Seneca Creek

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September 25

Seneca Park streamPre-registration is required for this event, opening Monday, Sept. 19 at 6pm and closing Saturday Sept. 24 at noon.
There will be no day-of registration.

Orienteer on terrain near the Clopper Lake section of Seneca Creek State Park (Gaithersburg, MD). There will be a full set of 8 courses (from beginner through advanced, including beige), and detailed park and course notes are now posted below thanks to course setter Peggy Dickison.

Check in and map issue will be at the Blue Jay Pavilion, towards the west end of the parking area shared with the Nuthatch Pavilion. We encourage carpooling. A park map is here; the Blue Jay Pavilion is way down in the lower left (southwest) edge. If we overflow the parking lot, we are allowed to park along the NW side of the road leading to it, i.e., the right-hand side of the road as you drive in. Please be aware that there will be people walking, running along, and crossing the road! Use caution to avoid hurting anyone.

Check in will open about 9:45am and courses will open at 10:00am.

Junior Training: QOC is welcoming all junior members and guests age 10 to 21 and their parents to join us at 10am to meet the coaches and each other. Coaches John Cumings, Adam Smith, and Alexa Merka are planning to offer free training at events about twice a month through the end of the year. This session should run approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Junior training is a great way to build team camaraderie, learn more about orienteering and improve your skills in a safe, fun, and welcoming environment. Please contact John or Adam if you plan to attend.

Free Beginner Instruction will be offered, but please reach out to the Event Director if you have a large group so we can plan accordingly. Also, make sure to check out our Your First Event and For Beginners webpages, as well as beginner video, and if they don’t answer any remaining questions you have, just use our Contact Form and ask away!

Group Leaders: Please see our For Group Leaders page if you are leading a youth or large group – even though you will be pre-registering online. Please contact the Event Director with your plans and participant numbers for her awareness.


  • QOC will continue to use pre-registration as the ONLY method of signing up for our meets. There will be NO day-of, on site registration. Refunds are paid only in the case of event cancellation.
  • The park charges an entrance fee at this time of year: Maryland residents $3/person; out-of-state residents $5/person; Maryland Golden Pass holders (62+) have free entry (passes can be purchased at the entry booth if you’re eligible).
  • For this event (as with most others this season) there will be eight 15 minute check-in windows followed by two 45min windows.
  • Pets are allowed but must be leashed at all times.
  • Masks are optional at all locations connected with the event. Please continue to minimize clustering at and around the check-in, e-punch, start and finish areas.
  • As mentioned above, beginner instruction has resumed to provide an overview of orienteering basics for newcomers to the sport or those who just want a refresher.
  • There is no water on the course. Participants are responsible for their own hydration. A very limited supply of bottled water for emergency use will be on hand with the Meet Director; but it is vital to stay well hydrated. Please come prepared!
  • There are no snacks offered by QOC.
  • The four longest advanced courses go onto/through the disc golf course. This is an active disc golf course and you will definitely see players. Please use caution; try to stay out of the players’ way and don’t get hit by a disc!


Seneca Creek State Park, Clopper Lake, Blue Jay Pavilion, Gaithersburg, MD (Classic)

RegistrationRegistration for this event opens at 6pm on Monday Sept 19 via this link. Advance registration is required. Registration will close at noon on Saturday Sept. 24 (the day before the event).
Who's registered? Check by clicking here. Sorting by column is possible too - just click on the column name.
Start TimesStart times begin at 10am. There will be eight 15 minute check-in windows followed by two 45 minute windows.
ScheduleSunday, September 25
10:00 am - 3:00 pmClassic: Check-in begins ~9:45am. All participants must return to the finish and download by 3pm.
Event Director:Jane Leggett
Course Designer:Peggy Dickison
Location Details

Seneca Creek State Park
Clopper Lake, Blue Jay Pavilion
Gaithersburg, MD
Google Map

From I-270, Gaithersburg, MD, take Exit 10 west on Rt 117/Diamond Ave. which becomes Clopper Rd. Go west about 2 miles and turn left into the park entrance. Proceed straight passing the first intersection and a parking area. If the event is being held during a time of year when it's collected, pay $3/pp or $5/pp (MD state, vs out-of-state) at the entrance gate, then bear right at the next intersection. You may see the lake on your left. After about 0.5 mile, just before the road crosses the dam, turn right onto the small road heading to the Blue Jay and Nut Hatch Pavilions. Both pavilions are in the woods south of their shared parking lot; Blue Jay is to the west. Please carpool if possible. If the lot is full, you may park on the NW shoulder of the road leading to the parking lot.
Course DetailsClassic
Course NameLength (km)Climb (m)No. Controls
White 2.1408
Yellow 3.18011
Orange 5.211513
Beige 3.3859
Brown 4.712011
Green 6.118514
Red 7.318518
Blue 8.826022
Course NotesClassic

