At a Glance
- Battle Creek Cypress Swamp: Currently closed due to fire – see note on this page. Normal hours: Memorial Day through Labor Day: Monday-Friday: 9 am-4:30 pm; Saturday: 10 am-6 pm; Sunday: 1 pm-6 pm. ■ Labor Day through Memorial Day: Monday-Friday: 9 am-4:30 pm; Saturday: 10 am-4:30 pm; Sunday: 1 pm-4:30 pm. ■ Closed most County holidays.
- Gatewood Preserve: Dawn to dusk, daily.
- Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm: Dawn to dusk, daily.
Cost: Free for all three properties.
Tips: The boardwalk at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp can be slippery. ■ Public hunting is conducted on a portion of the property. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ■ Pets are NOT permitted at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, not even on a leash. ■ Restrooms are located at the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Nature Center. There are also portable restrooms just inside the main gate at Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm (go down the hill on the gravel road); near the house and barns at Gatewood Preserve, and at the Grays Road Dog Park. The portable restrooms at Gatewood Preserve and at Biscoe Gray Farm might be unavailable in winter..
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring, and early summer.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Broomes Island NW
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary / Gatewood Preserve / Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm
2880, 2800, & 2695 Grays Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678
NOTE: As of November 6, 2022, the trails and Nature Center at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp are closed because of a fire in the Nature Center. Also the phones at the facility are not working. Please check the Battle Creek website for updates. Information about the fire can be found in a Baynet article.
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, the Gatewood Preserve, and Biscoe-Gray Heritage Farm are a trio of county parks located side-by-side in southwest Calvert County. Altogether, the three parks protect over 360 acres on the east bank of Battle Creek, a tributary of the Patuxent River. The creek in this area is surrounded by a noteworthy swamp of Bald Cypress trees and an open tidal marsh filled with cattails.
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1957 as its first sanctuary in Maryland. Battle Creek is now operated by Calvert County Parks and Recreation Department. The Sanctuary is approximately 118 acres in size and was established to protect one of the northernmost Bald Cypress swamps in the US. A quarter-mile elevated boardwalk trail leads directly through the swamp and an additional quarter-mile arboretum trail leads through a fallow field of approximately 20 acres. The gardens surrounding the Nature Center and parking lot are productive for spring migrants. The Nature Center at the Sanctuary offers interpretive programs and live animal exhibits.
In 2018, the County acquired the 48-acre Gatewood Preserve, which lies between Battle Creek Cypress Swamp and the Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm. The Gatewood Preserve property was formerly a private residence and includes a house and barns. The majority of the property is open field and pasture that is being restored to grassland and meadow habitats.Interpretive signage regarding pollinator habitat has been added along the edges of the large field visible from the parking area. There is a breathtaking view of Battle Creek from the back of the house; walk down the wooden steps behind the house to access to the marsh via an old pier. You can reach the Battle Creek marsh with just a short ½-mile walk from the parking area via the gravel driveway, then go around the house, perhaps pausing on the deck to enjoy the view. The County’s vision for Gatewood Preserve is to focus on passive recreation such as birding, hiking, nature study, fishing, and paddling. Future improvements may include a floating kayak launch and/or a dedicated fishing pier and a boardwalk. The former residence may eventually be converted to a nature center that would support the county’s outdoor education programs. There are no marked trails or trail map as yet, but eventually there will be a trail system interconnecting with the trails at Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm and Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary.
Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm is an adjoining property acquired by the County in 2002. The development of Biscoe Gray as a park is ongoing; the master plan provides that it will be a showcase for Calvert County’s agricultural heritage and a model for effective stewardship of land and water resources. The property consists of rolling fields surrounded by second-growth hardwood forest that is relatively free of invasive plants. There are traces of a road (the rolling road, or Money Crop Trail) dating back to colonial times that extends from Gray’s Road all the way to Battle Creek, where a 19th century house is located. The farm also includes an early 20th century farm house and many barns and outbuildings. A hiking trail network extends through the property; see trail map at link at left. [Note: on the trail map, the property to the west of Biscoe Gray that is marked as Private Property is now in fact the Gatewood Preserve.] For the birder, the primary attractions at Biscoe Gray are the access to the water and swamps of Battle Creek and the field and forest habitats. Across the road from the Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm is the Gray’s Road Dog Park, consisting of open fenced fields surrounded by woods. One can bird the woods edge outside the fenced area at the Dog Park, or make use of the portable restroom if the one at Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm is unavailable.
