Beauvue Ponds and Abell’s Wharf
21620 Abell’s Wharf Road, Leonardtown, Maryland 20650
Beauvue Ponds and Abell’s Wharf are located in southern St. Mary’s County. The public wharf is located on Breton Bay, a tributary of the Potomac River, and the ponds are nearby, on the way to the wharf.
Beauvue Ponds, known locally as Maryland Rock (the name of the former gravel mining company that owned the ponds), are the result of an active gravel extraction operation. The ponds attract migrating and wintering waterfowl and are most productive in late fall through early spring, though they will probably be devoid of waterfowl if frozen. There is no direct access to these ponds; they are viewed from public roadsides. The relevant roads (and shown on the satellite map at link at left), are:
- Abell’s Wharf Road, which runs between ponds to the north and grasslands to the south.
- Breton Beach Road, which runs east-west and then makes a sharp bend to the south; there are two large ponds located in the bend.
- An unnamed gravel road that runs on a diagonal between Abell’s Wharf Road and Breton Beach Road, and then continues south from Breton Beach Road. It passes between the two ponds in the bend of Breton Beach Road and is primarily used by trucks hauling material from the ponds. These ponds, for some reason, seem to be where Common Mergansers, if and when they show up, tend to be found. These ponds can be viewed from the gravel road.
- Camp Maria Road branches off Breton Beach Road and it may be possible, if there is little traffic, to view the twin ponds from the intersection of Camp Maria and Breton Beach Roads.
- On Medley’s Neck Road (MD Route 244), there is a pullout on the west side of the road just north of Breton Beach Road, that gives a good view of two of the ponds.
- Foxes Point Road runs west from Medley’s Neck Road and then turns north, running between several ponds and giving you good views at ground level. Stay in your car at this vantage point because the waterfowl will spook if you get out.
The grasslands near the ponds, in recent years, have hosted Dickcissels, which are uncommon in St. Mary’s County. Grasshopper and Field Sparrows as well as Eastern Meadowlarks are fairly common here. In winter, Short-eared Owls can be found occasionally, as well as Northern Harriers. Willow Flycatchers have been found recently in the willows lining the ponds.
The nearby Abell’s Wharf is located at the northwest end of Abell’s Wharf Road and is a public boat launch site maintained by St. Mary’s County. The wharf provides a view of Breton Bay, which may hold waterfowl in winter and early spring. There is a sand spit off Lover’s Point (the point of land beyond the wharf) that often hosts gulls. The shrubs at the east end of the parking lot at the wharf should be scoured for sparrows and warblers. The gravel road on the left as you crest the hill returning to the ponds and grassland should be checked, in winter, for White-crowned Sparrows.
Over 165 species have been reported on eBird for Beauvue Ponds, and over 110 at Abell’s Wharf. Waterfowl are the main attraction, with 27 species reported. Pie-billed Grebes are common from September through April; Horned Grebes, and more rarely, Red-necked Grebes, appear in early spring.
Northern Bobwhites and Wild Turkeys can sometimes be found in the grasslands or scrubby areas, and Chuck-wills-widows are sometimes heard in the summer.
A smattering of shorebirds may turn up during the warmer months, but they do not generally remain for long. Ospreys (spring through fall) and Bald Eagles(year-round) are abundant. Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, and Red-shouldered Hawks are also present, more commonly seen from September through May.
Swallows are plentiful over the ponds and the bay during spring and summer. Notable breeding birds include Willow Flycatcher, Grasshopper and Field Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlark, and Dickcissel. Horned Larks and American Pipits may show up in the fields, primarily in spring. White-crowned, Savannah, and Swamp Sparrows over-winter in the area.
Abell’s Wharf has a paved parking lot. Otherwise, parking is on roadsides. Be careful parking on the road edges as they may be soft after wet weather.
