Approximate Boundary: 38.968018,-76.968942 to 39.066514,-77.029624 (10.03 miles)
The Anacostia Tributary Trail System provides the “highway” that parallels the Northwest Branch or most of its length. Starting in the north at the Kemp Mill Road access point, the Northwest Branch Trail begins and runs south to join with the Rachel Carson Greenway trail. At the southern end of the Rachel Carson Trail, the name flips back to Northwest Branch and then reverts to the more generic Anacostia Tributary Trail System name for the final leg to the southern boundary adjacent to MD 410 (East–West Highway). While the trail does not run within feet of the creek throughout its total length, it is close enough to provide good angler access with the minimum of bushwhacking.
With a few small exceptions, walking or biking is easy as a result of the trail system. In fact, there is only one access point that requires the production of sweat as a result of the need to hike down a steep hill to reach the stream. Just to be complete, there are a few additional local access points hidden off of the maze of residential streets surrounding the stream that I will not discuss. For a complete listing, visit Montgomeryparks.org and download thetrail map.
Kemp Mill Road
Starting at Kemp Mill Road, the Northwest Branch Trail is composed of a natural surface of crushed rock for the 10.2 miles it runs down to the Beltway. South of the Beltway, the trail extends another 2.7 miles with an asphalt surface that makes riding a bike a pleasure. Depending on which side of the stream you would like to walk down, there is a bridge that links the Northwest Branch Trail with the Rachel Carson Greenway trail approximately a quarter mile from the Kemp Mill Road parking area. The Rachel Carson Trail runs down the east side of the stream, remaining closer to the water for its entire length. After taking the short walk to the stream from the Kemp Mill road parking, you discover the fact that the stream is nothing special. It is basically a holding tank for the stocked trout that are inserted during the spring and fall seasons. The stream bottom is mostly sand in the upper reaches with random rocks to provide a little bit of interest. The banks are high and the best approach is to walk down the edge of the stream until you see fish. At that point, find a place to slip into the water and begin fishing. The banks are unobstructed and present no obstacle to fishing with either fly or spin gear. The wading is easy on the sandy bottom with the water depth ranging from knee to waist epending on where you wander.
The road dead ends at a small, three-car parking area that connects with a narrow, two foot wide trail at its southern end. Follow the path through the intersection with the Rachel Carson Trail down to the stream. After following it for 0.1 miles with a vertical drop of only 10 feet, it begins to parallel the water. At this point, the stream runs over a gravel bottom with a few random larger rocks and is approximately 20 feet wide. There are several good pools at the junction of the trail with the best place being near a rock wall.
Kemp Mill Local Park
Theoretically, there is a connector to the trail system from the intersection of Apple Grove Road and Quaint Acres Drive. There is no defined parking at this intersection and it appears to be an access point used by the local residents who could walk to it from their homes. A better choice if you want to fish this section of the stream is to gain access via the Kemp Mill Local Park on the other side of the stream. The Park is at the end of Fairoak Drive and the stream is a short walk from the parking area across the baseball field.
This is the major access point adjacent to the old gristmill (Bealle’s Mill) with parking on both sides of the highway. There is a dam on the north side of the road (Old Burnt Mills) that creates one of the rare deep water sections on the stream with a massive fallen tree on the west side providing interesting structural scenery. Access is limited to the bank as a result of the deep water. The shoreline vegetation is thick and will require you to pick your fishing location carefully. The stream is approximately 50 feet wide with the deep section extending approximately 1,500 feet upstream.. This is the place to fish for bass during the summer.
At the end of Oakview drive, there is room for three or four vehicles to pull off on the right-hand side of the roadway. Of all the places to access the stream, this spot results in the most strenuous hike. It is a quarter mile walk with a 143 foot drop in elevation to reach the stream. To get there, walk through the gate that blocks vehicles and proceed down the wide, gravel road that runs up the small ridge and then drops precipitously down to the stream. You can hear the intense buzz of I-495 just to the north that is totally incongruous with the deep woods surrounding the trail.
The stream is impressive. Instead of being mostly nondescript sand, it has transitioned into classic looking trout water running over a rocky bottom with riffles, cuts and shaded plunge pools you would expect in a mountain trout stream. The trail becomes rough as it approaches the Beltway, compressing to become a rocky path a mere foot in width. Above the set of riffles just upstream of the intersection of trail to the stream, the stream backs up to create two foot deep pools with the stairstep pattern of gradient breaks/pools continuing upstream to the Beltway.
The access point is adjacent to an open field with manicured grass cradling the 10 foot wide asphalt path leading to the stream. A walk of 0.1 miles/25 foot vertical drop puts you on the stream adjacent to a fully asphalted path. The stream continues the rocky characteristic that began upstream at the Beltway with a small amount of sand buffering the rocks on the bottom. The banks are steep and the water runs shallow with widely dispersed gradient breaks that create deeper pools. The best place to get into the water is adjacent to a small roofed gazebo a small distance downstream from the intersection of the access path with the trail. If you fish using a bike to quickly move from place to place, this is a good place to start since bikes are not permitted on the trail above the Beltway.