When I course set, I start out as I expect most do: drawing courses on paper (computer). Then I go out to the woods to check the locations I’ve checked. I want to see if the woods have changed significantly since the map was printed; whether there are new features nearby; whether the area is harder or easier than it looks on paper, and so on. Unfortunately, like so many of our parks, Seneca Creek has seen an invasion of invasives (mostly Japanese stiltgrass and wavy-leaf basketgrass), which have taken over many of the previous “white” areas. While many of these patches are low and easy enough to run through, they do cover up logs and rocks, making it a little tricky. And some areas have knee and even waist-high growth! There’s also more greenery in general this time of year, and I suspect it’s worse than it was before it was mapped. So, I adjusted virtually all the courses to take this vegetation into account, eliminating areas that are really awful. That said, you’ll still find some thick areas and plenty of invasive ground cover (I highly recommend gaiters for anyone doing Orange or an advanced course). There are patches of still very pleasant woods, but it’s almost impossible to know where they are. When you get to some open woods, take advantage of them and enjoy them!

Seneca Creek State Park also features some very pleasant non-wooded areas. There’s a large lake, and many trails, roads, and parking areas. There are also multiple picnic areas, including a large one near the lake that includes a playground and marina. I have perhaps sacrificed technical difficulty on some courses in order to make them more pleasant. This has resulted in more trail/road/grass running than I usually include, which will not only make the courses a little faster for the distance, but also more fun (if fun is based on not fighting through thorns and thick woods). This could be a good time to move up to a harder course, as the technical difficulty is lower overall than normal. Hey, advanced runners will still have some harder control sites! While there are a lot of short legs—some courses are almost control-picking—choosing a good route may save time and/or your skin. If you opt to run along a road—often a viable route choice—please use caution!

The park will likely be crowded with park-goers enjoying the lake, the trails, and the picnic areas. Please be courteous and watch out for kids and people doing unexpected things in front of you. All courses cross the main road at least twice; please watch for cars before crossing. The longer courses have several road crossings. All but White and Yellow have controls in busy picnic areas, so watch where you’re running!

The map is about ten years old and could use a full revision. I did ask the mapper (whom I conveniently live with) to update a few areas that I wanted to use but were no longer correct. So there are a few areas that are up-to-date. Most of the map, however, has not been updated. There are several newer and bigger rootstocks that are missing; the mapped rootstocks (with a few exceptions) tend to be smaller. I would avoid navigating by rootstocks. Most point features are on the small side; ditches tend to be shallow. There are a few areas with larger boulders and cliffs. There is a big field (the Peony Field) that is crisscrossed with mowed pathways, and the four longest courses have a control or two in the field, for something a little different.

As mentioned above, Brown through Blue all have controls in or near the disc golf course. Unless it is pouring rain, expect to see disc golfers in this area, and watch out for them. I found the golf course to be inconsistently mapped but quite usable. It’s a fun place to run, if you don’t get hit by a disc or incur the ire of a golfer.

There is a newer trail that loops around a ridge in the south of the map; I have added it very roughly to the map. This affects only the Blue course. The Blue course runners may also find that cutting through nearby neighborhoods is advantageous, but one such cut-through would result in going through private land so I’ve marked the trail there with a purple X (and set the course so that it isn’t the best route).

The finish for all courses goes right by the Nuthatch pavilion. If it is occupied, please do not run through it, and go well clear of anyone using the pavilion.


Course specifics. There is one Start and Finish for all the courses; the Start is a short walk down the road. Map scale is 1:7500 for White, Yellow, Beige, and Brown, and 1:10,000 for the other courses; all have 5m contours.
On the White and Yellow courses, you will start on the road you drove in on. Please use caution before crossing. On the Orange course, you will have controls in the big picnic area and the Peony Field. Orange circumnavigates the lake.
On the Beige course, you will have controls in the big picnic area.
On the Brown course, you will go through the Disc Golf course and have controls in the big picnic area.
On the Green, Red, and Blue courses, you will have controls in the big picnic area, the Peony Field, and through the Disc Golf course. The Blue course circumnavigates the lake.

Entry FeesIndividual Entries

Note: juniors = under 21

Club Member, adult Club Member, junior Non-Member, adult Non-Member, junior
$10 $5 $20 $5

Group Entries

Participants are welcome to orienteer together as a group (up to the maximum for that event; usually 4). Each member of a group is charged their individual rate as shown above, up to a group total of $30 (maximum), and each receives a map. A group receives one epunch. Individuals or groups desiring to compete on a second course after completing their first can do so for a reduced fee of $2/map subject to approval at the event by the Event Director.

Important Notes
  • If you wish to become a QOC member you should join online in advance via this webpage (which also explains the member benefits). Membership is completely optional.
  • Most of our events use an 'epunch' timing chip for electronic timing. Individuals or groups without their own epunch will be loaned one for that event. Loaned epunches that are lost incur a $40 replacement fee. Epunches (also known as SI-cards or finger sticks) can be purchased from online vendors as described here.
  • Former QOC members who have let their membership lapse pay non-member fees.
  • Compasses are available at no charge, but if lost incur a $15 replacement fee.
  • Please provide collateral (such as car keys) when borrowing a compass or epunch.
  • In addition to free on-site beginner instruction if needed, beginners are encouraged to watch relevant videos such as this one created by QOC's instructional guru David Onkst