-member Rural Legacy Advisory Committee and the Rural Legacy Board, which is comprised of Maryland’s Agriculture, Natural Resources and Planning secretaries, reviews grant applications annually. More information is available at

The three member Board of Public Works is composed of Governor O’Malley (chair), Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot. The BPW is authorized by the General Assembly to approve major construction and consultation contracts, equipment purchases, property transactions and other procurement transactions.

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