Take Rt.50 south from Easton or north from Salisbury to Cambridge. At the traffic light just past the Dorchester Square Shopping Center (Center includes Walmart and Food City) you will see a brown sign directing you to the wildlife refuge. Turn right at this light onto Route 16 West (Church Creek Road). Follow Route 16 straight through a traffic light at Snow's Turn, until you pass the South Dorchester High School. At the blinker light, turn left onto Egypt Road just past the school buildings (first road past the traffic light). There is a small store with the letters D.D.U.S.T. across from Egypt Road.
Follow Egypt road for approximately 7 miles and it will dead end at Key Wallace Drive. You will see a brown Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge sign directing you to turn left onto Key Wallace Drive to go to the Wildlife Drive, or turn right onto Key Wallace Drive to get to the Refuge Office and to the Visitor Center. After turning right onto Key Wallace, the Refuge Office (headquarters) will be the first building on the left, and the Visitor Center will be the second building on your left about 2 miles.
Take a bike ride on the wild side for an outdoor adventure featuring spectacular wildlife viewing on Maryland Eastern Shore Chesapeake Bay region. Blackwater’s 23,000 acres of tidal marshlands, freshwater ponds, loblolly pine/hardwood forest and croplands make up one of the largest conservation areas in Maryland. The variety of habitat, extensive marsh system and it's location along the eastern flyway make it prime habitat for both nesting and migrating birds. Over 250 species of birds including 20 different ducks, northern loons, ospreys, great-crested cormorants, snowy egrets, great blue herons, ibis, geese and peregrine falcons can be found here. The Refuge contains the highest density of nesting bald eagles in the east.
Mammals that can be seen here include raccoons, opossums, otters, skunks, white-tailed deer, sika deer, red fox and the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel. Among the 35 species of reptiles and amphibians are salamanders, frogs, toads, newts, skinks, lizards, snakes and turtles.
Make The Visitor Center your first stop. It offers nature exhibits, films, programs and the Eagle’s Nest Book & Gift Shop. The center also features large viewing windows overlooking the Refuge with spotting scopes available for visitors to use. Behind the building, relax in the peaceful Butterfly & Beneficial Insect Garden. Although Blackwater is a four season destination, biting insects invade the Refuge from mid-April through late September. Don’t forget the insect repellent during the warmer months! The marshes are alive with the calls of mating tree frogs, toads and songbirds in the spring.
The paved Blackwater National Refuge Wildlife Drive is open from dawn to dusk for cars, bicycles and walkers. All users must remain on the paved road, obey all signs and refrain from feeding or harassing the wildlife. A written trail guide that is keyed to observation points along the drive is available at the Visitor Center or online at the Refuge website.
There are several options for both beginners and experienced cyclists. You can choose a 3 or 6 mile loop ride on the Wildlife Drive that travels past scenic marshes, forests and fields. Observation blinds along the way allow you a close up view. Spotting a bald eagle from the Drive may be the one of the highlights of your ride.
For a longer bike ride you may want to take a 20 or 25 mile route that travels along quiet county roads through the same Refuge habitat. The 20 mile route uses Key Wallace Drive, Maple Dam Road, MD 16 and MD 335 to form a loop between the Refuge and Cambridge. The 25 mile southern loop connects Key Wallace Drive with MD 335, MD 336, Andrews Road and Shorters Wharf Road. The rides are flat and auto traffic light, especially on the southern loop.
Besides the Visitors Center and the Wildlife Drive, Blackwater Refuge offers four hiking trails and three designated paddling trails for canoeing and kayaking. A map is essential for paddling and can be purchased at the Visitor Center or online.
Park your bike and explore on foot.
Marsh Edge Trail: (1/3 mile) provides views of the marsh and Blackwater River.
Woods Trail: (1/2 mile) winds through prime Delmarva fox squirrel habitat.
Two new hiking trails with informational kiosks and interpretive signs were opened to the public in 2006.
The Key Wallace Hiking Trail and Demonstration Forest: (2.7 miles). Trailhead at the intersection of Key Wallace Drive and Egypt Road, near the entrance to the Wildlife Drive. Provides visitors with a chance to observe forest management techniques, as well as wildlife and birds. The trail is divided into two sections marked as yellow and blue. The yellow section is 1.4 miles long and the blue section is 1.3 miles long. During hunting season, one or both sections of the trail may be closed for safety reasons.
The Tubman Road Trail: (1.7 miles). Access off Hip Roof Road south of the Visitor Center. Travels on new paths and existing access roads. Takes you through mixed pine and hardwood forests, marshes and reforested fields.
For more information:
National Wildlife Refuge System Website: U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service