- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2007

ooking out on the peaceful waters of Little Seneca Lake, it is easy to feel about 1,000 miles away from the suburban stress of Montgomery County.

The lake, located in Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds, is just a few miles from the major development that is seeping into the formerly rural stretches of the county. A visit to the park is a great way to reconnect with nature on water or land.

The 505-acre lake is home to several varieties of fish, including bass, tiger muskie, crappie, catfish and sunfish. Park naturalist Glenn Cumings calls the lake “one of the best largemouth bass lakes in Maryland.” He recounts the time a state-record, 11-pound bass was caught at Little Seneca Lake four years ago.

Though there are two local bass clubs that meet at Little Seneca Lake, the water is also a nice spot for fishing enthusiasts who are newer to the pastime. Daily or seasonal boat permits can be bought at the park to set off in a small boat. Keep in mind that only battery-powered electric motors are allowed and anglers older than 16 need a valid Maryland fishing license.

Kayaks, rowboats and canoes are available for rent at the lake May through September. Want to stay closer to dry land? There is a fishing pier located near the boat rental.

For more sightseeing and less fishing, there are pontoon boat rides available on the weekends thorough Labor Day. The boat leaves at 12:30, 2 and 3 p.m. for a tour that takes a little over an hour. Tickets are $4 per person.

For families who want to plan in advance, there are many options for classes and special events at Black Hill.

“We’ve got programs for all ages, across the board,” Mr. Cumings says.

On Sept. 1, the park will host its annual Monarch Fiesta Day.

“We basically celebrate the magic of monarch butterflies,” says Mr. Cumings, who dons a colorful “Monarch Man” costume to entertain young visitors to the open house. “I talk all about the life cycle of the monarch,” he says. “We have a blessing of the meadow and the milkweed. We pass out nectar [in the form of lollipops] to the kids. It is just a grand old time.”

Another popular program is Storytime on the Lake, where preschoolers and older children can listen to themed stories on the pontoon boat, followed by crafts and activities. Upcoming story times include Crayfish (Aug. 3), Dragonflies (Aug. 22), and Piscatorial Pursuits (Aug. 28). At the latter event, children can look for fish with special glasses that allow them to see underwater. Story time events are $4 per person.

Montgomery County’s history as a 19th-century gold-mining spot can be explored by children ages 10 and older at a gold-mining event Aug. 16. Participants will visit Black Hill Regional Park’s own gold mine, as well as nearby Maryland Mine. They will pan for gold in Rock Run.

The entire family can participate in afternoon family adventures, a trail hike of a half-mile or less that explores a habitat in the park. There are activities to engage little ones along the way. August’s family adventures (11 a.m. Aug. 11 and 25) will focus on the stream.

Other late-summer events include a children’s fishing workshop and contest (Aug. 22); a twilight canoe and kayak tour (Aug. 23); and a monster frog search (Aug. 24) where children, accompanied by an adult, can search the shore at dusk to try and catch and release bullfrogs.

WHEN YOU GO:

Location: Black Hill Regional Park is located at 20926 Lake Ridge Drive in Boyds.

Directions: Take Interstate 270 to Exit 16 (Father Hurley Boulevard). Go east to Route 355 and turn left. Take a left on West Old Baltimore Road. The park entrance is on the left.

Hours: Trails are open from 6 a.m. to sunset daily. The visitors center is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Admission: Park admission is free. There are charges for special programs and boat rental.

Parking: Free parking is available in the lot.

More information: 301/916-0220 or www.mc-mncppc.org/parks

Notes:

Black Hill Regional Park, operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is an 1,845-acre park with many outdoor opportunities. Small boats are available for rental, and there is a boat launch in the park. Gasoline motors and swimming are prohibited on the lake.

The park has picnic areas and paved and unpaved trails for hiking, mountain biking and jogging. There are also playground areas and volleyball courts.

The visitors center includes outdoor butterfly gardens, as well as indoor exhibits about butterflies, local wildlife, Montgomery County history and a reading area with many nature-themed books.

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