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.
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.
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