At a Glance
- Leight Park grounds open daily dawn to dusk (gates close at dusk).
- Estuary Center Building open to the public Monday thru Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday, 12 noon to 5 pm.
Cost: Free to visit the grounds; specific programs have fees, however.
Tips: Restrooms are located near the Estuary Center Building at Leight Park. No restrooms at the Bosely Conservancy. ■ Bring scope for viewing the marsh and open waters of Otter Creek. ■ The Bosely Conservancy allows hunting; be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly.
Best Seasons: Spring and late summer.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Edgewood CE
Local MOS Chapter: Harford Bird Club
Anita C. Leight Estuary Center – Otter Point Creek
700 Otter Point Road, Abingdon MD 21009
2601 Perry Ave, Edgewood, MD 21040
Located in the Bush River watershed on the coastal plain in northern Harford County, the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center is the research and education facility of the Otter Point Creek component of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maryland. The Estuary Center is dedicated to increasing appreciation and understanding of estuaries. Long-term studies provide insights into bay ecology and management. Education based on this research fosters public support of these vital estuarine ecosystems. The Estuary Center and surrounding park are open to the public and offer many opportunities to explore and learn about the Chesapeake Bay.
The Estuary Center is located on one of the few remaining large freshwater tidal marshes in the upper Bay. In the marsh, a large stand of wild rice attracts and feeds numerous marsh-dwelling birds, such as King Rail, as well as a variety of waterfowl. Least Tern hunts the marsh in the warm months. The rare Maryland bur-marigold attracts butterflies and other pollinators. American beavers, common muskrats, American minks, and northern river otters can be found in these marshes, as well as aquatic turtles.
Two land areas, Leight Park and the Melvin G. Bosely Conservancy, are contained within the Estuary Center. Leight Park consists of 93 mostly forested acres owned by the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation, while the Bosely Conservancy has 350 acres of tidal marsh and wooded wetlands owned by the Izaak Walton League of America – Harford County Chapter. Leight Park and the Bosely Conservancy are open to the public and offer opportunities to explore and learn about birdlife of the Chesapeake Bay. These two land areas are on opposite sides of the 261 acres of shallow open water in Otter Creek, a tributary of the Bush River. Also nearby along US Route 40 is the tiny roadside Bush River Park, with a parking area and picnic tables overlooking the marsh and water of Otter Creek. Bush River Park adjoins Leight Park’s Pontoon Boat Pier off of Route 40.
Both Leight Park and the Bosely Conservancy offer foot trails through deciduous woods and through or near the marshes. A boardwalk behind the estuary center building leads to an overlook at the marsh. See the trail maps at link at the left. A detailed guide to Leight Park’s Tree Trail, with notes on plants along the trail, is available as a free download, or a paper copy can be borrowed from the Estuary Center. In addition, visitors to Leight Park can access the waters of Otter Point Creek by canoe or kayak, following the Center’s water trails.
Programs at Anita C. Leight Estuary Center are offered through partnerships involving Harford County Parks and Recreation, the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve – Maryland (CBNERR-MD), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Izaak Walton League of America, and the Otter Point Creek Alliance; there are programs for school classes and home schoolers and public programs such as canoeing, kayaking, hiking, pontoon boat trips, crafts, education, and research.
Over 145 species have been reported on eBird from Anita Leight Estuary Center (http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L501716). There is a separate eBird hotspot for the Bosely Conservancy (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L453344), also with 145+ species reported, and yet another eBird hotspot for Bush River Park (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L960205), with 100+ species reported.
Visit in the early morning to listen for Barred Owls from the parking lot at Leight Park. Check the boardwalk behind the Estuary Center for a view out over the marsh and to listen for rails. Walk the trails to find breeding forest birds, including Scarlet Tanager, Great-crested Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, and Prothonotary Warbler. Least and Caspian Terns are frequent in the summer and Common, Black, and Forester’s Terns can be seen during migration. Osprey, herons and egrets are common in summer, and Bald Eagles can be seen year-round.
Other year-round residents include Canada Goose, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Black and Turkey Vultures, Red-shouldered Hawk, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American and Fish Crows, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, and American Goldfinch.
Birds that may be present in the warm months include Wood Duck, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Least Tern, Forster’s Tern, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Indigo Bunting, both orioles, and a variety of flycatchers, vireos, swallows, and warblers.
Birds found in migration include Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Double-crested Cormorant, Wilson’s Snipe, Least, Semipalmated, Spotted, and Solitary Sandpipers, both yellowlegs, Rusty Blackbird, and a variety of vireos, thrushes, and warblers.
The Anita Leight Estuary Center is one of three Maryland locations for the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (https://coast.noaa.gov/nerrs/reserves/chesapeake-bay-md.html); the other two are Jug Bay (Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County) and Monie Bay (Somerset County). The State of Maryland has designated the lands and waters here as the Otter Creek Natural Area (http://dnr2.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/NaturalAreas/Central/Otter-Point-Creek.aspx), which overlaps the Estuarine Reserve. Anita Leight Estuary Center is a certified Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) Green Center.
The Estuary Centeer has marked water trails for kayaking and canoeing and provides a public launch site. The Estuary Center’s website has a “Flora and Fauna” page with lists of plants and animals found at Otter Point Creek, including a downloadable master list of all species. Noteworthy is an illustrated guide to Common Flowering Marsh Plants of Otter Creek. The marsh plant guide is useful for other marshy sites throughout MD and DC. There are numerous volunteer opportunities in the Estuary Center’s education programs, research programs, and general running of the center; see http://www.otterpointcreek.org/volunteer/. See Anita Leight Estuary Center’s program and event schedule at http://www.otterpointcreek.org/visitor-information/programs-and-events/. The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Harford Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
In designated lots at Leight Park or at the Bosley Conservancy. Also roadside parking on the south side of US Route 40 just west of Otter Point Road.
To the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center/Leight Park from I-95: Take Exit 77A for MD Route 24 South toward Edgewood. Turn left onto the access road for US Route 40, and turn left at the T onto US Route 40 East. Proceed east 1.5 miles. Turn right (south) at the stop light onto Otter Point Road. Proceed 1/2 mile, then turn right into the driveway at the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center entrance sign at 700 Otter Point Road.
To the Bosely Conservancy from I-95: Take Exit 77A for MD Route 24 South toward Edgewood. Go 1.5 miles and turn left (south) onto Edgewood Road/MD Route 755. Go 1/2 mile and turn left (northeast) onto Hanson Road. Follow Hanson Road until it dead ends at Perry Avenue. Turn left (north) onto Perry Avenue and the parking lot is on the left. The street address is 2601 Perry Avenue, Edgewood, MD.
Harford County: ■ Conowingo Dam / Fisherman’s Park (Harford County Side) ■ Harford Glen Environmental Education Center ■ Havre De Grace Marina | Tydings Memorial Park ■ Perryman Park & Forest Greens Park Area (Perryman Peninsula) ■ Rocks State Park ■ Susquehanna State Park ■ Swan Harbor Farm & Tydings Park (Oakington)
Features:BeginnersBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeGift Shop or BookstoreHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerParkingRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Chesapeake Bay Western ShoreCounty ParksMAEOE Green CenterNature CentersPrivate Sanctuaries and PreservesState Natural Areas & WildlandsThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails