The Problem

To the untrained eye, Cabin John Creek appears to be in a relatively natural or pristine state; but in reality the influence of man has adversely impacted the stream and its tributaries.  The Cabin John watershed is highly impacted by dense urban development. Impervious surfaces such as buildings and roads (for example, the Beltway and I-270) cover the watershed's soil, causing substantial storm-water runoff to gush through these creeks, causing problems such as unnatural erosion, sedimentation, habitat destruction, and flushing away the fish and smaller organisms that would otherwise live in these waters. (See, for example, the Montgomery County Government Watershed Report). This, in turn, can adversely impact the quality of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

The watershed is in Maryland's Piedmont Plateau geologic province, with an area of about 16,022 acres (25 square miles), and has been significantly affected by high-density residential and commercial development: 75 percent of the watershed is covered by this kind of development. There are parks, trails and natural areas throughout the watershed. In addition to the Regional Park, there are wooded park lands and buffer areas along several miles of the creek mainstem and tributaries. At least 30 species of fish have been identified in the Cabin John Creek mainstem and tributaries.

Cabin John Creek mainstem north of MacArthur Boulevard

Urban development in the watershed has a major impact on the health of Cabin John Creek and its tributaries. Stormwater runoff carries pollutants that wash off of roads, parking lots, sidewalks and rooftops. These impervious surfaces concentrate and accelerate the velocity of runoff, which results in stream erosion. A government study has documented these problems.

Washington Beltway (I-495) at I-270 junction. Thomas Branch, a tributary of Cabin John Creek, parallels

the left edge of the roadway

Presently there are very few measures in place around the watershed to protect the streams from erosion and pollutants. FOCJC is working with Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection and other organizations on projects to clean and restore the Cabin John stream system.

Streambank erosion on Cabin John mainstem created

by excessive stormwater runoff

WSSC Projects in the Creek Watershed


We work with WSSC to determine its approach to dealing with locations in the Creek where the sewer pipe has become exposed to the elements as a result of erosion by the Creek. There are numerous instances along the Creek where the sanitary sewer can be seen. We work with WSSC to evaluate whether there are alternate sites where a sanitary sewer could be placed, and if not feasible, what sorts of restoration programs exists that will minimize the impact of any WSSC repairs to the sewer. Contact Glenn Patterson at to participate in this FoCJC project.


DEP Stormwater and Creek Restoration Effort


The County is in the midst of an effort to address impacts of stormwater runoff on County streams. FoCJC members meet with the County periodically to be updated on these efforts. Data collected in the Monitoring Program is used to determine the impact that the County's efforts are having on downstream macro-invertebrate population. The FoCJC Restoration Coordinator is Eric Strassler at