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Charles County, Maryland

Charles County's Watersheds

Charles County's Watersheds

Charles County is made up of ten major, 8-digit watersheds.

Mattawoman Creek

The tidal wetlands of the Mattawoman Creek Watershed are essential nursery areas for numerous species of fish.  The main stem and tributaries of the creek are among the Potomac basin’s most important spawning waters.  Numerous annual fishing tournaments are held on the Mattawoman Creek, significantly contributing to the County’s tourism industry.  Since the Mattawoman drains most of the County’s Development District, land use activities have the potential to affect Mattawoman’s natural resources.


Patuxent River 

The Patuxent River is the largest and longest river entirely within Maryland.  The entire Patuxent River watershed is 937 square miles.  The portion that is located in Charles County is on the east side of the County, including the town of Benedict. 

The Patuxent River Commission was formed in 1984 and continues to meet monthly. The Commission guides the implementation of the Patuxent River Policy Plan, which has been adopted by all nine jurisdictions within the watershed.  As required by State legislation, Charles County maintains membership on this Commission.  

In 1988, the Commission held its first annual “Bernie Fowler Wade-In” to see how deep one can go into the River and still see their white sneakers.  This wade-in is now well known across the State, and attended by many.  Mark your calendars for the second Sunday in June!  For more information call the Maryland Department of Planning at 410-767-4500.

Nanjemoy Creek 

Nanjemoy Creek is a 13.1 mile-long tidal tributary of the Potomac River located between Cedar Point Neck and Tayloes Neck. The Nanjemoy Creek Watershed is 73 square miles.  The Nature Conservancy established the Nanjemoy Creek Preserve in 1978, which protects more than 3,510 acres in the watershed.  To learn more about the Nanjemoy Creek Preserve, click here


Gilbert Swamp 

Gilbert Run is a major tributary of the Wicomico River.  In the 1960s, a large scale flood prevention project channelized 9 miles of stream and constructed three dams within the watershed.  The project resulted in substantial alteration of the hydrology of Gilbert Swamp Run and its tributaries.  The project allocated land for the 177 acre Gilbert Run Park, including development of the 60 acre freshwater lake within the park.  Although the project resulted in recreational benefits including three freshwater lakes, the long term effects of altered hydrology of Gilbert Swamp Run are currently undergoing analysis. 

Zekiah Swamp

The Zekiah Swamp Run Watershed is an ecologically diverse area that contains many endangered plants and animals along with areas of great archeological, historical and cultural significance for Charles County.  Zekiah Swamp Run is also noted as the largest hardwood swamp in Maryland.  To preserve these valued resources, the Zekiah Rural Legacy Area was established in 1998, and since has received several million dollars for land preservation.


Wicomico River 

The Wicomico River is a 13.0 mile long tributary of the lower tidal portion of the Potomac River.  It was designated a Scenic River under the Maryland Scenic River Act in 1968.  The Wicomico Scenic River Commission was established by County Resolution #93-59 to serve the Charles and St. Mary’s Counties in an advisory capacity for the purposes of implementing the Wicomico Scenic River Study and Management Plan(1994).  The Charles County contingent is no longer active since the goals of the plan have been met. 

Port Tobacco River

The Port Tobacco River Watershed Restoration Action Strategy (WRAS)(2007) was adopted for implementation by County Resolution #07-57.   The WRAS planning and study process began in 2005 with data collection, water quality monitoring, and visual assessments. The process pulled together efforts by the Port Tobacco River Conservancy, the Charles County Department Planning and Growth Management, Maryland Department of the Environment, and the Center for Watershed Protection to create a strategy for implementing restoration and protection projects.


Potomac River Lower Tidal, Potomac River Middle Tidal, Potomac River Upper Tidal 

The Potomac River watershed is 14,370 square miles in four states, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  Cobb Island, Swan Point, Morgantown, Riverside, portions of Bryan’s Road and Indian Head and other Charles County towns are located within this large watershed. 

The Alice Ferguson Foundation holds the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup in April.  There are several other organizations that focus on the health of the Potomac River and watershed including the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and the Potomac Conservancy

Charles County Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP)
The County’s WIP outlines the restoration projects necessary to achieve the nutrient and sediment reductions required by the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.  The projects are divided into sets of biennial goals, called 2-year milestones, which are tracked by the Maryland Department of the Environment.  The WIP includes analysis of the County’s baseline and target loads for various pollutant source sectors for which County government is responsible (wastewater, urban stormwater, septic systems, forests).  The WIP also includes analysis of potential costs of the various scenarios and discusses the integration of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL requirements with those of other County programs and requirements, like the NPDES MS4 permit. Lastly, the WIP summarizes the results of the load analyses and recommends the two year milestones that guide the County toward implementing successful strategies. 

View the Charles County Phase II WIP Strategy

IMPORTANT PLEASE NOTE:  All publications located within the Planning and Growth Management section of the web site are believed to be accurate as of their posting date. However, they may not be accurate on the day you view them. To verify whether these documents are the most current official document, please contact the division associated with the document in question.