Monday, July 20, 2020

Travel: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge - Wildlife Drive

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. We spent our time on the Wildlife Drive. Despite the heatwave and oppressive humidity, it was a wonderful experience. I am writing this review because I highly recommend this destination for birdwatchers, wildlife lovers, bicyclists, hikers, photographers, travelers, and anyone who appreciates being immersed in nature.





Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, Maryland


Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is located in south eastern Maryland - the region commonly known as the eastern shore. The refuge is over 30,000 acres of tidal marsh, forests (hardwood and loblolly), managed freshwater wetlands, and croplands.  It was established in 1933 as a refuge for migratory birds.





The Wildlife Drive


With 30,000 acres of refuge, Wildlife Drive was a manageable chunk of area for a brief visit. We paid our nominal fee and entered that portion of the refuge. 




The drive includes a paved road (approximately 4 miles in length) with a few branches of unpaved - but wide - walking trails. Due to the heat and our limited time, we remained on the roadway.  

Our first stop was the observation deck and viewing area. Had we more time, I could have remained in that area for hours.  A raised wooden walkway and deck were positioned in the middle of the marsh. Two benches were available as were two free/permanent binoculars.






We observed fish swimming in the clear sections, a large number of Red-winged Blackbirds and dragonflies, and in the distance we easily spotted what appeared to be a Bald Eagle nest and two eagles perched in nearby trees.

As we left that area, I spotted what I believe to be a Green Heron in a tree (I am a beginning bird-watcher so please do not use my guesses of species as factual). I was so excited! I believe this is only the second time I've spotted a Green Heron since I've begun to list birds I've spotted.




In the distance, I saw a little marsh "Shack". Of course I was intrigued. If you know me, you know that I have my very own Shack.  This shack turned out to be a permanent viewing blind!






Along the road, we pulled over at various spots to observe turtles, ducks, Great Blue Herons, Osprey nests, and a Great White Egret (again, I'm only sure of the identification of the Great Blue Heron and Osprey).










Wildlife and Marsh Seasons


The pamphlets that were available at the entry gate included quite a bit of helpful information. Including a general "Wildlife Calendar".  From January to December, the refuge is a living and changing community of wildlife.  As we there in July, the time frame (depending on weather) generally includes swallows, kingbirds, and flycatchers feasting on the huge amounts of insects. Hibiscus begins to bloom near the end of the month and the Osprey babies begin to leave the nests. We were fortunate to find that the Ospreys were easy to spot on their nesting platforms.





If you are a bird watcher, you may want to refer to the migration information to increase your chances of seeing the species you'd like to see. For example, I believe we saw Teal. Whether they are "blue-winged" or "green-winged" I'm not sure. I'm not even fully confident they are Teal. But Teal is listed as a species that is traveling through the area during this time on their migration from North to South. 

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is definitely worth a visit for any outdoors person or birder. And the Wildlife Drive is a scenic and comfortable front seat for Mother Nature's show.






Related Links:

Eastern shore, Maryland has many great places to visit and things to see. Assateague Island (home of wild ponies) is my favorite place in that region. For more travel information check out VisitMaryland.org.

I recently read Chesapeake by James Michener. During my entire time at Blackwater National Refuge I thought of the people depicted in that historical fiction. From the Native American peoples, to the slaves and the slave owners, to the pirates, and those who worked hard to survive in the marshes of the Eastern Shore... they were all on my mind as I wandered the refuge. Read my review of that epic novel here.

Harriet Tubman lived in this area. I have seen the home that she was born in (from a distance and during a tropical storm). I have also visited the Harriet Tubman underground railroad state park. For more information about additional Harriet Tubman sites in the Dorchester County (Cambridge, MD) area, click here



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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10 comments:

  1. I would surely enjoy a drive through this wildlife refuge. That slider turtle made me laugh with her back legs all stretched out like that. She seems to be really getting into the sunbathing. What a great day you had. Thanks for letting us all enjoy this virtual tour. I have been missing my nature moments lately. Time for me to head out to my wildlife refuge.

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    1. I sure hope you are able to head out into the wilderness soon. (that turtle made me laugh too! Her front legs were stretched out also, soaking in the sun, until she noticed me)

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  2. The Eastern shore has always fascinated me, although I am not very familiar with it. We did drive up the Delmarva Peninsula on one trip, driving under the Chesapeake Bay at Norfolk and alongside it going from Delaware into Maryland. Have always wanted to further investigate the Chesapeake Bay area and this Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge looks to be a wonderful beginning to any future trips.

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    1. Ms. Elf, I hope you are able to spend some time exploring around the Bay region at some point. It has so many great natural things to experience.

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  3. How exciting to spot and photograph the birds and that fantastic turtle! I wish I had been with you guys. This is definitely my kind of place. Like you, I could easily spend hours there. Your photo of the heron is awesome. What a beauty! I love to see the way God "paints" wildlife and that is the perfect shot to see his markings. I would love to visit the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Very cool indeed.

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    1. Ms Mouse, I wish you had been along also. I have been so stressed for awhile and this was such a healing, enjoyable day. God's paintings for sure!

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  4. Love seeing the mini me shack twin :) - what a fantastic way to spend the day amongst nature and wildlife!

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  5. Looks like I need to make a trip to Maryland and this amazing wildlife park. I love bird watching but like you and never quite sure of which species I am seeing, so my bird book would have to come along. Once all this pandemic is over, I sense some long road trips for sure. Thanks Dawn Rae for pointing me in this direction.

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  6. Looks like a glorious outing! Spending time surrounded by natural beauty and wildlife sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Thanks so much for sharing it with the rest of us! You've made me want to visit Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge at some point.

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  7. I would love to visit Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. It looks so peaceful, calming. Your photos are lovely too - love that Marsh Shack, so cute - that would intrigue me as well. To drive through this refuge would be so much fun.

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