Long Branch South Walk

9 January 2008: Walked upstream from the mouth of Long Branch south to Springfield-Franconia Metro.

From its mouth Long Branch south is unmodified as far as Telegraph Road. This portion is on Ft. Belvoir. Buffer is good.

From Telegraph Road to the inactive railroad next to the VDOT Newington Station, the stream is mostly channelized with riprap to various degrees. The streambed is still natural gravel and sand. There is little buffer.

The culvert under the railroad is the most serious fish obstruction, with a drop of about three feet. Above the railroad, Long Branch south runs parallel to Cinder Bed Road. This is an industrial area. Buffer is mostly narrow to absent. Numerous private industrial driveways with culverts cross the stream. One culvert is blocked, creating a pond and the stream is cutting around. Trash is prevalent.

Many of the industrial sites adjacent to the stream appear to be in various states of abandon, with sites cleared of trees, but buildings empty or absent. There are two sites where buffer has been replanted.

Previous aerial shots of this area on Google Maps show what appear to have been extensive auto junkyards. Microsoft aerial maps are more recent and show the current condition.

Fairfax County Water Authority, The Fairfax Connector, and other Fairfax County sites are along Cinder Bed Road, a possible focus of future stewardship cooperation.

Beyond the end of Cinder Bed Road, Long Branch south is flanked by Park Authority and railroad property. Buffer is broad, with no houses visible along this stretch. Sweet bay magnolias are unusually common here. Trash is moderate, but there are a couple of dumping sites where the railroad service road or power line cut give access. A sewer line cut and old railroad bed run through here.

Upstream from Amberleigh Park, there is no more parkland. Houses are nearer on the east side. At least one has mowed down to the bank. On the west side, some sort of auto yard has asphalt down to the water’s edge. The buffer narrows until it terminates at the Springfield-Franconia Metro.

January 16: Continued to walk from Springfield-Franconia Metro upstream to source.

Just above the railroad tracks at the Metro, two branches come together. Although the eastern branch is labeled the main stem on some maps, the western branch is clearly larger.

Upstream from the junction, the western branch flows through a surprisingly large wooded corner of the Metro property. There is a tremendous amount of trash. The stream goes through a dry storm water pond above that. Metro is currently building a paved road across the retention dam.

There is a bit more wooded area beyond the pond to the point where the western branch emerges from beneath the Franconia-Springfield Parkway. This must pass for the source, as further upstream lie only the hidden streams of the storm drains.

Back at the junction point of the eastern and western branches, the eastern branch flows in a straightened channel between the railroad tracks and gas and water mains, with about 300 yards underground. There is riprap border and minimal buffer.

This channel flows out of two large wet storm water ponds, one above the other. The lower pond has been enhanced by a long, low beaver dam. There is spotty tree buffer around the ponds, including a grove of sweet bay magnolias by the upper pond.

Upstream from the pond, the stream is mostly riprap with minimal buffer to the point where it emerges from a storm drain below Fleet Industrial Park.

Above the industrial park, up to Beulah St., the stream is a broad concrete channel between townhouses, which flows only intermittently. It is fed by a dry storm water pond just east of Beulah St.

The source of Long Branch south is just above this storm water pond, across Schurtz St, in a small wooded extension of Manchester Lakes Park. Water accumulates on the surface here, gradually acquiring definition and flowing through a short riprap channel into a storm drain leading to the pond.

Both the eastern and western branches of Long Branch south may be fed by sources of ground water, rather than just storm drains. Both were observed to continue flowing and supporting fish near the Metro throughout the 2007 drought.

Photos at shutterfly.com

Share your own observations/comments on Long Branch north or other sections of the Accotink Creek watershed.

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