At a Glance
Hours: Daytime only, year -round, but be aware of hunting seasons. It would be best to visit on Sundays during hunting season.
Cost: No cost, but a free non-hunting permit is required for entry. The permit is available self-serve on the DNR website; print it and complete the required information. The left-hand portion of the permit must be carried with you while birding and the right-hand portion is to be left visible on your dashboard. The permit is good for one calendar year and must be renewed every January 1.
Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ Trails may be wet or muddy. Some areas may be boggy. Portions of the dike may have deep mud (clay) and deep ruts filled with water. Wear sturdy waterproof hiking boots or shoes. ◾ Do not attempt to take a short cut by walking across the floor of the large impoundment. There are water-filled channels and unstable ground; you could become mired in mud. ◾ This is an active hunting area. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. We suggest visiting only on Sundays (no hunting) during deer and turkey seasons. The MHA also allows waterfowl and small game hunting. ◾ This is an isolated area; birders may feel more comfortable with a friend. ◾ No restrooms; no picnic tables or other amenities. The closest public restrooms are at the C&D Canal Museum or at the public library in South Chesapeake City; both have limited hours. Or, you may wish to stop in at nearby Bohemia River State Park (pay entry fee or use park pass), which has portable restrooms at the parking area.
Best Seasons: The birds are great year-round, but take caution during hunting seasons.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: North East SE, Elkton SW, Earleville NE, Cecilton NW. The pin for the Courthouse Point hotspot is located in the North East SE block but very close to the boundary with Elkton SW. If atlasing, use a GPS or eBird Mobile with tracking turned on, so that you can visualize a map of the block grids, and be sure to start a new checklist when you cross from one block to another.
Local MOS Chapter: Cecil Bird Club
Courthouse Point Managed Hunting Area
Intersection of Sunnyside Drive & Courthouse Point Road, Chesapeake City, MD 21915
GPS Coordinates (Main Parking Area): 39.507755, -75.874629
Courthouse Point Managed Hunting Area (MHA) is one of the top ten birding sites in Cecil County, boasting a long list of regular and accidental species from both dry and wet habitats. Courthouse Point is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and managed for hunting by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR). The MHA is also open to the public for birding, hiking, fishing, biking, and horseback riding. A free non-hunting permit is needed for entry; obtain the permit from the self-serve DNR webpage and take it with you when visiting Courthouse Point.
The 350-acre site contains a large diked impoundment holding dredged material from the nearby C&D Canal and Elk River, as well as a freshwater pond, partly diked but with a natural shoreline on the back side. There are two small islands in the pond. The large impoundment is now mostly dry, not having received dredged materials for some decades, but rainwater does contribute to puddles and muddy areas, particularly in the south corner of the impoundment, marked with a red star on the trail map at the link at left. Water levels in the pond are controlled by the managers and vary from season to season.
Both the impoundment and pond are heavily grown with phragmites. There is a small marshy area below the earthen dam at the west end of the pond, and a natural wetland near the edge of the woods along the lower road that encircles the large impoundment (see trail map at link at left). There are both upland and bottomland deciduous woodlots as well as extensive hedgerows and scrub-shrub successional habitat. The areas to the west and east of the entrance lane contain scattered conifers. There is a freshwater marsh and a view of the Elk River at the north end of the MHA.
During most of the year, you must park outside the entrance gate off of Courthouse Point Road and walk in from there (see area circled in red on the trail map). However, during hunting season, the gate is left open for hunters, and on Sundays (no hunting), it is permissible to drive in. Do not drive in while hunting is in progress on Mondays through Saturdays. There are three additional small gravel parking areas inside the MHA to serve hunters (see trail map at link at left).
The large impoundment is encircled by a gravel road at the base of the dike and a dirt road at the top of the dike, faintly visible on the trail map as an inner loop paralleling the more obvious road at the bottom of the dike. The road at the top of the dike may sometimes be grown over with vegetation and difficult to walk on; clearing of the vegetation takes place at irregular intervals. It is not recommended to attempt to drive on top of the dike as some areas may be impassable. The total distance around the large impoundment and back to the parking area is 2.5 miles. Or you may wish to make a shorter, out-and-back trip from the parking area to the freshwater pond and back, which would be about 2 miles round trip.
The following directions will take you around the large impoundment in a clockwise direction, with mileages to vantage points as measured from the parking area.
Follow the gravel entrance lane straight ahead 0.1 miles to the base of the dike and, staying on the lower road around the dike, turn left (east) to reach the most productive birding (see red arrow on trail map at link at left). The bushes and small trees along the dike are often filled with small landbirds, and the phragmites in the impoundment also shelter sparrows and finches, so stop often to clim the dike to check the impoundment and sides of the dike.
Where the dike makes a sharp bend to the right (0.5 miles from the parking area), check the floor of the impoundment to see if there is any water in the corner; if so, look for waterfowl, waders, rails, and shorebirds here. At this point, there is a large wetland at the edge of the woods to the east of lower road around the dike; this wetland is actually on private land just outside the boundary of the MHA, so do not attempt to enter it, but view it from the gravel road. This wetland often hosts Wood Ducks, other waterfowl, and waders, and also is a magnet for flycatchers in the warm months.
