American Chestnut Land Trust – Parkers Creek Preserve
North Side Trailhead – 676 Double Oak Rd., Prince Frederick, MD 20678
PF2Bay Trailhead – 105 Vianney Lane, Prince Frederick, MD 20678
South Side Trailhead – 2650 Scientists Cliff Rd., Port Republic, MD 20676
The American Chestnut Land Trust’s (ACLT) Parkers Creek Preserve is a complex of parcels, accumulated gradually since 1986, originally centered around an iconic American Chestnut tree that survived the great chestnut blight for a century. Now amounting to 3,000 acres on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, it is Calvert County’s largest block of undeveloped land. At Parkers Creek Preserve, ACLT owns 958 acres, manages 1,910 acres owned by the State of Maryland, and holds conservation easements on 374 privately-owned acres. The Preserve is bisected by Parkers Creek, a tidal stream that empties into the Chesapeake Bay, and that is the county’s wildest unspoiled feature. The habitats here are truly impressive and it is hard to believe that most of this land was once farmed for tobacco.
Parkers Creek Preserve will appeal to birders who like to hike. The Preserve has a well-developed network of trails that pass through hardwood forest with scattered patches of pines, skirting field edges and going through bottomland wetlands. American Holly and Mountain Laurel are dominant understory plants. One would think that, given the location on the Coastal Plain, the land would be flat, but one would be wrong. The Preserve is criss-crossed by numerous tributary streams, some of which flow through deep, steep-sided ravines. Consequently, some of the trails at Parkers Creek are surprisingly hilly and challenging. Nonetheless, the trails will transport you to another time, and offer a peaceful respite not far from the busy Route 2/Route 4 highway corridor.
There are three main access points for this large preserve:
1) North Side Trailhead: 676 Double Oak Rd., Prince Frederick, MD 20678. This area also includes the administrative office of ACLT and Double Oak Farm (see Special Features below).
2) PF2Bay Trailhead: 105 Vianney Lane, Prince Frederick, MD 20678. This trailhead shares the parking lot of St. John Vianney Church, and note that PF stands for Prince Frederick: this is the “Prince Frederick to the Bay Trail.” It is an “out-and back” trail, not a loop.
3) South Side Trailhead: 2650 Scientists Cliffs Rd, Port Republic, MD 20676. The trails on the west side of Scientist’s Cliffs Road pass some historical farm buildings dating back to the time when tobacco farming was predominant here.
The trails in each of these three areas are all worth exploring, each offering its own features and habitats. A unique pulley-raft allows hikers to cross Parkers Creek between the North Side and South Side in lieu of a bridge. Be forewarned that the North-South Trail, which is the access for the raft from the South Side, is the longest and most challenging trail in the preserve, with many steep hills. See the link at left for a complete trail map and trail guide for the preserve. Printed maps are available for free at sign-in kiosks at each trailhead.
Over 170 species have been reported on eBird. Parker’s Creek Preserve is known for its rich community of Forest Interior Dwelling species. There are breeding populations of Wild Turkey; Prothonotary, Kentucky, Hooded, and Worm-eating Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-breasted Chat; both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers; Wood Thrush; Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Great Crested Flycatcher; Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireo.
At the creek during migration, it may be possible to find Virginia Rail, Sora, Marsh Wren, Bald Eagle, Willow Flycatcher. At Double Oak Farm at the North Side Trailhead, look for Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Warbler, and swallows flying overhead; sparrows are possible in winter.
In 2005, Parkers Creek became famous in the birding community when the South Side hosted a singing male Swainson’s Warbler, a species that had not been found in Maryland for many years. The bird was present near the Flint Trail from May 21 through June 10 of that year, and was seen, heard, and photographed by many birders. That is the last accepted record of Swainson’s Warbler in Maryland to date.
Parkers Creek Preserve has been designated as the Parkers Creek Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. ◾ A few times a year, ACLT offers canoeing on Parkers Creek and/or access to its Warriors Rest tract, which is normally not open to the public. See the ACLT calendar. ◾ Double Oak Farm, at the North Side Trailhead, grows vegetables using environmentally-friendly and sustainable farming methods and is a demonstration project for these methods. Most of the food is donated to a local food pantry, but some is available for purchase through ACLT’s Farmer’s Markets, held in the summer. ◾ Maryland Master Naturalist training and classes are conducted at Parkers Creek Preserve. ◾ Parkers Creek Preserve is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society in Calvert County, but many birders participate in MOS through the Anne Arundel Bird Club or the Patuxent Bird Club; both of these MOS chapters offer field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. In addition, the Southern MD Audubon Society serves birders in Charles, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Prince George’s Counties.
- For an overview of the landscape at Parkers Creek, watch ACLT’s aerial video footage.
- Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television, Episode 3002 has three segments, including one called “Marshland Mosaic” about the Parkers Creek Preserve, with excellent footage of the tidal marsh and creek. Other segments in this episode are “Of Trout & Trees,” about fly fishing for native Brook Trout in western Maryland, and “Futures in Forestry,” about MD DNR’s Natural Resources Career Camp, which offers high schoolers a chance to learn first-hand about forestry and other outdoor careers.
Free. Gravel parking lots at the North Side and South Side Trailheads. Paved parking lot at St. John Vianney Church for the PF2Bay Trail.
North Side Trailhead: From MD Route 2/4 near Prince Frederick, turn east onto Dares Beach Road. In about 0.3 miles, go 180 degrees through the traffic circle to stay on Dares Beach Road. Continue east for 2.1 miles and turn right (south) onto Double Oak Road. At a private farm on the right, look for a gravel road on the left with a sign for ACLT. Follow this gravel road east to a parking area near the ACLT office, Double Oak Farm, and the North Side Trailhead.
PF2Bay Trailhead: From MD Route 2/4 at Prince Frederick, turn east onto MD Route 231/Church Street and go about 0.1 mile. At the T-intersection with MD Route 765/Main Street, turn right (south) and go about a block and a half to St.John Vianney Church on the left. Turn left immediately after the church building and drive past the church to a parking area at the rear. The trailhead is well-marked with a kiosk near the edge of the woods on the right as you enter the parking area.
South Side Trailhead: From MD Route 2/4 south of Prince Frederick, turn north onto Parkers Creek Road and then in 0.5 miles, turn right (east) onto Scientists Cliffs Road. The parking area and trailhead is on the left in about 1.0 mile, opposite the intersection with Aspen Road on the right. There is an old barn at the parking area.
Calvert County: Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary / Gatewood Preserve / Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, Calvert Cliffs State Park, Chesapeake Beach, Flag Ponds Nature Park, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Kings Landing Park & Huntingtown Natural Resources Management Area, North Beach, Solomons Island
Charles County: Indian Creek Natural Resources Management Area
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Free - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedRestroomsWater ViewYoung People / Families
Audubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkChesapeake Bay Western ShoreHunting AreasPrivate Sanctuaries and PreservesState Natural Areas & Wildlands