At a Glance

Hours: Daily 5 am to 10 pm.

Cost: Free.

Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ No fee for canoe or kayak launch.◾ No restrooms at either site.

Best Seasons: Fall through early summer.

Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Chestertown NE

Local MOS Chapter: Kent County Bird Club 

Buckingham Public Landing & Morgnec Road Public Landing

Buckingham: South End of Buckingham Rd, Chestertown, MD 21620
Morgnec Road: 26959 Morgnec Rd, Chestertown, MD 21620
(410) 778-7439

Buckingham Public Landing (aka Buckingham Wharf) is a serene little soft launch for canoes and kayaks at the end of a country road. Providing access to the Chester River upriver from Chestertown, this spot is treasured for its peace and quiet and natural habitat. There are no concrete boat ramps or tie-up slips or rock jetties or pleasure boats blocking the view – just a road that comes to a gentle end at the water’s edge, with a wide gravel shoulder providing parking for a few cars.

Kent County owns this launch site, just under an acre in size. The launch area is surrounded by a small woodland (privately owned – no access), with deciduous trees that attract songbirds. Scope the entire river from the launch. The cove to the north, on the same side of the river, contains a bit of marshland at its back end, and there is also a marshy strip along the shoreline to the south. It is worthwhile to carefully scope the opposite shoreline on the Queen Anne’s County side of the river: the prominent point visible slightly to the north is part of Washington College’s Field and River Campus, where a long-standing habitat restoration project supports a large suite of birds. Note that the lands to either side of the Buckingham Public Landing, including the shoreline, are privately owned, so please do not trespass. It’s OK to bird the edge of the woodland if you stay on the public road.

The Morgnec Road Public Landing is a handy roadside stop on the way to Buckingham Public Landing. This site, another county-owned soft-launch for paddlers, provides access to Morgan Creek, a major tributary of the Chester River. The launch site is located in an area of deep bends in the creek, with sheltered coves and freshwater marshes, mostly overgrown with phragmites but still worth checking. Located directly off Morgnec Road, this is a popular fishing spot. Make friends with the fishermen: they sit there for long periods of time and can often tell you what birds are about.

Of course, you can put in a kayak or canoe at either site and bird the Chester River and/or Morgan Creek from the water.

Birdlife:

There are separate eBird hotspots for Buckingham Public Landing (106+ species) and Morgnec Road Public Landing (59+ species).

For an inland location, Buckingham Public Landing attracts a wide variety of waterfowl, with 24 species reported. Regularly occurring birds include Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Mallard, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, and Common Merganser. Some rarities have occurred at Buckingham, including Greater White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, and Cackling Goose (now becoming regular here).

In the farm fields off Morgnec and Buckingham Roads, be alert for Wild Turkeys. Rarely, you might hear a Northern Bobwhite, probably a stray from across the river at Washington College’s Field and River Campus, where there is a healthy breeding population. Killdeer will likely be present. Also watch the fields for Horned Larks and American Pipits.

The usual gulls (Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed, plus Laughing in summer) are easy to see. Sometimes Bonaparte’s Gulls are present in the winter. Caspian Terns and Forster’s Terns are possible, and Common Terns occasionally occur. Wading birds include Great Blue Heron and Green Heron.

Raptors commonly seen at appropriate times of year include Turkey and Black Vultures, Osprey, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels (watch the wires on the way to the landing). Great Horned Owls might be heard in the woodlands in evening or early morning.

Belted Kingfishers are often seen or heard. Woodpeckers include Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (winter), Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker. ,including Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird, may be in or near the woodlands. Always around are Blue Jay, American Crows (Fish Crows are not as common here), Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. White-breasted Nuthatches may be heard calling in the nearby woods, and in winter they may be joined by Red-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers.

Tree Swallows are common; surprisingly, Barn Swallows have not been reported, but there are occasional Bank Swallows in late summer.

Gray Catbirds and Northern Mockingbirds are commonly reported. Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins are easy to find, as are Cedar Waxwings. At Buckingham, be alert for Hermit Thrushes in the edges of the woods along the public road. American Goldfinches are abundant, and House Finches and House Sparrows may also be present.

Possible sparrows include Chipping, Field, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned, White-throated, Song, Swamp, and Eastern Towhee. Expect Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles. If you’re lucky, you might find Rusty Blackbirds in winter. Northern Cardinals, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings all breed locally.

The warbler list is short. At Buckingham, there have been Black-and White. Pine, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and at Morgnec Road, only Common Yellowthroats.

Pet Policy:

Pets are OK on a leash; be prepared to pick up after your pet.

Wheelchair Access:

At Buckingham Public Landing, the gravel roadside parking area is not wheelchair-friendly, but it is possible to get a good view from the car by pulling up to the end of the road. The same applies at Morgnec Road Public Landing. At both sites, the actual soft launch is not ADA-accessible.

Special Features:

The website Paddle the Chester provides an interactive map of the Chester River and some suggested paddling itineraries and sites of interest. The website is a joint project of the Chesapeake Conservancy, the Sultana Education Foundation, and the National Park Service. ◾ The non-profit Sultana Education Foundation, based in Chestertown, offers fully outfitted, small group Public Paddles guided tours for all skill levels. Naturalists will point out wildlife and flora, historic locations including ancient Indian ruins; and salt marshes and tidal creeks. ◾ A list of local businesses offering kayak and canoe rentals can be found at https://www.kentcounty.com/recreation/paddling/kayak-rentals. ◾ The Chester River and its Riverkeeper are part of the Shore Rivers Consortium.

Washington College has developed state-of-the-art programs to immerse students in environmental sciences. The River & Field Campus at Washington College is managed by the Center for Environment & Society and hosts the Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory and the Natural Lands Project. The Center for Environment and Society at the College welcomes donations to support its work in avian biology and habitat restoration.

The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Kent County Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.

Parking:

At Buckingham Public Landing, there is a gravel parking area on the shoulder at the road’s end, providing enough space for about six cars and to turn around. At Morgnec Road Public Landing, the gravel parking lot can hold about 10 cars and the U-shaped lot provides easy turn-around.

Directions:

Morgnec Road Public Landing is located northeast of Chestertown on Morgan Creek and is accessed directly from MD Route 291/Morgnec Road. Buckingham Public Landing is located a little farther out of Chestertown, on the Chester River at the end of Buckingham Road, which runs south from MD Route 291/Morgnec Road.

  • From points north on the Eastern Shore, such as Elkton: Use MD Route 213 southbound to reach Chestertown. At the north edge of Chestertown, turn left to go east on MD Route 219/Morgnec Road for 2.0 miles. Morgnec Road Public Landing will be on the left (north side of the road) just a short distance after crossing the bridge over Morgan Creek; the landing has a convenient U-shaped parking area that allows you to easily return to the road. To reach Buckingham Public Landing, continue east on MD Route 291/Morgnec Road for another 1.2 miles, then turn right to go south on Buckingham Road, which will end at Buckingham Public Landing in 0.6 miles.
  • From points south on the Eastern Shore, such as Easton or Salisbury: Take US Route 50 northbound toward Wye Mills. At Wye Mills, stay straight on US Route 50 at the intersection with Route 404, but in 1.5 miles, at the next major intersection, turn right to go north on MD Route 213. Follow Route 213 north for 22.5 miles, through the towns of Centreville and Church Hill, to enter Chestertown from its south side, crossing over the Chester River. After crossing the river, continue north on Route 213, which follows Washington Avenue through Chestertown. At the north side of town, turn right to go to go east on MD Route 219/Morgnec Road for 2.0 miles. Morgnec Road Public Landing will be on the left (north side of the road) just a short distance after crossing the bridge over Morgan Creek; the landing has a convenient U-shaped parking area that allows you to easily return to the road. To reach Buckingham Public Landing, continue east on MD Route 291/Morgnec Road for another 1.2 miles, then turn right to go south on Buckingham Road, which will end at Buckingham Public Landing in 0.6 miles.
  • From the Western Shore via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge: Use US Route 50/US Route 301 to cross the Bay on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. After crossing the bridge, in about 9.5 miles, Routes 50 and 301 will split. Stay to the left to follow Route 301 north. In another 5.7 miles (15.2 miles after the Bay Bridge), follow signs to take MD Route 213 north toward Centreville. Follow Route 213 north for 17.9 miles, through the towns of Centreville and Church Hill, to enter Chestertown from its south side, crossing over the Chester River. After crossing the river, continue north on Route 213, which follows Washington Avenue through Chestertown. At the north side of town, turn right to go to go east on MD Route 219/Morgnec Road for 2.0 miles. Morgnec Road Public Landing will be on the left (north side of the road) just a short distance after crossing the bridge over Morgan Creek; the landing has a convenient U-shaped parking area that allows you to easily return to the road. To reach Buckingham Public Landing, continue east on MD Route 291/Morgnec Road for another 1.2 miles, then turn right to go south on Buckingham Road, which will end at Buckingham Public Landing in 0.6 miles.
  • From the Western Shore via I-95: From the Baltimore area, take I-95 north toward Elkton. At Elkton, take Exit 109 to go south on MD Route 279 for 3.8 miles. Turn left to go east on US Route 40 and drive 1.5 miles. Turn right to go south on MD Route 213. Follow Route 213 for 35 miles, crossing over the C&D Canal on the high bridge at Chesapeake City and through the towns of Cecilton, Fredericktown/Georgetown and Galena. Be aware that at Galena, Route 213 makes a right turn, so pay attention to the signs. Also be aware that the speed limit is strictly enforced along Route 213 in all the small towns. At the north edge of Chestertown, turn left to go east on MD Route 219/Morgnec Road for 2.0 miles. Morgnec Road Public Landing will be on the left (north side of the road) just a short distance after crossing the bridge over Morgan Creek; the landing has a convenient U-shaped parking area that allows you to easily return to the road. To reach Buckingham Public Landing, continue east on MD Route 291/Morgnec Road for another 1.2 miles, then turn right to go south on Buckingham Road, which will end at Buckingham Public Landing in 0.6 miles.

Nearby Sites:

Kent County: Chesapeake Farms & St. Paul’s Millpond ◾ Chestertown: Wilmer Park, Wayne Gilchrest Trail, & Chestertown WWTP ◾ Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge ◾ Millington Wildlife Management Area ◾ Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area & Turner’s Creek Park

Queen Anne’s County: Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center – Horsehead ◾ Conquest Preserve ◾ Ferry Point Park ◾ Matapeake Clubhouse & Beach / Matapeake Fishing Pier & Boat Ramp ◾ Terrapin Nature Park ◾ Tuckahoe State Park (Queen Anne’s County) ◾ Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Farmyard Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow Fields Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams

Features and Amenities:

BeginnersBirding By CarBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeParkingPets AllowedWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families

Type:

County ParksThe Rivers of the Eastern ShoreWater Trails