Our weekly review of local playgrounds and play places heads to Loch Raven Reservoir, an outdoor recreation area in Towson, Maryland, and a good place for some socially distant fun.
These are unusual times. In addition to schools, gyms, and restaurants being closed, authorities are also recommending that kids stay away from playground equipment for a while. The COVID-19 virus can live on surfaces for multiple days, and no one is specifically cleaning and disinfecting the outdoor playgrounds. So for the time being, we are better off playing elsewhere. Luckily, the Baltimore area has plenty of outdoor areas that offer more than just playground equipment. The Loch Raven Reservoir is one such beautiful outdoor recreation area.
- NAME: Loch Raven Reservoir
- ADDRESS: Loch Raven Dr. and Morgan Mill Rd.
- INDOOR OR OUTDOOR: Outdoor
- COST: Free
- HOURS: Sunrise to Sunset
- AREA: Towson, MD
Courtesy of Google Maps
For the Kids
There is plenty to do at Loch Raven Reservoir, but there is also stuff that you can't do. You can not swim—It is illegal, and they do issue citations and fines. It is also potentially dangerous since there is unknown debris (like tree roots and broken logs) in the water. You also can't fish unless you have a state fishing permit.
There are grassy areas along the water that are great for picnics or to practice non-contact sports (like kicking a ball back and forth). There are lots of birds and wildlife to check out, especially ducks and geese (people regularly feed them bread so they can be a little aggressive). There are many hiking and biking trails throughout the reservoir as well.
Courtesy of Loch Raven Reservoir's Facebook page
The best thing about the reservoir is that every weekend, they close Loch Raven Drive from Morgan Mill Road to Providence Road to all car traffic. This means that you have a nice, wide, smooth paved road to ride on, especially nice if your little ones (or you) are learning to bike or skate. The road is closed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it provides a nice mix of hills and flat areas.
Elsewhere in the reservoir area, there is also boat rental or you could bring your own boat if it meets requirements and you have a permit. Permits are issued by mail, and the boating season starts in the first week of April.
For the Parents
The biggest thing that can put a crimp in a reservoir day is that there are no public bathrooms. There is plenty of street parking along Loch Raven Dr. and some on Morgan Mill Rd., but it does fill up quickly on weekends. During the week, you can park along Loch Raven Dr. between Morgan Mill and the bridge, so there is quite a bit more parking.
Remember that swimming is not allowed—this can be a huge issue for some kids, especially once it gets really hot. Many people do let their dogs swim in the water, and there are some shallows that people walk out in a little (a bit of a grey area as far as swimming is concerned).
Finally, when you're at the reservoir, you might hear the occasional gunshot. While there are some hunting areas in the watershed, what you're probably hearing is the pistol range on the other side of the water, so don't worry. Additionally, since there are so many geese, there is goose poop everywhere, especially this time of year. It's not really a deal-breaker for most people, but it is something to be aware of.
Photo credit: Jimmy Walter, courtesy of Facebook
Loch Raven Reservoir also provides an interesting teaching opportunity. It is fed by the Gunpowder River and it provides water to Baltimore City as well as some county areas. If you drive around to the other side (beyond Providence Rd.) you can see the dams and discuss how dams retain water and fill up valley areas.
Is this one of your favorite outdoor areas in Maryland? Let us know in the comments!