There is another access point 1,000 feet farther south on the west side of the stream at the end of Quebec Street (38.994102,-76.979949).
Adelphi Mill Recreation Center
This is a small park on the north side of the stream. At this point, the stream has lost a significant amount of energy and moves lazily through the arch of the bridge supporting Riggs Road. The stream bottom is mostly sand and the banks are thickly forested, making access extremely difficult. There is an additional trail access point off Cool Spring Road downstream from the Park, but there is no real parking area associated with that spot. Your vehicle would perch dangerously on the narrow shoulder; the parking lot at Adelphi Mill is a much better choice. Besides, a short distance south you encounter an extensive park system that offers universal, easy access.
W Park Drive
This spot is the northernmost edge of the extensive recreational area that parallels the stream throughout its remaining stocked distance. Park at the end of the large asphalted parking lot at the north end of the sports fields. The broad path you encounter at the eastern end quickly transitions into a narrow dirt trail that intersects the stream 25 yards from the parking lot. At this point, the stream has completed its metamorphosis. Instead of being mostly rocks, it is now mostly sand and lazily drifts downstream with a width of 20 to 30 feet. There is nothing compelling to make this a fishing destination and that holds true for the remainder of the stream down to the stocked terminus at the East-West Highway.
Lane Manor Recreation Center
There are plenty of parking areas on both sides of the stream between the Lane Manor Recreation Center and the University Hills Duck Pond Park. Taking the turn to the east off W Park Drive, with a jog to the right, it eventually leads to a parking area adjacent to the stream. There is a small drop in elevation that gives the stream some velocity to briefly scour the sand from the rocks. There are deep pools at the bends protected by heavily vegetated steep banks. The eastern side consists of mostly tumbled rocks that present an impassable barrier to access from that side. There is no discernible trail immediately adjacent to the stream. There are additional feeder trails that lead to the creek throughout the entire length of W Park Drive. Park along the road and pick your path.
Kemp Mill Road and Glenallan Avenue: From I-495, take exit 31 onto MD 97 N/Georgia Avenue. Turn right on Randolph Road. Turn right on Kemp Mill Road.
Springbrook Drive: From I-495, take exit 30 onto MD 650 N/New Hampshire Avenue. Turn left onto Warrenton Drive. Take the right fork onto Springbrook. Go to the end.
Kemp Mill Local Park: From I-495, take exit 32 and merge onto US 29 N/Colesville Road. Turn right onto University Boulevard E. Make a U-turn and drive north on University Boulevard. Turn right onto Arcola Avenue. Turn right onto Lamberton Drive. Turn right onto Claybrook Drive. Make a left turn into the Park at the intersection of Fairoak Drive.
Route 29: From I-495, take exit 32 and merge onto US 29 N/Colesville Road. Follow it to the stream.
Oakview Drive: From I-495, take exit 28 to merge onto MD 650 S/New Hampshire Avenue. Turn right on Oakview Drive and follow it to the end.
Ruatan Street: From I-495, take exit 28 to merge onto MD 650 S/New Hampshire Avenue. Turn left on Metzerott Road. Turn right onto Riggs Road. Turn right onto Ruatan Street. Drive to the end.
Adelphi Mill Recreation Center: From I-495, take exit 28 to merge onto MD 650 S/New Hampshire Avenue. Turn left on Metzerott Road. Turn right onto Riggs Road. Follow it to the center on the right.
W Park Drive: From I-495, take exit 29 for MD 193 E/University Boulevard E. Turn left onto W Park Drive. Turn right into the parking area where W Park becomes Lyndon Street.
Lane Manor Recreation Center: From I-495, take exit 29 for MD 193 E/University Boulevard E. Turn right onto W Park Drive. All remaining access points are adjacent to W Park Drive.
· Kemp Mill Road and Glenallan Avenue (39.061641,-77.026425)
· End of Springbrook Drive (39.056472,-77.009687)
· Kemp Mill Local Park (39.044836,-77.010761)
· Route 29 (39.0307,-77.005937)
· Oakview Drive (39.016116,-76.990032)
· Ruatan Street (38.996841,-76.976841)
· Quebec Street (38.994102,-76.979949)
· Adelphi Mill Recreation Center (38.993172,-76.972651)
· W Park Drive (38.987827,-76.965689)
· Lane Manor Recreation Center (38.981313,-76.96247)
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the Maryland DNR stocking plan.
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Gravel trail in upper reaches
Burnt Mill Dam on Rt 29
Upstream from the dam
Oakview Drive south of beltway
Oakview Drive south of beltway
Adlephi Mill upstream
Adelphi Mill downstream
W Park Drive
W Park Drive
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore