Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Colmar Manor Community Park & Anacostia River Trail
4601 Annapolis Rd, Bladensburg, MD 20710
Bladensburg Waterfront Park, a property of the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (MNCPPC, aka the Parks and Recreation Department for Prince George’s County), is located on the east bank of the Anacostia River in the historic town of Bladensburg. In colonial times, Bladensburg was a major international port, until the mid-1800s when ensiltation rendered the river unnavigable by large craft. To this day, periodic dredging is necessary to keep the river open even to small craft. The dredged material is piped to ponds on the west side of the river.
The main attraction at the 32-acre Bladensburg Waterfront Park is the outstanding water viewing area from a raised bank along the river. The Anacostia River is tidal at this point, and so there are usually mud flats visible at low tide, offering feeding and resting habitat for gulls, terns, and shorebirds; a tide table is useful for timing your visit. This is one of the most reliable places in Prince George’s County to find Least Terns.
From Bladensburg Waterfront Park, you can (and should) walk south along the newly completed Anacostia River Trail, a paved hiker-biker trail that connects with an extensive trail system in Washington, DC, whose border is just a mile or so away (see trail system map and park map at links at left). The trail starts just south of the office building for the Waterfront Park; follow the paved trail as it curves past a fenced storage area for kayaks, canoes, and rowing shells and then south over a boardwalk. The Anacostia River Trail meanders past a landfill that has been restored to prime grassland habitat as well as a restored wetland. There is a foot-trail that loops through the grassland. Interpretive signage along the trail tells the story of the restoration. Parts of the trail go through small woodlots of deciduous trees along the riverfront, good habitat for migrating songbirds. Just north of the DC border, a side trail goes to a boat launch and small pier on the river. This spot became famous in the winter of 2017-2018 for hosting a Harris’s Sparrow that stayed for about four months.
Alternatively, from Bladensburg Waterfront Park you can walk across the prominent footbridge over the Anacostia River to explore the west riverbank, where Colmar Manor Community Park offers more hiking trails. A portion at the south end of Colmar Manor Community Park has been designated as the Dueling Creek Natural Area. In the 1800s, this part of the park was the site of duels and many resultant deaths. Today, the 60-acre Colmar Manor Community Park is home to beavers, bluebirds, sparrows, ducks, herons, and turtles and includes wetlands, ponds, fields, and forested lowlands. The best birding is at the north end of the park, where a grassland and scrub-shrub area lies near the prominent footbridge over the Anacostia; along the riverbank east of the ballfields, where a foot-trail heads south toward the Dueling Grounds; and in the Dueling Grounds area itself, where a restored wetland is encircled by trees, and where a short pier provides access to Dueling Creek.
Amenities at Bladensburg Waterfront Park include canoe, kayak, bike, and trike rentals; paddle boat, rowboat, and fishing rod rentals; interpretive pontoon boat tours on the river; picnic pavilions; a fishing pier; boat ramp and canoe/kayak launch; playground; and restrooms. At Colmar Manor Community Park, there are extensive sports fields and good trails through woods, wetlands, and scrub-shrub habitat.
There are three eBird hotspots that cover the areas described above:
Breeding birds include Bald Eagle, Osprey, Wood Duck, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Warbling Vireo, and Yellow Warbler. Warm month visitors include a few shorebirds and terns including Least Tern. Sparrows are found in migration and during the winter in Colmar Manor Community Park and along the Anacostia River Trail south toward Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. During the winter of 2017-18, a Harris’s Sparrow took up residence along the river south of the Waterfront Park and was seen by hundreds of birders from throughout Maryland and the region. Bladensburg Waterfront Park is also known as a good place to see gulls in the winter.
Ample paved parking at Bladensburg Waterfront Park, running almost the entire length of the park. For the Anacostia River Trail, park near the south end of Bladensburg Waterfront Park and walk past the office to the start of the trail. There are scattered paved and gravel lots at Colmar Manor Community Park.
