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Brighton Dam

Triadelphia Reservoir

  • Size: The dam spans the southern end of the reservoir. Brighton Dam Road runs along the top of the dam.
  • Habitat: Standing on Brighton Dam facing north, one is looking at a cove of Triadelphia Reservoir. The wooded edges on the east are in Howard County; those on the west are in Montgomery County. There may be unvegetated spits of land visible depending on the height of the water. A small section of the main reservoir can be seen in the distance. Both orange and white buoys serve as convenient perches.
  • Best Months: Late fall to early spring is usually the most productive. Although the slowest time is late May through the first half of July, almost any period can be worthwhile.
  • Coverage Time: From a few minutes to several hours.
  • Trails/Paths: Parking is in a gated lot on the Montgomery (southwest) side of the dam. A sidewalk runs along the north side of the dam adjacent to Brighton Dam Road. There is no sidewalk on the south side facing the Patuxent River. A picnic area below the dam is reached through a gate from the parking lot. It is open in warm weather during daylight hours.
  • Notable Birds: Cackling Goose, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, Glossy Ibis, Bald Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, Sandhill Crane, American Golden-Plover, Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Common Tern, Forster's Tern, Black Tern, Common Raven, Cliff Swallow (colony on dam).
  • Amenities: Portable toilets in the paved parking lot. Free maps available in the information office in the cabin adjacent to the parking lot.
  • Handicapped Access: Challenging. Crossing Brighton Dam Road is not always easy. The water is only visible over the almost four foot cement barrier adjacent to the sidewalk. The sidewalk is usually not shoveled after snowstorms.
  • Operation and Hours: Triadelphia Reservoir is owned and managed by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) and security is their number one concern. The reservoir is closed to public access from November 15 to April 1. During the winter, the view from Brighton Dam is the only consistent location from which to view any of the water (or ice). Hours are no longer posted on the gates, but, in winter, they may be open as early as 7:00 a.m. This is important because birds may be gone by 8:00 a.m. Gates nominally close at 4:00 p.m. but 3:45 p.m. is more accurate. Hours are longer in warmer weather. Gates are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Parking in front of the gates during off hours is at your own risk—you may be told to leave. Parking on the road near the dam is dangerous as the traffic is usually heavy and hills on either side invite high speeds.
  • Special Attractions: Besides the water, which is the main attraction, there is an azalea garden on the west side open for a few weeks each spring. It opens after waterfowl migration so the access doesn't gain much for birders trying to view the blind spot favored by ducks and mergansers, but the flowers draw many visitors.
Brighton Dam thumbnail
Compiler: Nancy Magnusson and Joanne Solem

© 2009