The Cox Creek facility is located just south of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, on the western shore of the Patapsco River in the upper Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County. Approximately 102 acres are available for the placement of dredged material. The annual capacity of the DMCF is approximately 500,000 which is a third of the average amount of maintenance dredged material to be removed from the Baltimore Harbor shipping channels. Cox Creek has a total projected capacity of 6 million cubic yards. Compared to Hart-Miller Island and Poplar Island, this is a small placement site.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the site in the 1960s, and operated it through 1984, mostly as a private industrial site. It fell into disuse until the Maryland Port Administration acquired it through purchases in 1993 and 1997. The Maryland Port Administration renovated the site by strengthening and raising the dike walls; significant inflows of dredged material began in the fall of 2012.
The Cox Creek facility is especially important now that the Hart-Miller Island placement site has closed. Explorations are also underway to determine whether some of the upland areas could be used for the innovative use of dredged material.
Approximately 100 acres of the 1993 purchase have been permanently preserved for wildlife habitat, and approximately 11 acres of the Swan Creek wetlands were enhanced and restored. This tidal wetland environment now includes open water, low marsh with non-vegetated tidal flats, saltbush assemblages, and a beach/sand bar area. The National Aquarium and many citizen volunteers have helped to monitor and restore the wetlands.
Cox Creek/Swan Creek Wetland
To compensate for the construction of 4.87 acres of armor stone around the existing but renovated dikes at the Cox Creek Dredged Material Containment Facility (DMCF), 11.3 acres of tidal wetland was created downstream of the Swan Creek Watershed. This mitigation area, required by the State of Maryland, provides habitats for fish, birds and a variety of other wildlife. The Swan Creek Mitigation Wetland consists of 3.59 acres of open water, 3.92 acres of low marsh, 2.81 acres of high marsh and 0.81 acres of saltbush assemblages. The vegetation consists of a combination of low and high marsh plants, saltbush shrubs and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), which has naturally colonized open water areas.
In 2006 and 2007, approximately 325 reef balls were installed along the shoreline of the mitigation wetland. These reef balls provide additional habitat for fish and benthic species and reduce erosion. Annual samplings have indicated a large increase in species abundance and diversity along the reef balls in comparison to open water. Continuous monitoring also indicates that the reef balls have substantially reduced wave action and aided in beach stabilization.
A wide variety of bird species and other wildlife habitat can be found in the Swan Creek Wetland. Birders from all over Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties visit the site for an opportunity to observe the many species. Members of different organizations, including North County Land Trust (NCLT) and the Maryland Ornithological Society (MOS),along with MES personnel, conduct year-round field surveys and have identified over 100 species.
In the years to come the Swan Creek Mitigation Wetland will continue to be monitored and improved. We hope that you will visit often!
Download the teacher's guide: Port of Baltimore Environmental Education here.
Visitors are also permitted to access the property without a tour guide. First-time visitors must receive a very short safety briefing and sign a one-time release form. Swan Creek/Cox Creek is an active industrial site and mitigation project, so care must be taken to follow all safety rules. Access is at the end of Kembo Road off Fort Smallwood Road near I-695.
Please keep in mind...
The site is open Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Our last visitors need to be off the property at 3:30 p.m. sharp.
Remember to always sign in at the office.
Stick to permitted areas and follow all safety instructions. This is for your protection as well as the protection of the wild life at Cox Creek.
Click here to view a full list of all the species that can be seen in Swan Creek and click here to download a bird watching location map.