Some facts about the Prettyboy...


About Our Watershed*


William Hoffman - one of the first paper makers in Maryland - chose the Gunpowder as the site for his paper mill in 1775. His reason? To make the high quality paper required for our nations first currency, exceptionally clean water was needed.

Even today the Gunpowder and its tributaries, while no longer as pristine as Hoffman found them, still rate as some of the least impaired in Baltimore and Carroll Counties. The challenge now faced by current landowners is make to sure that further deterioration does not occur - in fact there are five steps that we, as current stewards of the land, can take that will improve our land and its streams.


The Prettyboy Watershed is an 80 square mile land area (50,000 acres) that drains into the Prettyboy reservoir (see map at the right - for an enlarged version click the attachment at the bottom of this page).  About half of the watershed is in northwest Balltimore County, half is in northeast Carroll County and 10% is in southern York County.  We are the headwaters for the Gunpowder River.


The Prettyboy reservoir is one of three reservoirs in the greater Baltimore metropolitan area that provides drinking water to about 2 million residents in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Anne Arundel Counties.

Baltimore City owns about 7,000 acres of property immediately surrounding the reservoir or 15% of the total watershed (of which 1,500 acres comprises the reservoir itself).


Approximately 15% of the watershed is developed, 47% is agricultural and only 38% is forest, wetlands and water. This last number is a great concern for long-term drinking water protection. A healthy "drinking water" watershed should be at least 50% forested. What can we do about this? Click here for some answers.


A watershed is an area of land that funnels water (rain, snow) “shed” from the land to a particular water body (be that a stream, river or lake). So, to define a watershed you first start with the water body of interest and then ask - what land drains to it?

Therefore, watersheds come in all sizes - they can be small or big. If the water body of interest happens to be a stream on your property then its watershed is small - it is the land area that just drains to that stream. If the water body of interest is large, like the Chesapeake Bay, then its watershed is also big - in fact it encompasses six states - NY, PA, MD, W. VA, VA, DE, plus Washington DC.

To define our watershed the water body of interest to us is the Prettyboy Reservoir – its drainage area is 80 square miles. 


There are several stories concerning the origin of the name "Prettyboy" but one considered authentic is that quite some time ago a farmer had a beautiful white colt named "Pretty Boy", which was the pride of the neighborhood. The colt was out in the pasture bordering a stream that was a tributary of the Gunpowder River. Suddenly a thunderstorm arose and the colt was forced to seek shelter near the bank of the stream. Sadly, the colt fell into the stream and perished. From that time on, in memory of the colt, the tributary was named "Prettyboy".