Calvert Cliffs State Park
10540 H. G. Trueman Road Lusby, MD 20657
The 1,100-acre Calvert Cliffs State Park is named for the impressive sandstone cliffs along this stretch of the Chesapeake Bay. The cliffs themselves, and the beach at their base, are off-limits due to their propensity to crumble, posing danger, and are actually not well seen from the park. Calvert Cliffs State Park is mostly forested, with some wetland areas and a small pond for fishing. The park has about 13 miles of marked hiking trails. A quarter-mile-long sandy beach is accessible via a 1.8-mile trail. Some 550 acres of the park are open to hunting upland game, turkey, and deer. The park is rich in biodiversity and is home to numerous species of plants and animals.
A small pond greets visitors at the parking area. Wooded valleys lead from the park entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. One of the trails follows the stream valley of Gray’s Creek all the way to the Bay. Trails can be very wet in places; cross trails can be steep and rugged, so be prepared with good hiking boots and perhaps a hiking stick. Study the trail map carefully and note the color-coding of the trails: the trails are blazed to correspond to the color-coding on the map.
For a short walk, follow the roads around the parking lots and the pond, and make short out-and-back excursions along the White, Silver, or Orange Trails. One may walk the Orange Trail to an alternate entrance road and “hunter’s parking.” The trail borders a nice line of trees and on the other side an open field and can be quite birdy at times.
The best birding is on the Red Trail along Gray’s Creek; it’s easiest to start out on the service road parallel to it and cut over via a short connecting trail. It is about 1.8 miles from the parking area to the Bay, where there is a very short stretch of beach. It is not necessary to go that far, and there are more easily reached Bay overlooks open to the public. Instead, concentrate on the places where the trail runs close to Gray’s Creek, and especially a spot where the stream valley widens out and the view is across a wide marsh with dead trees. This is where the Red-headed Woodpeckers nest. On the way back, take the short Yellow Trail to the Blue Trail, which passes in part along an unmowed grassy/shrubby gas line right-of-way back to the parking area.
You might also want to drive to the north end of the park, to the Youth Group Camping Area (Camp Canoy). From the main parking area, turn right to go northwest on H.G. Trueman Parkway for 0.4 miles, then turn right to go north on Camp Conoy Road. In 1.2 miles, if the gate is open, turn right into the entrance drive for Camp Conoy. Otherwise park near the gate (do not block the gate) and walk in. The habitat near the campground is more open and includes some shrubby area and there is also access to the Bay, just past the campground. It is a little over a mile from the gate to the Bay.
About 210 species have been reported on eBird from Calvert Cliffs State Park. Waterfowl are found in winter in the Bay waters off the park; 25 species have been reported, including all three scoters, Long-tailed Duck, and Common Goldeneye. Wood Ducks breed in the park. There may also be Pied-billed Grebes and Horned Grebes, especially in early spring. Common Loons occur in winter, and some years, there are are good flights of Northern Gannets in spring and in late fall. Double-crested Cormorants and Brown Pelicans are abundant off-shore from April through late November.
A few shorebirds may show up sporadically and in small numbers, either at the small fishing pond or along the beach. Gulls are abundant and easy to see, including Laughing Gulls in summer and Bonaparte’s Gulls in winter. Terns are also easy to see, including Least, Caspian, Common, Forster’s, and Royal.
Ospreys and Bald Eagles breed here and are easy to see; the Ospreys are present from March through October and the eagles are year-round. Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and Broad-winged Hawks come through during spring and fall migration, when they are moving along the coast. Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks are local breeders and may be found year-round. Owls may be found sporadically throughout the year: they include Eastern Screech, Barred, and Great Horned.
Chuck-will’s Widows, though severely declining, can still be heard near dusk during May and early June; moonlit nights are best. The park has an abundance of woodpeckers, a specialty being breeding Red-headed Woodpeckers align with the usual Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Pileated, and Northern Flickers. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are present from late September through April.
