Join us in Protecting the Gunpowder River

What We Do

GRK is the 18th WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE® program in the Chesapeake region and takes responsibility for protecting and conserving the Gunpowder river and its watershed for the benefit of the public.

GRK also strives to create partnerships among existing non-profits in the Chesapeake Bay Region that share its goal of protecting, conserving and restoring the Gunpowder river and its environs for all users.

Who We Are

Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER® (GRK) is a grassroots, advocacy based membership organization charged with protecting, conserving and restoring the Gunpowder River and its Watershed.

GRK works to strengthen ties within the communities that benefit from this vital water resource by engaging in outreach activities, which have an inherent stewardship message that transcends economic, social and educational boundaries.

How To Help

Interested in doing your part to protect your river? Do you have a skill, service hours or personal time to give to the cause? If you’d like to contribute to the mission of GRK, please contact us.

Become a member or donate to Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER® today to help ensure that this valuable water resource is protected from pollution from industry, agriculture, stormwater runoff, lawn fertilizers, and sewage overflows.

Vision and Methodology

Theaux Le Gardeur, the RIVERKEEPER® and Executive Director of GRK, is a native of Covington, Louisiana and owns Backwater Angler, a full service fly shop and guide service located in Monkton, Maryland. He graduated from the University of South Alabama and completed a BS in Marine Science at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. He is a Maryland State sports License Agent, a Nature Tourism Partner with Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources and has been a member of a steering committee that focused on user group conflicts and issues within Gunpowder State Park.

Theaux has testified before the Maryland State House of Representatives and the Maryland Sport Fish Advisory Committee on various resource based issues. He has commented on the Maryland Park Service draft of the Woody Debris Removal Policy and his comments were also featured prominently in an acid mine drainage remediation study on the North Branch Potomac River that was prepared for the Maryland State Water Quality Advisory Committee. He is interested in promoting stewardship of natural resources, protecting the Gunpowder River Watershed and creating awareness of invasive species statewide.

As a member of the WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE®, GRK takes a proactive role in safeguarding the river from threats to the health and stability of the watershed by conducting scientific monitoring to ensure that it is being properly regulated and protected by the county, state and federal entities charged with enforcing Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations.

A wild Gunpowder Brown Trout
Wild stream-bred trout need cold and clean water in order to survive. GRK is committed to conserving cold water resources within the Gunpowder River watershed.

Watershed Overview

The Gunpowder River is an important resource for the state of Maryland. The river and its reservoirs, Prettyboy and Loch Raven, provide the primary source of Baltimore City’s drinking water and supply over 1.5 million area residents. In addition, the river is also a nationally recognized tail-water trout fishery and an important tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Gunpowder River is 53 miles long and its watershed is located within parts of York County, PA, and Carroll, Harford and Baltimore Counties, in MD. The Gunpowder Watershed encompasses over 450 square miles, containing over 217 miles of streams. The river is formed by the joining of Big Gunpowder Falls and Little Gunpowder Falls and flows through Maryland’s largest state park. Gunpowder State Park is a popular destination for fishing, birding, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

The health of the river waters directly impacts the submerged aquatic vegetation that host the Bay’s blue crab, perch, shad, rockfish and waterfowl populations. The cold, clean water that supports wild trout and insects in the upper watershed also benefits and protects Bay habitat in the lower watershed.

A bushel of crabs
The waters of the Chesapeake Bay are known for their healthy population of blue crabs. GRK is committed to protecting the health of the Gunpowder River as an important tributary to the Bay’s waters.

GRK Projects

Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER® values the biological, recreational and economic aspects of the river. That’s why GRK is committed to independent water quality testing for bacteria and other harmful pollutants in the watershed. GRK champions enforcement and compliance of environmental laws within the watershed to protect and conserve the river for all users.

GRK Project Areas Include:


Interested in doing your part to protect your river? Become a Gunpowder Champion by joining, donating or volunteering today. Volunteer and internship opportunities await!

Protect Our River
Addressing and identifying threats to the watershed are part of our project scope. GRK takes a proactive role in safeguarding the river from threats to the health and stability of the watershed.

Environmental Monitoring & Mapping

Overview: Because of the economic, biological and recreational importance of the River, there exists a pressing need for independent, comprehensive baseline environmental monitoring and mapping of the river and its watershed. Parameters such as temperature, pH, dissolved solids, Chlorophyll A, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and bacteria will be collected throughout the watershed. This data will be visualized with GIS mapping and shared with regulatory agencies.

Project: In-stream monitoring work will take place at sites of concern along the river and its watershed to determine water quality impacts.

Benefits: This information may be used to assess and report on the river’s relative biological health, potential watershed impacts and monitoring industrial, commercial and recreational impacts along the watershed. This data set will be used to direct county and state agencies to factor existing impacts into TMDL, (Total Maximum Daily Load) recommendations throughout the watershed.

Sewage Overflow & Compliance

Overview: Sewage overflows related to outdated equipment can lead to bacterial contamination of drinking water and destroy vital habitat. GRK is interested in counting these occurrences, their causes and their impacts in the watershed.

Project: GRK plans on collecting information related to these activities using PIA requests and Clean Water Act guidelines to conduct compliance sweeps, suggest enforcement appeals and comment on permit renewals to protect the watershed.

Benefits: The project will assess the impacts and occurrences of sewage overflows on the relative health and stability of the watershed. Data collected will allow GRK to better protect the river by providing a record of impacts to the watershed and a methodology to enact stronger regulatory protection from this threat within the watershed.

