Boating Season Begins at Two Reservoirs: Liberty and Pretty Boy to Open at Sunrise on April 1

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The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is pleased to announce the official beginning of boating season at Liberty and Prettyboy Reservoirs on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Boat docks at each reservoir will open at sunrise. At Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs, boating season normally runs through December 31. At Loch Raven Reservoir, boating season will begin on April 2, 2021, and normally runs through the last Sunday in November, with a limited schedule after Labor Day. Boaters are reminded that reservoir regulations are strictly enforced, for their protection, and for the protection of our drinking water. Boaters are also required to wear facemasks and adhere to social distancing requirements while on reservoir property. It is especially important for boaters, and fishermen, to be aware of the increasing threat to our reservoirs posed by zebra mussels and other invasive species.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has reported that zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) have now spread as far south in Maryland as Middle River and Hart-Miller Island.  This freshwater mollusk, native to eastern Europe, has proliferated throughout North America since first being spotted in the Great Lakes in the late 1980s. It was first seen in the Chesapeake Bay headwaters in November 2008. This rapid diffusion is not unexpected, but it is concerning.

Mature zebra mussels grow to two inches in length and usually have a striped pattern, thus giving them their name.   Females can produce up to 1,000,000 eggs per year. These eggs can be carried by currents and can easily infest other bodies of water. The mature mussels attach themselves to boats, and those boats can be the means of spreading the mussels to other bodies of freshwater.  

Why are they a concern?

Just as with any plant or animal invasive species, zebra mussels can have a devastating impact on native wildlife. They colonize in large clusters, including on slow-moving aquatic creatures like crayfish, clams, and turtles. In some cases, this reaches a point where the host animal cannot survive.

Zebra mussels are filter feeders, rapidly removing algae from the water. While this improves water clarity, it can be ruinous for fish and other aquatic life which depend on algae as a principal food source.

These mollusks also colonize water intake pipes. If they enter our reservoirs, Liberty, Loch Raven, and Prettyboy, they can restrict the water flow to our municipal treatment plants. Physical and chemical removal of them can be done, but it is costly and time-consuming. Zebra mussels may also create navigational hazards and can damage piers, docks, and bridges.  

What can you do to prevent their spread?

The Department of Public Works has long-anticipated the possibility of this infestation’s approach, and we have taken steps to address many of the consequences which may result. Unfortunately, at this time, there are no available means to eliminate zebra mussels once they arrive in a body of water.

Prevention is the key to keeping our reservoirs zebra mussel-free.   Please act responsibly to stop the introduction of zebra mussels into Liberty, Loch Raven, and Prettyboy Reservoirs

  • If you boat at our reservoirs, you may NOT use your watercraft, motor, or trailer in any other bodies of water except the three City reservoirs. Due to the potential for zebra mussel contamination, boaters on Liberty, Loch Raven, and/or Prettyboy Reservoirs must sign an affidavit stating that their boat will be used only on these reservoirs. Permits are required.
  • Only use aquatic bait purchased from an MDNR-certified, zebra mussel-free bait store. Do not use live aquatic bait that you have caught yourself. Do not transfer bait water from one body of water to another.
  • FLUSH bait buckets and coolers with hot water before using them at our reservoirs.
  • RINSE fishing tackle, gear, boots and gloves, and truck beds with hot water or a hard spray from a garden hose.
  • DRY these items for five (5) days between outings, longer if possible, before using these items at the reservoirs.
  • Never release wildlife of any sort, land or aquatic, at the reservoirs.

To learn more about zebra mussels and the reservoirs, please visit:
For information about Liberty and Prettyboy Reservoirs and 2021 boating permits, please visit:
For information about boating regulations and permits at Loch Raven Reservoir, please visit:


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The Baltimore City Department of Public Works supports the health, environment, and economy of our City and region by cleaning our neighborhoods and waterways and providing its customers with safe drinking water and sustainable energy practices.