Swallows are abundant in the warm months, including Northern Rough-winged, Tree, Bank, Barn, Cliff, and Purple Martins. Other birds that migrate in for the breeding season include Eastern Wood-Pewee; Acadian Flycatcher; Eastern Phoebe; Great Crested Flycatcher; Eastern Kingbird; White-eyed, Red-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos; White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches; Blue-gray Gnatcatchers; House and Marsh Wrens (the latter in single-digit numbers); Gray Catbird; Wood Thrush; Chipping Sparrow; Orchard and Baltimore Orioles; Summer and Scarlet Tanagers; Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting.
The park is a good spot to look for wintering Red-breasted Nuthatches; Brown Creepers; Winter Wrens; Hermit Thrush; Dark-eyed Junco; White-throated Sparrow; and Swamp Sparrow.
During spring and fall migration, look for Veery, Gray-cheeked, Swainson’s Thrushes, and Red-breasted Grosbeaks, which come through in good numbers.
There is a good selection of breeding warblers, some of which are relatively abundant, including Ovenbird; Worm-eating; Louisiana Waterthrush; Black-and-white; Prothonotary; Kentucky; Common Yellowthroat; Hooded; American Redstart; Northern Parula; Yellow; Pine; and Yellow-throated. Yellow-rumped Warblers over-winter in numbers. An additional 19 species of warblers have been reported during spring and/or fall migration, for a total of 33 species reported.
Some of the abundant year-round residents include Carolina Chickadee; Tufted Titmouse; Carolina Wren; Brown Thrasher; Northern Mockingbird; Eastern Bluebird; American Robin; Cedar Waxwing; American Goldfinch; Field Sparrow; Eastern Towhee; Northern Cardinals;
Paved lot near park entrance. Also a small gravel parking lot for hunting access, 0.4 miles north of the main parking area on H.G. Trueman Road, on the right (east) side of the road near the intersection with Camp Conoy Road.
Fossil hunting can be pursued at the open beach area at the end of the Red Trail, approximately 1.8 miles from the parking lot. Over 600 species of fossils from the Miocene era (10 to 20 million years ago) have been identified in the Calvert Cliffs, many of which can be found at Calvert Cliffs State Park. Chesapectens, Ecphora, Miocene era oyster shells, and sharks teeth are common finds. Sieves and shovels can be used to sift the sand for fossils. Please keep in mind that the area beneath the cliffs is closed due to dangerous land slides and the potential for injury. It is illegal to collect fossils beneath the cliffs. **CLIFFS SAFETY NOTICE** Due to the danger of the landslides caused by cliff erosion and the serious injuries they can cause, climbing upon and walking beneath the cliffs is prohibited. ◾ Over 1000 acres of the park have been set aside as State Wildlands, and are preserved for hiking and nature appreciation. Biking and horseback riding are prohibited on designated wildlands trails to prevent impact. ◾ Calvert Cliffs State Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ 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.
For an armchair visit to Calvert Cliffs State Park, watch Episode 2614 of Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television. This episode also includes segments on paddling the water trails of Maryland and on Janes Island State Park.
From MD Route 2/4 south of Prince Frederick: Turn east onto Calvert Cliffs State Park Drive, which will bring you across H.G. Trueman Parkway directly into the main park entrance. If if you are southbound and you miss the left turn for Calvert Cliffs State Park Drive, simply proceed to the next intersection, MD Route 497/Cove Point Road, and turn left to go east, then turn left again to go north on MD Route 765/H.G. Trueman Road. The park entrance will be on the right in half a mile.
Calvert County: American Chestnut Land Trust – Parkers Creek Preserve, Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary / Gatewood Preserve / Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, Chesapeake Beach, Flag Ponds Nature Park, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Kings Landing Park & Huntingtown Natural Resources Management Area, North Beach, Solomons Island
Charles County: Indian Creek Natural Resources Management Area
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