Invasive Species

Overview: Didymo is an invasive algae that was identified in the River in 2008, and is known to be disruptive to aquatic ecosystems. The algae thrives in cold, nutrient poor water and tends to mat in heavy carpet like clumps and choke out macroinvertebrates, (a.k.a. trout food). It has been shown that the algae can easily be transported and thus “carried” on felt soled wading shoes that anglers use, in the water and surfaces present in and on kayaks and canoes and in footwear hikers and birders would use to traverse the stream.

Project: GRK will continue the maintenance of MD/DNR wader wash stations (ongoing since 2008), and create a print and web media campaign to engage river user groups within the upper watershed above Loch Raven. This outreach will include educating the public about cleaning and drying methods for footwear, angling equipment, boats and boating equipment that can serve as a vector for Didymo.

Benefits:This project and its strong stewardship message will provide much needed outreach among varied recreational user groups in order to contain the invasive algae Didymo, which will safeguard shared waters within the watershed and waters beyond.

Lawn Fertilizer Nutrient Loading Outreach

Overview: Nitrogen and Phosphorous loading are inherent, readily identifiable problems within the Pretty Boy and Loch Raven reservoirs. Pretty Boy reservoir is a source of the Gunpowder River. Both reservoirs are listed as “impaired” waterways by Baltimore County. A surprising quantity of nutrients come from residential lawn runoff.

Project: GRK is interested in developing educational materials that will provide homeowners within the watershed pertinent information regarding phosphorous and nitrogen impacts commercially available lawn fertilizers and how alternative measures may be used to lessen their impacts.

Benefits: This project will provide education and engage residents within the watershed to identify and correct nutrient loading impacts to the watershed from impacts from residential lawn fertilizer runoff entering the River’s already impaired waterways.

Stormwater Runoff & Compliance

Overview: Encroachment by development along the river corridor will likely increase sediment loading and degradation of water quality in the river. While new stormwater regulations have taken effect in Maryland this year, the growth in the amount of industrial, commercial and residential building far outweighs the ability of compliance personnel to effectively monitor these sites.

Project: Take part in the Chesapeake Waterkeepers “Get the Dirt Out” Campaign. Provide a proven program to engage residents of the Gunpowder watershed to identify compliance problems associated with construction sites such as inadequate silt fencing, improperly designed construction entrances and blocked sediment traps. GRK will continue to review files from MDE obtained through PIA requests to check permits and compliance activities at construction and industrial sites located along the River corridor.

Benefits: This project will help ensure that Best Management Practices, (BMP’s) are being followed within the watershed. GRK will educate the public on these practices and enlist them as volunteers to report compliance of sites. If problems are found GRK will report and followup these complaints with the proper regulatory authorities for remedies.These efforts will lessen the effects of unchecked stormwater runoff.

Agricultural Runoff & Compliance

Overview: Farming is an economically important historical use of rural lands adjoining the River. Most Agriculture operations within the watershed are focused on row crops. However, based on Baltimore County’s Water Quality Management Study, farming without appropriate erosion control safeguards has been shown to have a detrimental effect on small tributaries that enter the main stem of the River.

Project: GRK is interested in checking agricultural lands for compliance with existing soil conservation plans, (most agriculture in the watershed is in row crops) and will work collaboratively with farmers regarding responsible and sustainable land use practices to protect the River.

Benefits: This project will help to ensure that Best Management Practices (BMP’s) are being followed on agricultural lands within the watershed. These efforts will lessen the effects of unchecked agricultural runoff, conserve soil and minimize nutrient loading from agricultural sources.

Monitoring Industrial Activities

Overview: A small percentage of industrial activities take place within the Gunpowder River Watershed. The river is a class III-P protected stream that is host to a wild population of trout and is nationally recognized as a recreational fishing destination. It is the primary drinking water source for the City of Baltimore. GRK feels that unchecked industrial activities could have adverse impacts on the Gunpowder River and endanger public health, safety and welfare by compromising the drinking water supply for nearly 2 million residents of Baltimore City and the surrounding Metropolitan area.

Project: The objective of monitoring is to make sure that the impacts from industrial activities fall within the guidelines established by the state and county permits. GRK will perform compliance sweeps related to stormwater and discharge permits and send comments to regulatory agencies to ask for stronger permit language where appropriate to afford better protection to the river and its watershed.

Benefits: This project is to protect the Gunpowder river and its watershed from industrial pollution. This project will also safeguard the drinking water supply for Baltimore City Metro Area by strengthening the monitoring, compliance and reporting on industrial sites within the watershed.

Support GRK

Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER® offers memberships to all citizens concerned with protecting and sustaining this valuable water resource. A GRK membership ensures that the Gunpowder Watershed is protected from water pollution and conserved for future generations. Regular membership levels start at $35 and benefits include the knowledge that you are funding a full-time river advocate entrusted with protecting the river, an invitation to Annual Gunpowder Falls Fest, promotions from Gunpowder River Retailers, invitations to GRK special events and an E-Newsletter subscription.

Membership Levels:

You may also join or donate via check at: Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER®, 16928 York Road Monkton, MD 21111. Do you have a skill, service hours or personal time to give to the cause? If you’d like to contribute to the mission of GRK, please contact us.

A pair of Chesapeake Bay oysters
Oysters are the foundation of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. GRK members and volunteers are the foundation for our continued work of protecting and conserving the Gunpowder River Watershed.