On the north side of Gray’s Road, directly across from the parking area of Gatewood Preserve, is a 25-acre wooded parcel that was given to the Battle Creek Nature Education Society in 2010 by our own Chandler S. Robbins. Recognizing the value of the habitat for Forest Interior Dwelling Birds, Chan and Eleanor Robbins purchased the property from the Gray family in 1970 in order to preserve it. There are no trails in this wooded tract, but you can stand in the parking lot at Gatewood Preserve and hear the birds singing, including such goodies as Worm-eating Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler. Remember to send a spiritual thank-you to Chan and Eleanor when you hear these birds.
Over 144 species have been reported on eBird from Battle Creek Cypress Swamp. The preserve is well known for its breeding population of Prothonotary Warblers, which are relatively easy to see from the boardwalk that winds through the swamp. Many Maryland birders have scored their life bird Prothonotary here. Other nesting warblers include Northern Parula, Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, Kentucky, Yellow-throated, and Pine. There are also breeding Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos. This is a great place to spot both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers. Significant winter species include Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Swamp Sparrow, and Purple Finch.
A relatively new eBird hotspot at Gatewood Preserve lists 93 species to date (spring 2022). Another fairly new hotspot at Biscoe Gray lists 116 species. With additional visitation by birders, the birdlife at Gatewood and Biscoe Gray will probably prove to be similar to that at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, with perhaps some additional representation of field and edge species.
The trails at the three properties are not wheelchair accessible.
Pets are NOT permitted at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, not even on leash. Please let your pet at home.
Pets are permitted on leash at Biscoe Gray and Gatewood Preserve; pick up after your pet.
- Battle Creek Cypress Swamp was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1957 and is operated as a partnership between Calvert County Natural Resources Division and The Nature Conservancy. For more information on the sensitive habitats present at this site, see https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/battle-creek-cypress-swamp/.
- The State of Maryland has designated Battle Creek Cypress Swamp as one of its thirty-plus State Natural Areas, a coordinated statewide system that recognizes and seeks to conserve the best remaining examples of Maryland’s native landscapes for future generations. See DNR’s description of Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Natural Area and a boundary map.
- The Battle Creek Cypress Sanctuary is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service.
A 1956 article on Battle Creek Cypress Swamp published in the Maryland Conservationist makes interesting reading. Brent Steury completed a detailed fleuristics survey of Battle Creek Cypress Swamp; his detailed report can be downloaded from https://calvertparks.org/resources/Documents/BattleCreek/Cypress%20Swamp%20Floristics%20Study.pdf.
The Nature Center at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp offers a number of programs that focus on the natural and cultural heritage of the area. See the calendar. It may be possible to schedule Ranger-led programs for your group at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, but requests must be submitted in advance. Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm has proven to be a rich archaeological site, with evidence not only of the colonial area farmers, but also dating back to prehistoric Native American settlements.
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.
The Nature Conservancy has an audio tour of Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, narrated by park naturalist Andy Brown; download the audio tour here.
Paved parking near Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Nature Center. Gravel parking area at the main entrance at Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm. Do not park at Biscoe Gray’s equestrian entrance a short distance to the west. At Gatewood Preserve, park in the gravel lot outside the main gate and walk in. Do not drive past the gate even if it is open; you may get locked in.
From the Washington DC Beltway/I-495: Take MD Route 4 South into Calvert County. Continue south of Prince Frederick. Continuing on Route 4 south of Prince Frederick, turn right (west) onto MD Route 506/Sixes Road. In 1.9 miles, look for the Battle Creek sign and turn left (south) onto Gray’s Road. The Battle Creek Cypress Sanctuary will be on your right in approximately one-quarter mile. Gatewood Preserve is the next property on the right side of Grays’s Road, immediately south of Battle Creek Cypress Swamp at #2800 (look for 2800 on a dark green mailbox at the entrance). Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm is the third property on the right side of Gray’s Road as you head south; continue past the equestrian parking to the main entrance just 100 yards further..
From the Baltimore Beltway/I-695: Take I-97 south to US Route 301 South. Follow Route 301 South to Upper Marlboro and take the exit for MD Route 4 South. Then follow the directions as above.
Calvert County: American Chestnut Land Trust – Parkers Creek Preserve ■ Calvert Cliffs State Park ■ Chesapeake Beach ■ Flag Ponds Nature Park ■ Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum ■ Kings Landing Park & Huntingtown Natural Resources Management Area ■ North Beach ■ Solomons Island ■ Ward Farm Recreation & Nature Park
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsHay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainRivers & Streams
Features:BeginnersBoardwalkFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHorseback RidingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsParkingPicnic AreaRestroomsWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Chesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkGardens & ArboretaHistorical SitesNature CentersState Natural Areas & Wildlands