3 Steffen Point • Annapolis, MD 21401 • 410-263-2102
The following tour was written by Brian Cronyn for the Admiral Heights Improvement Association's first annual "Meet the Creek" day in May 2000.
“Amazing;” “in the best shape of the Annapolis creeks by far;” “teeming with wildlife;” “unarmored, productive shoreline with natural well wooded banks” is how Tributary Team Coordinator Sean McGuire describes our splendid community commons, Weems Creek.
Let’s meet our creek. Weems stretches 1.5 miles from (a)Priests Point to furthest canoe reach at the (b) end of tidal waters under the Rte 50 bridge. The nontidal portion, (c)the Cowhide branch, once the cleanser of a tannery, curves another 1.3 miles to a pond at restaurant park, with a feeder off to the mall. Weems widest point is 1300 feet at Priests Point Cove. After closing to 350 ft at (d)the swing bridge, the creek widens to 900 feet at (e)Heineman Park before narrowing to 350 feet at (f)Akerland Park, and 250 feet at (g)Halsey Park. Deepest at 14 feet just beyond the swingbridge, it shallows to 9 feet off Akerland, and then down to a foot off Halsey. The two square mile watershed collects from the north side of West Annapolis and the stadium, across Germantown meadow to Admiral Drive and West Street, out West St and around the mall, down Bestgate to Rowe Blvd, then in along Rte 50 to the Severn. Water quality, monitored weekly at Akerland, is generally good except after very heavy rains. There have been no recent creek closings.
Heineman park, starts our tour. It is named for a park neighbor, a corker of an Admiral, and a bald headed hazard to navigation who swam the creek daily with his dog on a leash. Under this dock, and others on the creek, oysters are filtering and fattening on CBF encouraged seedspat floats. The first cove counterclockwise is (h)Schley Cove, a neat nook of Mariners Cove, and the eastern edge of Admiral Heights. The Norwood family owned the 230 acre south shore parcel in the 1600’s until selling the land alongside then Norwood Creek to the Beales. In 1787, John Beale Weems inherited “Norwood’s Beale.” The land remained in the Weems family until 1842. It then changed hands frequently, but remained intact. In 1929 a real estate company bought the parcel of 263 acres and called it Valhalla. No slain gods or fallen heroes showed up with any depression era money, so the land remained a tobacco farm until 1939. The first houses went up then on Farragut. The postwar building boom soon followed. The Rowe Blvd Bridge is budgeted for rehab. Widening to 6 lanes is being examined, which AHIA opposes. Max masthead height under the bridge is 28 feet. Chicken neckers nab crabs under the bridge. White perch, bluegills, pumpkinseed, spot, pickerel, and a few stray rockfish or a juvenile bluefish feed on each other and the many minnows, menhaden, silversides, anchovy, soft crabs, and grass shrimp swirling in the upper creek. On a summer evening you can see great swaths of fish rippling the waters. In quiet times, in remote coves, an exploring river otter may surprise you as he feeds and plays.
On the north shore, (i)Cozy Cove usually has a blue heron stalking the shallows. Subaquatic wild celery is found here, but invasive, less helpful hydrilla is more common. The north shore was originally known as Warners Neck on Warners Creek, for the first Quaker missionary family who owned the land in the 1650s. In 1670, a 200 acre parcel was passed to the Howard family as Howard’s Inheritance and the creek name changed again on the north side. The Annapolis Hammonds and many others owned the land before it was sold to George T. Melvin in 1891 on condition that he build a bridge. Melvin’s Garden Farms sprung up... Did you see a Tiki Bar?
