Chapman State Park & Chapman Residual Wildlife Management Area
3452 Ferry Place, Indian Head, MD 20640
Chapman State Park is a 829-acre property on the Potomac River in northern Charles County. Immediately to the south is the 1,426-acre Chapman Residual Wildlife Management Area (sometimes referred to as the Glendening Natural Environmental Area). Together, these two properties managed by the MD Department of Natural Resources form the Chapman State Park Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society. The coastal plain deciduous forest of these two parcels supports a rich community of forest-interior-dwelling birds.
Chapman State Park, on the north side of MD Route 210/Indian Head Highway, includes habitats that vary from flooded wetlands to cactus-studded dry sands, illustrating the variety of the coastal plain’s natural environment. The park supports significant biodiversity, with over three dozen state-rare species of oaks, a globally rare snail, wetland animals, native cactus, and much more. The park’s many forest types include oak-hickory terraces, steep ravines, bottomland woods, and a rare shell-marl forest which is rich in calcium-loving plants reminiscent of mountain habitats. About 694 acres within Chapman State Park have been designated as State Wildlands, meaning that these areas have been set aside with special protections, and are managed for passive recreation only. In 2009, a survey of rare, threatened and endangered species was conducted at Chapman State Park by Rod Simmons, and a detailed report on the survey is available at http://www.friendsofchapmansp.org/images/files/ChapmanTrailSurveyRodSimmons2009.pdf.
The main drive into Chapman State Park is gated closed, except for special events. Parking is available at the gate and one can walk in from there. The State Park has a well-thought-out trail system (see trail map at link at left) that allows exploration of all the park’s special habitats. The Potomac River Trail doubles as a service road that joins the original Chapman’s Landing Road to the Potomac River. The 0.6 mile trail roughly marks the boundary between a dry sandy woodland (to the northeast), and a more moist, richer forest (to the southwest). The Marsh Trail branches off of the Potomac River Trail, and meanders through a fertile bottomland woods that contrasts the sandier woodland along the Potomac shoreline. The 0.7 mile trail leads to an unusual “scrub-shrub” marsh that is separated from the Potomac River by a narrow spit. The 1.0 mile Chapman State Park Trail/Coastal Woodlands Trail joins the Potomac River Trail to make a 1.5 mile loop. The trail runs through various habitats, including a terrace gravel forest and a coastal oak forest, to eventually run along the Potomac shoreline.
A prominent feature of Chapman State Park is the historic Mt. Aventine Mansion, the home of the Chapman family, located on the service road into the park. There are also several other historic farm buildings and a family cemetery. You can read about the history of Chapman State Park and Mt. Aventine on the DNR website at http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/southern/chapman.aspx.
The Chapman Residual Wildlife Management Area, on the south side of Route 210 across from the State Park, is managed as a disjunct part of Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area. Chapman Residual is a hunting area and is seldom visited by birders, but its vast forest deserves more attention. There are two parking areas, one on the south side of MD Route 210 and one on the north side of MD Route 224/Livingstone Road (see trail map at link at left). A foot-trail leads into the interior of the WMA from each parking area. Chapman Residual is bisected by a power line cut that runs northeast to southwest, and the power line cut can be reached from either of the two foot-trails. The southwest corner of the WMA is adjacent to the Indian Head Rail Trail, and Chapman Residual is also adjacent to a portion of the Mattawoman Natural Environmental Area. Together, these state-owned tracts preserve over 7,300 acres of prime bird habitat.
Over 165 species have been reported on eBird from Chapman State Park. As yet, there is no eBird hotspot for Chapman Residual WMA.
Waterfowl (21 species) are found on the Potomac River at the State Park, along with grebes and loons. Ring-billed Gulls are found year-round; Great Black-backed and Herring are present in fall through spring; Laughing Gulls appear in spring and again in late summer through early fall; and Bonaparte’s Gulls are late-winter/early-spring visitors.
Ospreys breed here, and are present from March through September. Bald Eagles also breed, and can be found year-round. Other locally breeding raptors include Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks.
As would be expected with the woodland habitat, woodpeckers are plentiful, and all of the local species occur here: Northern Flicker, Pileated, Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied, and the prized Red-headed, along with Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in winter.
