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Northwest Branch Anacostia River facts for kids

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Northwest Branch Anacostia River
Map of the Anacostia River watershed showing the Northwest Branch
Country United States
State Maryland
Cities Wheaton, Silver Spring, Hyattsville
Physical characteristics
Main source Sandy Spring, Maryland
River mouth Anacostia River
Bladensburg, MD
38°56′34″N 76°56′39″W / 38.942832°N 76.944036°W / 38.942832; -76.944036
Length 21.5 mi (34.6 km)
Basin features
Basin size 53.5 sq mi (139 km2)
  • Left:
    Old Orchard, Bryants Nursery, Norwood, Rolling Stone
  • Right:
    Bachelors Forest, Longmeade, Bel Pre Creek, Wheaton Park, Lamberton Dr, Sligo Creek

Northwest Branch Anacostia River is a 21.5-mile-long (34.6 km) free-flowing stream in Montgomery County and Prince George's County, Maryland. It is a tributary of the Anacostia River, which flows to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.


The headwaters of the Northwest Branch are located near the community of Sandy Spring. The stream flows southward for 21.5 miles (34.6 km) to its confluence with the Northeast Branch near Bladensburg to form the main stem of the Anacostia.


The watershed in Montgomery County includes portions of the communities of Norwood, Bel Pre Manor, Colesville, Layhill, Glenmont, Wheaton, Hillandale, White Oak, Silver Spring, Kemp Mill, Four Corners and Takoma Park. The Prince George's County portion of the watershed includes Adelphi, Langley Park, University Park, Chillum, Hyattsville, Avondale and Brentwood. The total watershed area, including a small portion of land in Washington, D.C., is 53.5 square miles (139 km2), with a resident population of about 254,000.

The middle section of the Northwest Branch is referred to as the Rachel Carson Environmental Area. It flows through a small gorge underneath the Capital Beltway between Colesville Road and Adelphi Mill. Located at the north end of the Northwest Branch Trail, near the home of noted environmental author Rachel Carson, it is deliberately left rustic and unimproved.

The majority of the Northwest Branch stream valley is a riparian buffer, protected as parkland by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). The Rachel Carson Greenway planned by M-NCPPC will extend the Northwest Branch Trail into northern Montgomery County as an unimproved hiking trail, connecting to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System in Prince George's County.


Northwest branch fall line 20201024 091652 1 crop
The Northwest Branch at the Fall Line

Northwest Branch crosses the geological fall line between the Piedmont and Atlantic coastal plain regions, which forms a small waterfall on the stream 0.5 miles (0.80 km) south of the Burnt Mills Dam parks. This area was a favorite spot of Theodore Roosevelt.


The total stream channel length of Northwest Branch and all tributaries is 75 miles (121 km).

  • Bachelors Forest Tributary
  • Bel Pre Creek
  • Bryants Nursery Tributary
  • Lamberton Drive Tributary
  • Lockridge Drive Tributary
  • Longmeade Tributary
  • Norwood Tributary
  • Old Orchard Tributary
  • Rolling Stone Tributary
  • Sandy Spring Tributary
  • Sligo Creek
  • Wheaton Park Tributary
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