Two hours from Washington, D.C., Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a gem for wildlife photographers and people just looking to escape city life!
Home to one of the largest breeding populations of Bald Eagles on the East Coast, Blackwater sits on the Atlantic Flyway and serves as an important resting and feeding area for migrating birds. It is a mix of habitats that includes open water, marsh, and woodlands. This supports diverse wildlife that changes with the seasons. In all, Blackwater is home to over 85 bird species. No two trips to Blackwater are the same!
We’ve visited Blackwater a couple of times now and like turning it into an overnight trip since getting to its somewhat remote location outside of Cambridge, Maryland, is a bit of a trek. However, on our last visit, we got up at 3:30 AM to be in Blackwater for sunrise. So, making Blackwater a day trip is possible, even if you don’t get up way before the sun 🙂
During our visits, we’ve seen everything from Great Blue Herons, Egrets, and Sika Deer, to Ospreys, nesting Bald Eagles, and eaglets. Some of our favorite memories at Blackwater are when we watched a Bald Eagle miscalculate catching a fish. It landed in the water and couldn’t get out. It managed to swim to shore, but it was one of those scenarios where we had to let nature be nature. All we could do was watch it struggle. It was tense to watch. Another cool site to see was a Bald Eagle swoop into a nest with a fish in its talons, ready to feed the waiting eaglets.
The visitor center at Blackwater has a couple of exhibits, a resource library for bird and nature enthusiasts, offers a fantastic view of the refuge from its observation deck, and is wheelchair-accessible.
Blackwater has a beautiful 5-mile paved wildlife drive that takes you through a part of the refuge. There’s a $3.00 charge for vehicles, but if you have an Access Pass, it’s free. Visitors can drive, bike, or walk this very scenic route. There are also four trails ranging from the paved, wheelchair-accessible 1/3 mile March Edge Trail to the 2.5 mile Key Wallace Trail. Much of Blackwater is untouched and is off-limits to visitors, but there is still plenty to see and do.
Tips for Visiting Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
- Get there early! Animals are most active at dawn and dusk, so you’ll see the most activity around those times.
- Bring your food. The visitor center doesn’t open until 10 AM, and even then, there aren’t any concessions. Blackwater IS the perfect place fo a picnic, and the refuge itself is open from dawn till dusk. Just pack some food and you’ll be good to go.
- Put on bug spray and a lot of it. Being a wetland, summer brings out the mosquitoes.
- Take the time to drive the perimeter of Blackwater. While the main attraction is the wildlife drive and trails, they only cover a small section of the refuge. Driving around the entire refuge offers additional opportunities to see wildlife, and stunning scenery!
The next time you visit the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we recommend visiting Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge! You won’t be disappointed!
Until next time!
Maggie & Abe