Shaggy Bark, Rock Creek

Urban Landscape – Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is a large urban park that runs from where Rock Creek enters the Potomac River to its headwaters some 30 miles away in central Maryland. Part of that park is owned and operated by the United States Park Service, and part is a regional park operated by Montgomery County, Maryland. The park dates to the 1890s and was surveyed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape designer. In one of the greenest cities (Washington DC has more tree coverage than any other major US city, earning it the nickname “the tree capital of the US” and making it a living hell twice a year for allergy sufferers), it is a natural oasis of wild landscape. It was not always so, as Rock Creek provided the power to dozens of mills that functioned as the industrial engine such as it was for Washington and its surrounding farmland. Today, Pierce Mill is one of the few remaining complete structures to commemorate that industrial heritage. If you take a wander up the trails that parallel the stream, though, you can find signs of some of the other mills that dotted the landscape.

This structure marks the remnants of one of the larger mills along Rock Creek. I’d have to go back and take notes on the signage along the path that indicates what this mill produced and who owned it and when it operated, but most likely it ceased to function in the 19th century. To require such large foundations, it must have been a substantial operation, though.

Mill Foundations, Rock Creek
Mill Foundations, Rock Creek

Here is the footing for a small bridge that spanned the creek.

Bridge Footing, Rock Creek
Bridge Footing, Rock Creek

Somewhat more modern evidence of the urbanization of Rock Creek, a road bridge that spans the creek and provides access to the park from the neighborhoods around it.

Bridge over Rock Creek
Bridge over Rock Creek

A gravelly bend in the creek, dappled with sunlight. Hard to imagine that within 200 yards of either side of this stream there are roads, houses, cars and businesses.

Gravelly Bend, Rock Creek
Gravelly Bend, Rock Creek

A tree along the trail that follows the stream.

Shaggy Bark, Rock Creek
Shaggy Bark, Rock Creek

And a final reminder of man’s presence – an electrical junction box. It has the feel of being a monolith, left behind by an alien civilization, purpose unknown, long abandoned, or a portal to another place and time like the wardrobe portal to Narnia.

Monolith, Rock Creek Park
Monolith, Rock Creek Park

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