A protective “minimum wake zone” starts at (j)Hock Woods Cove, a draw marsh fed by a feeder stream under Rte 50. It is the eastern boundary of a 34 acre undeveloped parcel of the old Hock Farm and is held as a scenic and conservation easement by the SHA in consideration of the Weems Creek Conservancy. It has been described in print as ...”virgin forest,” “a mature, climax eastern oak and Hickory forest,” “living science museum,” “wilderness at the backdoor,” and “the only remaining vestige of the original land grant near Annapolis.” Steep slopes up to 40 feet and greater than 45 degrees are dominated by chestnut oaks with thickly rippled bark. The contoured uplands reach a highest point of 72 feet with white oaks and tulip poplars towering above black oak, hickory, holly, dogwood, and one American chestnut tree noted. Poison ivy rules the summers. A small indented marsh was the “wake the city” duckblind site where local wonderbread fed ducks were taken. A four trunked tulip poplar rises majestically just beyond a scraggly witch’s oak to the right. If you look closely you can see freshwater runs through the woods as well as springs along the banks. The many freshwater springs in Annapolis were a reason for settling here. Prehistoric middens have been unearthed on the Hock property. Osprey, blue heron, night herons, fish crows, red tailed hawks, turkey vultures, kingfishers, goldfinch, owls and an infrequent bald eagle soar out from the woods as muskrat and mallards rule the banks with an occasional white tail deer swimming across to munch a garden. And yes, snapping turtles (big gnarly ones), eels, water snakes, jellyfish, and “creek gunk” (pollen, algae, oil, and marsh detritus) ebb and flow on the tide. Swimmers and toe dippers don’t seem to mind.
“It’s Hello Rte 50” as we turn back. But, if there was no freeway, the Hock Woods might be Bestgate Apartments South...which makes the sound of road surf easier to hear as white noise. In the headwater flats, near Halsey Park, the creek is generally shallow, marshy, more sediment laden, and meandering, but teeming with wildlife. In season you may see a swan couple, a few honking Canada Goose, egrets, a couple of canvasbacks, buffleheads, cormorants, black duck, wood duck, scaup, scoters, and crowds of crazed skittering coots tucked up in the headwaters for respite. The water is fresher, freezes first (note a few ice-tide tilted docks), and dramatically responsive to tides and west winds. In the healthy reed marsh you can spot deer bed-downs.
(k)Bristol Cove is the beautiful southside marsh which drains the watershed southwest of Admiral Heights. Increased flow from development has deepened a charmimg country stream bed from 2 inches to six feet in places. The main channel has shifted and deposited a large sand bar on the west side. On the eastern bank is a massive mudslide slump from Hurricane Floyd which exposed a sewer line. The city reinforced it and is watching. The Boat Club Marina at Akerland Park is the turnaround point for Navy crew practice when the Severn is too choppy. Deep ravined Akerland Park was named for a former mayor, a genuinely good man and a helpful neighbor. Arrow arum marks a spring fed tidal marsh. Raccoons dig out brackish water clams along the creek. Opossum, black snakes, rabbit and an occasional fox roam cityside banks A tail slapping beaver makes a few stray runs on park trees in late winter. The local sea serpent may be just a giant golden carp thrashing in the throes of love in the shallows; but we’re not sure.
(l)Sandpiper Beach Cove is the lovely cove you see next. Barn swallows nest under quiet docks and swoop for bugs, or soar for the fun of it above sunglint waters. As twilight falls softly, chunky bats relieve the watch. The Steffeys, developers of Admiral Heights, owned the property with the large boathouse. Splendid (m)Steff-en Point Cove marsh leads up to the swimming pool.
Let’s befriend our creek; which really is the Chesapeake we treasure knocking at our backdoor. What does the creek ask of us for all it’s stunning beauty, easy peace, and swirl of wildlife? First and foremost, pause and appreciate it, when you can. Then consider and minimize negative impacts...Drive your car less, consolidate trips; be wary of what you spill or backwash; watch what your car or boat leaks, keep motors tuned; check for in-ground oil tank leaks; report major spills, sewage leaks, and erosion; use a light hand on car wash soaps and yard fertilizers; boat at less than 6 knots in the creek and slow to minimum wake in posted areas; don’t dump fish remains in the creek; pick up litter when you see it; take up pet scat; use MSDs correctly; hold onto and plant more trees; keep waterfront as natural as possible; respect habitat; conserve critical areas; if in doubt, don’t; support organizations which truly treasure the Chesapeake; pause, appreciate, and courteously share and care for our uncommon commons: the Weems.