Since much of the birding at Beauvue Ponds and Abell’s Wharf is from or near the car, this is a great site for those who are mobility-impaired. ◾ Abell’s Wharf has a soft launch for canoes and kayaks and is the southern terminus of the Macintosh Run Water Trail, a 6-mile paddle to St. Mary’s City, with shorter routes possible. The Macintosh Run Trail is just one of a large set of water trails in St. Mary’s County. The water trails are pictured on the interactive map of the MD Public Water Access Atlas. ◾ There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society in St. Mary’s 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.
From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge: Take US Route 50 west to Exit 23 and then take MD Route 2 south for about 25 miles to its junction with MD Route 4. Continue south on the combined MD Route 4/2 for another 37 miles. On the way, you will cross the high bridge over the Patuxent River at the border of St. Mary’s County. From the bridge, continue south on Route 4 to the intersection with MD Route 5, and turn left to go south on Route 5/Point Lookout Road. After just 0.8 miles, turn right to go south on MD Route 244/Medley’s Neck Road. You will arrive at the intersection with Breton Beach Road, on the right in just 2.0 miles. Turn right and start your tour of the pond area here. See below for more details on navigating in the area.
From the Baltimore area: Use I-97 southbound and take Exit 7 for MD Route 3 southbound. In 9.7 miles, Route 3/Crain Highway will pass under US Route 50 and at that point, the route number changes to US Route 301 (still Crain Highway). Continue south on Route 301 for another 9.9 miles to Upper Marlboro. At Upper Marlboro, follow sighs to a ramp on the right for MD Route 4 south. Continue south on MD Route 4 for 14.7 miles, to the junction with MD Route 2. Continue south on the combined MD Route 4/2 for another 37 miles. On the way, you will cross the high bridge over the Patuxent River at the border of St. Mary’s County. From the bridge, continue south on Route 4 to the intersection with MD Route 5, and turn left to go south on Route 5/Point Lookout Road. After just 0.8 miles, turn right to go south on MD Route 244/Medley’s Neck Road. You will arrive at the intersection with Breton Beach Road, on the right, in just 2.0 miles. Turn right and start your tour of the pond area here. See below for more details on navigating in the area.
From the Washington, DC area: From the DC Beltway, take Exit 7 for MD Route 5 south toward Waldorf, MD. Stay on Route 5 for 10 miles to Brandywine, MD, where Route 5 joins US Route 301. Continue south on the combined Routes 301/5 for another 2.3 miles. Turn left to continue on MD Route 5, which splits from US Route 301 to go southeast as Mattawoman-Beantown Road. Stay on MD Route 5 south for another 3.2 miles. Make a sharp left turn to continue on MD Route 5, now Leonardtown Road. In 18.0 miles, turn right to follow MD Route 5 south on Point Lookout Road. In 13.9 miles, turn right to go south on MD Route 244/Medley’s Neck Road. You will arrive at the intersection with Breton Beach Road, on the right, in just 2.0 miles. Turn right and start your tour of the pond area here. See below for more details on navigating in the area.
- To reach Abell’s Wharf from Medley’s Neck Road: Turn right (west) onto Breton Beach Road. In 0.4 miles, turn right again onto Abell’s Wharf Road and proceed to the wharf at the end of the road. As you proceed to the wharf, you’ll see ponds to your right from Breton Beach Road and from Abell’s Wharf Road.
- To reach ponds along Foxes Point Road: Return on Breton Beach Road to Medley’s Neck Road, and turn left (north); Foxes Point Road will be the first road on the left. This road dead-ends at the driveways of several private residences, so after viewing the ponds, turn around and return to Medley’s Neck Road and turn right (south).
- To reach the unnamed gravel road through the pond area: From Breton Beach Road, instead of turning onto Abell’s Wharf Road, continue straight to where the gravel industrial road crosses Breton Beach Road and turn left; the twin ponds are on either side of the gravel road just south of this intersection. After viewing the ponds, turn around and return to Breton Beach Road.
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