Main features and history
Cattail Creek is tidal almost as far as the Asbury Drive road crossing (see below). It has several bends in the tidal portion, which probably contribute to the fairly poor water quality in the upper tidal portion (see below). The tidal portion was dredged in the winters of 1995/96 and 1996/97, as far as the Berrywood Community Marina #1, near the upstream limit of navigation. Robinson’s Landing for produce was probably on the south shore of the tidal portion at the end of Robinson Landing Road (which runs north of Goska’s into Berrywood South and ends near the creek). However, the map on page 104 of Taylor (1998) shows this landing located at Focal Point, at the northern edge of the mouth of the creek, but this seems like an unlikely location for it.
The human history of Cattail Creek also includes the old stone house along B & A Boulevard that dates from about 1749; the owner once ran Beard’s Mill on Old Man Creek (see above). There is a public marina between Cattail and Old Man Creeks, Hamilton Harbour, but it lacks a boat ramp.
One station near Berrywood Community Marina #1 has been monitored by MRA since January, 1991 for surface temperature, salinity, Secchi depth, pH, and dissolved oxygen. Bottom dissolved oxygen was added in 1992, and several other parameters (dissolved inorganic nitrogen, dissolved inorganic phosphorus, total suspended solids, and chlorophyll a) were sampled in some years. It is station MG30 in the Anne Arundel County monitoring program, and M9 in the Magothy River Association monitoring program. The water quality found there is usually among the worst found in the Magothy of the stations he monitors. The main problems are poor water clarity (low Secchi depths), high nitrogen and phosphorus levels, regular algae blooms (with one bloom measured at 896
ug/l of chlorophyll a), and frequent low bottom dissolved oxygen, especially after the channel was dredged and the pier extended in 1996-97. When he sampled a station in the Upper Magothy near Beachwood Park (MR0), that station sometimes had worse water quality than this one in Cattail Creek.
The MRA also sampled several tidal and non-tidal sites in Cattail Creek for fecal coliform levels in 1998 and 1999. The results showed that generally coliform counts were low, reflecting good water quality with respect to contamination by sources of these organisms, such as leaking septic tanks or pumping stations. At one point, after a strong thunderstorm in the summer of 1998, coliform counts in the lower tidal creek were very high. It was presumed that there may have been some point source of these bacteria at that time. During the following summer, 1999, the MRA sponsored a study of the entire Cattail Creek watershed for possible sources of fecal coliforms. 1999 turned out to be a year of major drought and there were no sources of fecal coliforms found. In 1999, coliform counts were low throughout the creek and throughout the Magothy River mainstem where it was sampled by either the County or MRA.
Cattail Creek has few, if any, cattails left in the tidal portion, probably because there are few tidal wetlands left. Most were probably dredged or filled when homes and marinas were built. There are sparse beds of horned pondweed (Zannichellia palustris) in the spring.
The non-tidal portion of Cattail Creek has two branches, one that flows south along the B & A Trail from near Earleigh Heights Road, and one that flows east from near Jumpers Hole Road, starting across the street from Severna Park Middle School. As it reaches road crossings, the south branch of Cattail Creek forms several ponds and wetlands caused by the road culverts, including a small pond near Truck House Road, Cool Pond at McBride’s Lane, and Pippin’s Pond which is on the creek just west of Ritchie Highway and south of White’s Road.
Pippin’s Pond is not shown on the USGS or ADC maps, although it is larger than Cool Pond. The easiest way to walk near Pippin’s Pond is along a well-marked trail that follows a sewer line on the north side of the pond; it runs from the B&A Trail to Ritchie Highway, and it passes a beaver lodge and beaver dam. The lower portion of the pond contains an exotic and invasive underwater Bay grass, parrotfeather, and there is some invasive Phragmites growing along the shore of the pond. The south shore of the pond has a trail that leads west from Ritchie Highway to the pond; from there you can walk through the woods to the B&A Trail, but the slopes are too steep to walk near the pond. You can also reach the south shore of the pond by parking in the back right corner of the former Value Food parking lot and walking into the woods on a trail, although the land there is not owned by the county. The trail leads to the shore of the pond.
The south branch of Cattail forms another pond upstream from Pippin’s Pond which is called Cool Pond. Cool Pond is caused by the culvert where it is crossed by McBride’s Lane. McBride’s Lane is a narrow paved road (mostly one lane) with one end at White’s Road, off Ritchie Highway. It crosses the B & A Trail just south of White’s Road (the sign marking its name at the trail was stolen). The other end of McBride’s Lane is a continuation of Balsam Drive, at the upper end of the Severna Forest neighborhood off Benfield Boulevard, just west of Severna Park High
School. The end at Balsam used to look like a driveway, but was enlarged in 2000 for a new housing development on the shores of the pond. The ADC map shows a “Cool Pond Park” running from McBride’s Lane to the high school property, starting south of the pond, but it does not appear to have any public access from McBride’s Lane.
The north branch of Cattail Creek forms one small pond and wetland where it crosses Glen Avenue, a small unmarked road off Ritchie Highway that looks like a driveway (ADC map book, map 14, grid K2).
The two branches join in the marsh near where Cattail passes under Asbury Drive. The county has installed two fish ladders on Cattail’s southern branch, one at Asbury Drive and one at Ritchie Highway, to help any migrating yellow perch get up over the road culverts. You can’t see these when driving by because they are fairly short aluminum “ladders” on the downstream side of each culvert. The one on Asbury Drive is easier and safer to reach because there is a wide shoulder north of the creek where you can park (ADC map book map 15 grid A3). There have also been beaver dams on the upstream side of Asbury Drive in the marsh.
See a video tour of Cattail Creek at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TzcjRuheXU&feature=em-share_video_user.