Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Morning at Minebank Run

Are you telling me that not ALL 21-month olds won't sit
on rocks in cold, rushing water up to their chest,
giggling hilariously?
Recently we've started taking Hank pretty frequently to play at Minebank Run, a partially restored stream in northern Baltimore County.  It's a nice spot because the access, a 1/4 mile walk along a mowed path in a tall grass field, is just tedious enough to keep really lazy people away.  We frequently encounter one or two anglers or another family taking their small kids down to the stream to play.  

Even in the summer months, the stream has a cold, shallow flow, wonderful habitat for dace, crayfish, and little boys and girls.   The bed material is almost all sand and cobble, which is perfect for any kid or adult who is sure-footed in the water.    

I moved into this area in 1998 and first fished the Gunpowder River near its confluence with Minebank Run in 2001.  I knew that the County bought most of the land - forming Cromwell Valley Park - in the mid-1990s and some of my habitat restoration competitors were busy in the early 2000s restoring Minebank Run itself.  Still, I really know nothing about the stream, the valley, or its history, so I decided to look it up on the interwebs.

Taking some license with history, apparently the area was originally timbered and farmed by some English folks in the 1700s, I dunno, with some forgettable names like "Cromwell" and "Towson." In the late 1700s, broken pieces of locally mined marble, limestone and chalk were processed at lime kilns along Minebank Run.  These sites were heavily used (and the stream heavily polluted) until the 1800s, when, according to the Falmanac blog, railroads became more locally prevalent, the implication being (I guess) that it was more efficient to bring in rock and ship out lime via rail than it was to do it via horse, as it was done in the early 19th century.   I assume that the rail line they're referring to is the local Northern Central Rail line (now NCR Trail) which was built just a few miles to the west, with newer lime kilns staggered along the rail line. 

Cromwell/Minebank Lime Kilns. Source: Falmanac

Every time a minnow swam by, Hank would say, "Wooooah!"

Ultimately, the lime kilns along the NCR line were abandoned too, and the farms along Minebank Run, less than 15 miles from downtown Baltimore, became "gentlemen farms" in the 1930s.  Around that time, development throughout the little stream's drainage increased quite a bit, which caused heavy storm flows and began the process of stream erosion.  In the 1960s, engineers tried to lessen the soil loss by......paving the stream.    Surprisingly (?!) that didn't work out, and the stream kept eating itself away and throwing tons of sediment and nutrients into the lower Gunpowder River.  Finally, 10 years ago, the stream was restored to mimic natural historic conditions. You can find great photos of that project (before and after) right here.

For us, it's a good place to be, close to home.  An amazing fishing hole it ain't, but even when Hank is big enough to hold a rod, I'll bring him to this place and let him think it's the Amazon, that those little bluegills are peacock bass, and that the river crayfish are rock lobsters.
I'll take my juice and my motorcycle, please.


Unknown said...

What a great place! Thanks for sharing!

e.m.b. said...

Great to see such restoration...great post! And loved the pictures!

biobabbler said...

oh, most fabulous. SO glad you have an adventure-friendly child. That's GREAT! =) Adorable, too, of course. =) Oh, and glad HE has parents who are happy to plunk him in the wilds vs. afraid of who-knows-what. Again, YAY! =)

Kirk Mantay said...

Thanks guys - it's the only way we know how to be. In many ways, the little guy is pushing us to be more adventurous. It's been great (and exhausting!).

falmanac said...

The railroad referred to was the "famous MA&PA," which ran above the high side of Cromwell Bridge Road until 1956. The railroad even had a spur running to the Loch Raven Dam when the larger one was under construction. There was a small station across from Sanders Corner. That land was owned by the Gilmor family, Scotophiles, who's estate was modeled after that of Sir Walter Scott. One was a shipping tycoon, one was a Confederate raider, and one was an early president of the aforementioned railroad, when it was still called the Maryland Central. They gave us the name Loch Raven, and between that and E A Poe, the football team was named.
Cromwell was a large figure in British history, who's doings not only dethroned a king, but had repercussions in MD colonial history. However, I'm not sure if that was the Cromwell the bridge was named for, still that's who comes to mind, every time I cross it.
Towson was, if memory serves correct, the first paymaster of the U.S. Army. They named a fort after him and has an oblique reference in the book True Grit. Obscure perhaps, but hardly forgettable.

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