Breeding flycatchers include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Acadian Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird. Migrants in spring and fall may include Least Flycatcher and Alder. Three vireos breed here: Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated. There are sporadic reports of Common Raven, which used to be quite a rarity for southern Maryland, but this species is expanding its range and establishing a foothold in the coastal plain.
Hermit Thrushes over-winter, and Wood Thrushes breed here; other thrushes may be found during migration, including Veery, Gray-cheeked, and Swainson’s. Winter sparrows include Fox Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and White-throated Sparrows. Chipping, Song, and Field Sparrows breed here, along with Eastern Towhee. Swamp and Lincoln’s Sparrows may turn up during migration.
Twenty-nine species of warbler have been reported, with most being spring and/or fall migrants, but the following are breeders: Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Louisiana, Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, American Redstart, Yellow, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated, Kentucky, and Prairie.
Summer and Scarlet Tanagers also breed here. Chapman State Park and the WMA are good places to look for Rusty Blackbirds in late winter or early spring.
At entrance gate to Chapman State Park, and at designated parking areas on Route 210 and Route 224 for Chapman Residual WMA. See trail maps at link at left.
Fishing and hunting are available at Chapman State Park, and hunting is available at Chapman Residual WMA. ◾ The Lower Potomac Water Trail winds along the shoreline past Chapman State Park. The trail is depicted on the interactive map of the MD Public Water Access Atlas. ◾ The Friends of Chapman State Park host an open house at the historic Mt. Aventine Mansion every Sunday between April and September. These open houses feature guided nature walks, history presentations, and children’s activities. ◾ The Friends of Chapman State Park, Inc., in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources help maintain and operate Chapman State Park. Volunteers are always needed. ◾ Chapman State Park and Chapman Residual WMA form the Chapman State Park Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾ There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society in Charles 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.
To reach Chapman State Park from the DC Beltway/I-695): Take Exit 3 for MD Route 210/Indian Head Highway southbound. Continue on Route 210 for approximately 16 miles, then make a slight right to go southwest on Chapmans Landing Road. Continue for 1.6 miles to the entrance sign, on your right. The entrance road is marked as Ferry Place on some maps. There is parking at the entrance gate. Walk in from there.
To reach Chapman State Park from US 301 in Waldorf, MD: Take MD Route 228/Berry Road west for 6.7 miles. At the intersection with MD Route 210/Indian Head Highway, turn left to go south and travel 5.3 miles. Make a slight right onto Chapmans Landing Road. Continue for 1.6 miles to the entrance sign, on your right. The entrance road is marked as Ferry Place on some maps. There is parking at the entrance gate. Walk in from there.
To reach the north parking area for Chapman Residual WMA from Chapman State Park: From the parking area at the State Park gate, go east on Chapmans Landing Road for just 0.1 miles and turn right to go south on Mt. Aventine Road, which will bring you to the highway (MD Route 210/Indian Head Highway) in another 0.15 miles. Turn left onto the highway, crossing the median strip; BE EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS as motorists travel at high speed. You will be going north on the highway. Move into the right lane. The parking area for the Chapman Residual WMA is on the right, in a wooded area, in about 0.7 miles; look for the third lane that goes into the woods and park there. If you reach a house in the woods at #6175 Indian Head Highway, you’ve gone too far. The foot-trail goes straight back into the woods from the parking area.
To reach the south parking area for Chapman Residual WMA from the north parking area on Route 210: From the parking area on Route 210, turn right to go north on Route 210 for 1.7 miles. At the traffic signal, turn right to go south on MD Route 227/Livingston Road. In 1.3 miles, where Pomfret Road veers off the left, stay straight to continue south on Livingston Road/MD Route 224. Stay on Livingston Road for another half-mile; where Bumpy Oak Road veers off the left, again stay straight and remain on Livingston. Go another 1.9 miles and look for a small dirt lane on the right, just a short distance (0.15 miles) before the paved Indian Head Rail Trail, straight ahead. The dirt lane leads to the WMA parking area. If you miss the dirt lane, just continue to the Rail Trail and there is paved parking there, on the right. Walk back to the dirt lane to access the foot-trail, which goes north into the woods.
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