Patapsco River, MD

American Rivers is working with the Friends of the Patapsco Valley State Park, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to remove several dams on the beautiful Patapsco River. Nestled largely within the Patapsco Valley State Park, the Patapsco River flows for almost 35 miles through Sykesville, Ellicott City, Elkridge and other Maryland towns before it reaches Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay. The Patapsco is one of the Baltimore area’s hidden jewels, providing the people of Maryland with a favorite fishing hole, trails to wander, segments to canoe and kayak with class I and II rapids, and respite from the summer heat.

Why remove dams on the Patapsco?

Habitat Restoration

Removal of four mainstem dams on the Patapsco River would restore more than 65 miles of spawning habitat for shad and river herring, and more than 183 miles for American eel.

Habitat Restoration | Nixam

Beautiful Patapsco River | Nixam

Restoration of a Historic Fishery

Historically, the Patapsco River supported runs of diadromous fish such as American and hickory shad, alewife and blueback herring, American eel, and yellow and white perch. Earlier attempts at providing passage for these migratory species have proven ineffective and most aquatic species are not able to migrate upstream. We anticipate that reconnecting fragmented habitat by removal of dams will increase the runs of these species in the Patapsco over time.

Osprey postcard | David Maher

Osprey carrying an alewife | David Maher

Removal of Aging Infrastructure and Safety Hazards

Several deaths have resulted from people playing around Bloede Dam. Despite warning signs and fencing, swimmers routinely slide down the dam. Additionally, the original concrete used in the structure is over 100 years old. Dams only degrade over time, and if no action is taken, the dam will eventually need to be replaced. In the meantime, there will be a need for continual maintenance, inspection, design, and repair costs.

Bloede dam slide | Komankas

People slide down the face of Bloede Dam | Komankas

Improve Recreational Opportunities

Visitors to Patapsco Valley State Park will find paddling, fishing, and other opportunities improved as the river begins to flow freely following the removal of the Bloede Dam.

Hispanic Family fishing |

Restoring habitat leads to healthy fisheries |

Learning Opportunity for Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic

Extensive monitoring and assessment of the Patapsco River is a key component of the restoration project. Evaluating the river’s response to removal of dams on the Patapsco allows us to use the Patapsco River Restoration as a tool/demonstration project to facilitate future dam removals throughout Maryland.

Sampling Below Bloede Dam | MBSS

Monitoring fish populations below Bloede Dam | MBSS

Map of Patapsco River, MD dam removal projects

Patapsco Dams map, MD

What’s Been Done So Far?

Bloede Dam, Patapsco River, MD | NOAA

Bloede Dam, MD | NOAA

  • American Rivers is working with our partners to remove the Bloede Dam, situated within the Patapsco Valley State Park— the lowermost dam on the Patapsco. Design plans are currently in development and include removal of the dam, creation of an overlook, and treatment options for the Baltimore County sanitary sewer pipe.
  • Removal of the Simkins Dam was completed in March 2011. American Rivers and its partners continue to monitor the restoration of the site and document the recovery and changes in the river over time.
  • Removal of the Union Dam was completed in September 2010. American Rivers continues to monitor the site to ensure the new stream maintains its ecological integrity.

Stay Informed

This project is generously supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

For more information, contact Serena McClain with American Rivers at 202-347-7550.