The Anacostia River Trail is wheelchair-accessible, as are some of the other features at Bladensburg Waterfront Park and Colmar Manor Park. ◾ Kayaks and canoe rentals are available on site at Bladensburg Waterfront Park, so you can explore the Anacostia Water Trail as shown on the trail systems map at the link at left. ◾ Although now a quiet and peaceful spot, the area featured prominently in the War of 1812. The Battle of Bladensburg in 1814 (part of the War of 1812) resulted in a devastating American loss that allowed the British to proceed into Washington, DC, where many government buildings were burned, including the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Hence Bladensburg Waterfront Park and Colmar Manor Community Park are part of The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. ◾ As mentioned above, Colmar Manor Community Park includes the infamous Dueling Grounds, the site of many a duel in the 1800s. The most famous duelist to die from injuries at the Dueling Grounds was Commodore Stephen Decatur, a naval war hero from the War of 1812. He was mortally wounded in a duel with Commodore James Barron in 1820, when he was just 40 years old. Duels continued at the Dueling Grounds until at least 1868. Another famous personage who lost his life in one of these duels was Daniel Key, the son of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to the Star Spangled Banner. ◾ Via the Anacostia River Trail, Bladensburg Waterfront Park is within walking distance of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, on the edge of DC (see trail map at link at left). ◾ Check out the good work being done by the Anacostia Watershed Society, a non-profit organization that conducts hands-on water and habitat restoration projects, public education, and nature programs. You can stop in for one of the events shown on their calendar. ◾ Bladensburg Waterfront Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Patuxent Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
To Bladensburg Waterfront Park and the Anacostia River Trail:
From points east in Maryland: Take US Route 50 west toward DC. Exit at MD Route 202/Landover Road west toward Bladensburg. In 1.5 miles, bear left onto MD Route 450 Annapolis Road westbound. Route 450 will bring you directly into the town of Bladensburg. Immediately after passing under the highway overpass for MD 201 and another for a railroad track, make a left into the park entrance. If you arrive at a traffic circle at the prominent Peace Cross monument, you’ve gone a little too far. Simply go around the circle to return to MD Route 450 in the other direction and enter the park, now on your right.
From downtown Washington, DC: Take US Route 1/Rhode Island Avenue northwest toward Mount Rainier and Bladensburg. In Mount Rainier, turn right onto MD Route 208/38th Street. Go 0.3 miles and turn left onto Bladensburg Road (also signed as US Route 1). Immediately after crossing the bridge over the Anacostia River near the Peace Cross, bear right to go onto MD Route 450/Annapolis Road eastbound. The park entrance is ahead in just 0.2 miles from the bridge, on the right (south) side of the road.
From Montgomery County and other points in Maryland north and west of DC: Take I-495/Capital Beltway toward College Park. Take Exit 22B for the Baltimore-Washington Parkway southbound. In 4.0 miles, take the exit for MD Route 450/Annapolis Road westbound toward Bladensburg. The entrance to the park will be on the left (south side of road) in 1.3 miles, immediately after passing under the highway overpass for MD Route 201 and another for a railroad track.
To Colmar Manor Community Park from Bladensburg Waterfront Park:
Exit Bladensburg Waterfront Park and turn left onto MD Route 450/Annapolis Road. In just a few feet, you will encounter the traffic circle at the Peace Cross monument. Follow signs to continue on Bladensburg Road westbound, crossing a bridge over the Anacostia River immediately after the Peace Cross. From the Peace Cross, drive just 0.7 miles, through the little town of Colmar Manor, and turn left to go south on 38th Street. In just a block-and-a-half (about 500 feet), the only road on the right will be Oak Street; turn right here and follow Oak Street into the park. Consult the park map at the link for parking.
Prince George’s County: Fort Foote Park, Fort Washington (National) Park, Greenbelt (National) Park, Greenbelt Lake Municipal Park (Buddy Attick Lake Park), Lake Artemesia Natural Area, Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm, Patuxent Research Refuge – South Tract (National Wildlife Visitor Center), Piscataway (National) Park: National Colonial Farm, Boardwalk, Wharf Road/Farmington Landing & Marshall Hall, Schoolhouse Pond
Washington, DC: Anacostia Park, Battery Kemble Park, Constitution Gardens, Dumbarton Oaks Park, East Potomac Park (Hains Point) and the Tidal Basin, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, National Arboretum, National Zoo, Rock Creek Park
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ParkLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseReclaimed Industrial Site Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)BoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsFishingHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesLake, Pond, Bay, River, OceanNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature CenterObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Chesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkCommunity and Urban ParksHiker-Biker Trails (Paved)Historical SitesThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails