Bear Branch Walk
25 January 2008: Walked upstream from the mouth of Bear Branch north in Eakin Community Park to its uppermost outlets in Vienna.
From its mouth, Bear Branch is unmodified as far as the northern edge of Eakin Park. Buffer is good. Bank erosion here, and all along the stream, is typical of that found in the Accotink Creek watershed.
Above the north edge of Eakin Park, buffer is generally good, but at the Chesterfield Mews Apts, there is exotic landscaping down to the west bank. Just below Rt. 50, the Kena Shriners building has a large parking lot on the east side without stormwater detention . There is, however, about 30 yards of buffer.
Just above Rt. 50, buffer is narrow on the west bank where Ellenwood Dr runs alongside, but improves above that. There is much invasive alien multiflora rose here. A slender unnamed park protects the stream most of the way up to Lee Hwy. Just outside the park on the east are two mowed storm drain ponds in the Armistead Park community. Just below Lee Hwy, there is a manmade pond, perhaps an old farm pond. It holds water, but has no apparent outlet or inlet.
Above Lee Hwy, Bear Branch flows through Villa Lee Park as far as Hunter Road. Above Hunter Road, to I-66, buffer narrows, and several homes have mowed to the banks.
Immediately above I-66, in Southside Park, is the junction with an eastern tributary. There is much invasive alien English ivy and bush honeysuckle here. Soon, the eastern tributary is squeezed narrowly between the parking lots and baseball diamonds of Southside Park. The banks have been asphalted in places, and there are some gabion rock walls.
Above Ross Dr, Southside Park is a slender strip, providing modest buffer. Just below De Sale St. is the junction of the two branches of the eastern tributary.
Above De Sale St, the easterly branch is no longer in parkland. Buffer ranges from narrow to merely tree-lined. Below Park Street, the back fence of Vienna Park Apartments runs right along the east bank for about 200 yards. Several storm drains from the apartments empty into the stream here with significant amounts of trash.
The upper limit of flowing water was at Park Street. Above Park Street the easterly branch is inaccessible among backyards of houses. Its uppermost outlet can be seen along the W&OD Trail, hidden among a jungle of invasive Japanese honeysuckle.
This is the location of the Wedderburn development, where developers will soon turn the streambed into storm drains, after convincing the county to remove stream protection.
The westerly branch of the eastern tributary has fair buffer from the junction up to De Sale St, within the slender confines of Southside Park. There is some buffer from De Sale St to Park St, but at least one lawn is mowed to the bank. Above Park St, beyond the park, the streambed is very narrow with very little buffer, but much bamboo.
Above McHenry St, the westerly branch dwindles away into backyards and some stretches are underground. Its origins are in drainage from Vienna Technology Park, just north of the W&OD Trail.
The main stem of Bear Branch, above I-66, is also confined between the parking lots and baseball diamonds of Southside Park. Much invasive alien porcelainberry, privet, and especially wintercreeper, join the thickets of multiflora rose in the park above the playing fields. There are many areas of exposed, crumbly bedrock in the stream, perhaps a form of shale? An arm of Southside Park provides a slender corridor of buffer.
There is a collapsed, eroding storm drain coming from a western intermittent tributary below Cottage St. Cottage St. was the limit of flowing water. From Cottage St. to Yeonas Dr, there were many pools of water, but no flow. There is another collapsed storm drain on the east side.
Above Yeonas Dr, the stream was mostly dry. There is limited buffer here, beyond the park. Just below Kingsley Rd, several houses have gutter downspouts going directly into Bear Branch.
Just above Kingsley Rd, the Vienna Woods club has parking lots, tennis courts, and lawn down to the banks. There is a short stretch of broad buffer on the east side where the stream passes through Cunningham Park.
Bear Branch dwindles away into backyards above Lullaby Ln. The last upstream outlet is at Glyndon St.
Throughout the portions above I-66, there are numerous chunks of asphalt and concrete in Bear Branch, perhaps an earlier attempt to armor the streambed.
It is notable that there are no fish obstructions along the main stem of Bear Branch except above the part that held water.
Trash is noticeable all along Bear Branch, but only a few spots seem severe.
A graffiti drawing at the Ross St. culvert (see photos) lends itself to a watershed interpretation: Our streams are ghosts of what they formerly were, being gobbled up by erosion.
1 Northwestern Watershed
2 Daniels Run
3 Hunters Branch
4 Bear Branch
5 Long Branch North
6 Main Stem - Pickett Rd downstream to Prosperity Ave
7 Main Stem - Prosperity Ave to Little River Turnpike
8 Crook Branch
9 Coon Branch
10 Turkey Run
11 Long Branch Central
12 Wakefield Park (Main Stem - Little River Turnpike to Braddock Road)
13 Lake Accotink Park (Main Stem - Braddock Road to Old Keene Mill Road )
14 Main Stem - Old Keene Mill Road to Ft. Belvoir Engineering Proving Ground
15 Main Stem - Ft Belvoir Engineering Proving Ground
16 Main Stem - Ft Belvoir Engineering Proving Ground to Telegraph Road
17 Long Branch South
18 Main Stem - Telegraph Road to Potomac River
19 Flag Run
20 Calamo Branch
21 Field Lark Branch
22 Mason Run
23 Kernan Run
24 Hatmark Branch