Description - Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located 12 miles south of Cambridge, Maryland, was established in 1933 as a refuge for migratory birds. The refuge includes more than 23,000 acres, composed mainly of rich tidal marsh characterized by fluctuating water levels and variable salinity. Other habitat types include freshwater ponds, mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, and small amounts of cropland and managed impoundments that are seasonally flooded for waterfowl use.
Copyright: Patty Elton - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Canadian Geese preen themselves at sunrise
Originally established for duck and gees, Blackwater is one of the chief wintering areas for Canada Geese using the Atlantic Flyway. Geese number approximately 35,000 and ducks exceed 15,000 at the peak of fall migration, usually in November.
Blackwater is also haven for three of the nation's threatened or endangered species. The bald eagle (which has been upgraded from endangered to threatened) and Delmarva fox squirrels are regularly seen on the refuge, as is the migrant peregrine falcon during certain seasons of the year.
Before its designation as a refuge, the marshland along the Blackwater River was managed as a fur farm. Muskrats were the primary species trapped. Most of the woodlands, including the islands, had been timbered. Remains of old drainage ditches and furrows that crisscross in some existing woods indicate past agricultural use.
- While visiting the refuge be sure stop at the visitor center and pick up their leaflet outlining the busy wildlife activity that takes place year-round at Blackwater. The feeding, nesting, and migrating cycles are well documented and provide interesting nature study. The visitor center also hosts exhibits and films available for daily viewing, with an auditorium for special, pre-scheduled programs.
A wildlife drive consists of a 6.5-mile loop or a 3.5-mile all-weather road that winds along fresh water ponds, through woods, past fields, and adjacent to the marshes. Walking and biking on the drive is permitted as well.
Several trails offer a closer look at the healthy habitats. An interpretive trail is perfect for the nature lover with the desire to increase one's knowledge. An accompanying brochure is available at the visitor center. There is also a short wheelchair accessible trail that loops through and along the edge of a marsh. Where land dips low, boardwalks ease the trek. If you love watching wildlife, then you'll enjoy Woods Trail, which travels through pine and mixed hardwood habitat offering sights of the Delmarva fox squirrel. Pets are prohibited from the trails.
Biking is permitted along the entire length of Wildlife Drive. Directions and regulations are available at the visitor center and refuge headquarters.
Boating is another way to experience the beautiful low-lying lands of Blackwater. Boating is permitted April 1 through September 30. Quality of fishing ranges from poor to fair. A boat launch is available. Please note that fishing from shore is prohibited.
A daily permit is required for all visitors to the Wildlife Drive unless they possess an annual pass or lifetime passport. Each vehicle is charged $3. Pedestrians and cyclists are charged $1.00. Commercial vans or busses (up to 20 passengers) $15, and busses holding more than 21 are charged $25.
Recreation - Visitors to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge are offered an array of outdoor activities including auto touring, boating, viewing historic sites, educational programs, fishing, hiking, hunting, and wildlife viewing.
Climate - Maryland has four distinct seasons with spring and fall being particularly pleasant with low humidity and mild temperatures. The average January temperature ranges between 30 and 34 degrees F (-1 to 1 C) with July averages ranging between 74 degrees F and 80 degrees F. Typically, coastal temperatures are slightly warmer then the western Appalachian Plateau area. Travelers should be aware that winters can become miserably cold and summers can be hazy, hot and humid with afternoon thundershowers.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is located approximately 12 miles south of Cambridge, Maryland.