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Masemore Hemlock Ravines Natural Area, Baltimore County
Scenic View of Masemore Hemlock Ravines by Gary Fleming

Masemore Hemlock Ravines Natural Area has the look and feel of a mountain forest despite its location in northern Baltimore County. Steep, rocky slopes lined with eastern hemlock, chestnut oak and mountain laurel give way to small ravines. Adjacent moist and rich forests of tuliptree and northern red oak support numerous wildflowers. In the early spring, casual hikers can see an array of erect trillium, Dutchman's breeches, bloodroot, Canada mayflower and wild ginger blanketing the forest and floodplain floor. The forest system also supports numerous species of songbirds and woodpeckers, including the impressive, crow-sized pileated woodpecker. Throughout the year, and especially during the breeding season, visitors may hear the pileated's loud drumming or laughter-like call echoing through the forest. Hiking trails east and west of Masemore Road afford visitors access to the interior of these old-aged forests as well as several scenic vistas of the Gunpowder River.

Left: Pileated Woodpecker and (right) Eastern Hemlocks

Fewer than 20 stands of eastern hemlock have been documented in the Piedmont portion of Maryland, totaling about 215 acres. While many of these stands are now isolated, it is believed that they were once part of a widespread forest that occurred during the middle to late Pleistocene Epoch. Most of Maryland's hemlock stands can be found in the mountainous western region of the state. Masemore Hemlock Ravines is part of Gunpowder Falls State Park, which offers terrific outdoor recreation opportunities.

Ephemeral Beauty

Many of the spring wildflowers at Masemore Hemlock Ravines Natural Area are spring ephemerals, meaning that they flower and fruit in early spring before the trees leaf out. This natural strategy allows the tiny plants to take advantage of the extra sunlight reaching the forest floor before the tree canopy develops and shades out the area.

Photo collage of spring flowers found at Masemore Hemlock Ravines

A Tiny Terror!

The eastern hemlocks that give this Natural Area its name are now under threat from the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid. These tiny insects were accidentally introduced from East Asia in 1924. While feeding on the sap of hemlocks, adelgids inject a toxin that prevents the trees from producing new growth. Without treatment, the trees will die within 4-10 years. Ecologists have had success with introducing the adelgid's natural predator: the tooth-necked fungus beetle. These tiny, dark beetles specialize in feeding on woolly adelgid eggs, larvae and adults.

The cotton-like egg sacs of Woolly Adelgids cling to the branches of Eastern Hemlocks.  The insects are nearly microscopic but the damage they cause to the trees is catastrophic.  From a distance, infested Hemlocks will often appear to be bleached white.

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Masemore Hemlock Ravines Natural Area DNR MD Map

Directions

From Baltimore: Travel I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) to Exit 24 and head north on I-83 about 12 miles. Take Exit 27 and turn left at the end of the ramp onto MD 137 (Mt. Carmel Road), heading west. After 0.7 miles, turn right (north) onto Masemore Road and continue about 1.4 miles to the parking area and Gunpowder South trailhead.

Links to Google driving Directions

Links to Google Aerial View Map

Driving directions and aerial views open with Google Maps. For the aerial view button, if an aerial view does not open by default, click on the Satellite icon in the upper right corner and Google Maps will switch to an aerial view of the Natural Area.

Printable Version of Masemore Hemlock Ravines Natural Area