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Watershed Natural History- Town Creek

Town Creek Aqueduct
Town Creek Aqueduct

The Town Creek Watershed boasts one of the richest natural heritages in the Upper Potomac area. There are more tree species in the Green Ridge Forest alone than in all of Europe. Paw Paw, Cucumber Tree, Sugar Maple, Butternut, Allegheny Plum, to name a few are all found here. With all the woodlands in the watershed, the fortunate hiker might encounter such elusive mammals as the red or gray fox, bobcat, black bear, or perhaps even a mink.

The nature enthusiast will discover over 218 bird species ranging in size from the golden eagle that winters in the area to the butterfly-like warblers that devour the forest insects. The presence of one warbler, the Louisiana Water Thrush, is an indicator of the clean streams in the watershed because its diet consists mainly of aquatic insects. Even in the evening hours the sounds vibrating from both wetlands and forest attest to the biological diversity of the area. Delight to the loud, rhythmic calls of the whip-poor-will as it whistles its name. The screech owl's call, an eerie descending whinny, may unnerve you at first until you learn that this dwarfish creature is only 7 inches tall!

From old growth Hemlock stands at Sweet Root State park to shale cliffs, caves and mussel beds, many unusual habitats exist here. Try waling along the desert-like shale barrens high above Town Creek. You may discover our only cactus, the prickly-pear cactus, which bears showy yellow flowers in early summer. Local pioneers in the area named the cactus “devils tongue” referring to the sharp barbed bristles on the rounded leaf pads.

More serious plant enthusiasts can try searching for two rare plants that grow on shale barren areas—shale ragwort, a yellow-flowered aster that resembles a cat's paw and Allegheny stone crop, a sedum with fleshy leaves that bears glowing pale pink petals.

If you descend the sheer rock cliffs in the spring, you might find the hairy-tailed Allegheny Wood Rat, also known as a pack rat. Its nest, sometimes located on a rock ledge, is composed of sticks and rubbish. A sharp-eyed observer might even catch a fleeting glimpse of a five-lined skink or a fence lizard scurrying among the rocks.

If you canoe Town Creek, a beautiful quiet world unfolds: the sight of a doe and fawn on a small beach amidst red cardinal flowers…overhanging rhododendron and mountain laurel…the deep shade of the hemlocks…trout darting in clear green depths…a cruising osprey…a startled beaver slapping its tail…a great blue heron flapping upstream. Flowing on through the tropical lushness of summer, the blazing glory of Appalachian fall, then hushed in winter's frozen grip, Town Creek is a constant source of delight and inspiration to all who live or visit here.

Watershed Map

Town Creek Watershed Map
Map contains the following: