History of The Gunpowder River

Gunpowder river with morning fogEarly in the 17th century, the notorious Captain John Smith made a voyage up the yet to be named, Gunpowder River by sail. Determined to explore the area for resources, Captain Smith traveled as far as his boat would take him. He discovered iron ore which helped influence the industrialization of Maryland, but the name “Gunpowder River,” is believed to have been bestowed upon this wonderful stream by Mr. James Denton who discovered salt petre along the banks in 1665, a crucial ingredient in the production of gunpowder.

The Gunpowder River hosted many iron furnaces thanks to the mineral John Smith found, and the Industrial Revolution. Before long, raw iron was being converted into pots, plates, and eventually ammunition and weapons to help supply the birth of the American Army.

Gunpowder old covered brigde in MarylandFrom the headwaters in York, Pennsylvania to the brackish stretches that feed the Chesapeake Bay, you will find a variety of different characteristics and topography. From the tiny brook trout streams that feed it, to the wide stretches of the lower area this river has a lot of personality like the state itself.

In between these two points are Prettyboy Reservoir in Hereford, MD and Loch Raven Reservoir in Towson, MD. Loch Raven is the main source of water for Baltimore and Prettyboy Reservoir is locally known as the “holding tank” for Loch Raven in case of severe draught.

Thanks to an agreement in the 1980’s between the city of Baltimore and our local Trout Unlimited chapter, we receive a minimum flow of 11 cubic feet per second of cold water from Prettyboy Reservoir that keeps the section above Loch Raven full of happy fish and healthy bug populations. Living in these cold flows are many gamefish, namely: Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout. In the lower stretches, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Carp add to the already plentiful fishing opportunities on our local stream. The trout are residents, and the bass and carp mill around the lower section of the river and commute between Loch Raven Reservoir and The Gunpowder River depending on the season.

scenic Gunpowder riverThis stretch is recognized by Field & Stream as a Blue Ribbon trout stream, and labeled by Trout Unlimited as one of the Top 50 Places in the United States to fly fish. It is the premier river to fish in Maryland, and is within an hour and a half from Philadelphia, and Washington D.C, and only 35 minutes from Baltimore. Below Loch Raven reservoir is a warm water stretch that leads to the Bay and is home to stocked rainbow trout and bass, and brackish species like perch and striped bass as you get closer to the Chesapeake.

The Gunpowder River is rich in history and a great destination for travelling anglers. Follow in the footsteps of Captain John Smith and take a trip up a wild, scenic river in the heart of Baltimore County.