At 0.7 miles, watch on the left for a small parking area and the entrance to a wide trail leading through the woods (see trail marked in orange on trail map at link at left). Open to foot traffic only, this trail can be productive for warblers and other woodland birds in spring, summer, and fall. The short trail, only about ¼-mile long, follows an arc east and then north through the woods, eventually entering property posted as private; do not go past this point. Just before going up a shallow hill, the trail passes a marshy section on the edge of the smaller pond; walk through the treeline to the right of the trail to view the pond and marsh. Retrace your steps to the road at the dike and turn left (south).
As you continue along the road circling the dike, the freshwater pond will quickly become visible to the left; if the pond has water in it, check all sections of it for waterfowl, waders, or shorebirds in season. The marshy sections at the back of the pond are good for waders and rails. Even if the pond is mostly dry, check any puddles for birds.
Continue moving south on the gravel road between the freswater pond on the left and the large impoundment on the right until you reach the dam at the west end of the pond (1.0 miles from the parking area). You can walk across the earthen dam, which is reinforced with large rocks on the sides, to view the pond – there is a good view from here of the back of one of the islands. Also take time to scan down into the small marsh that lies below the dam, and that is fed by water overflow from the pond. Looking out to the south and west beyond the boundary of the MHA, there is a view of a grassy meadow (private land); depending on the season and the plantings, there may be sparrows and other field birds visible or audible.
Then, climb up the dike to take a look inside the large impoundment; there may be water in this south corner, supporting a small wetland (see red star on trail map at link at left). In the past, this has been the best spot for shorebirds in migration and sometimes rails. You will also have a good view here of the entire impoundment, so take time to scan with binoculars or a scope. You’ll be able to judge whether there are other areas that look promising and worthy of a second look when you get closer.
From the south corner of the large impoundment, you may retrace your route to the parking lot (2.0 miles round-trip), or can continue around the large impoundment by heading to the right (west or clockwise, 2.5 miles round-trip). The hedgerows that you will pass along south side of the large impoundment can be productive for passerines such as orioles.
Please do not attempt to take a short cut by walking across the floor of the large impoundment. There are water-filled channels and unstable ground; you could become mired in mud.
If you continue to the north corner of the impoundment, you can obtain a view of a marsh and the open waters of the Elk River. At 1.9 and 2.0 miles, there are narrow gravel roads that lead down a steep hill to the shore of the river; the bottom may be extremely muddy and if you are driving, be careful to choose a dry spot to park so as not to get stuck.
Continuing around the impoundment in a clockwise direction, the woodlot on the left after 2.0 miles can be productive for warblers, thrushes, and other forest species, so it’s worth a stop and maybe a detour into the woods on small trails that lead downhill.
To return to the parking area, continue on the road around the impoundment and make a left at 2.4 miles to return to the parking area.
The eBird hotspot for Courthouse Point WMA lists 170+ species, but many older bird sightings have not been entered on eBird, so the total number of species should be much higher.
Tip for breeding bird atlasers: Courthouse Point overlaps into four Atlas blocks: North East SE, Elkton SW, Earleville NE, Cecilton NW. The pin for the public eBird hotspot is located in the North East SE block but very close to the boundary with Elkton SW. If atlasing, use a GPS or eBird Mobile with tracking turned on, so that you can visualize a map of the block grids, and be sure to start a new checklist when you cross from one block to another. You’ll have to create personal locations to hold your checklists in the three blocks not represented by the hotspot (Elkton SW, Earleville NE, Cecilton NW).
Year-round: Rock Pigeon (feral); Mourning Dove; Black and Turkey Vultures; Bald Eagle; Cooper’s Hawk; Red-shouldered Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Barred Owl; woodpeckers (Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, Northern Flicker; Blue Jay; American Crow; Fish Crow; Carolina Chickadee; Tufted Titmouse; Carolina Wren; European Starling; Northern Mockingbird; Eastern Bluebird; American Robin; House Sparrow; House Finch; American Goldfinch; Field Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Eastern Towhee; Red-winged Blackbird; Common Grackle; Northern Cardinal.
Breeding season species include Canada Goose (also present year-round); Wood Duck; Mallard; possibly Green-winged Teal; Wild Turkey (also present year-round); Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Chimney Swift; Ruby-throated Hummingbird; Spotted Sandpiper; Forster’s Tern; Double-crested Cormorant: Great Blue Heron; Great Egret; Green Heron; Osprey; flycatchers, including Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested, Eastern Kingbird; vireos (Red-eyed, White-eyed, Yellow-throated); Purple Martin; Tree Swallow; Barn Swallow; White-breasted Nuthatch; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; House Wren; gray Catbird; Brown Thrasher; Wood Thrush; Cedar Waxwing; Chipping Sparrow; Yellow-breasted Chat; Orchard and Baltimore Orioles; Brown-headed Cowbird; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Scarlet Tanager; Blue Grosbeak; Indigo Bunting.
Post breeding dispersal (late summer): Snowy Egret; Little Blue Heron; Cattle Egret; Black-crowned Night-Heron; Common Gallinule; Least Tern; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow.
Spring and/or fall migration: Snow Goose; Tundra Swan; a wide variety of ducks; Pied-billed, Horned, and Red-necked Grebes; American Coot; a wide variety of shorebirds, especially Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs; gulls, including Laughing, Ring-billed, and Herring; Northern Harrier; Blue-headed Vireo; Veery; White-crowned Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Bobolink; a wide variety of warblers (18 or more species).
Winter: A variety of waterfowl; Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets; Winter Wren; Hermit Thrush; Purple Finch; Pine Siskin; Fox Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; White-throated Sparrow; Swamp Sparrow; Yellow-rumped Warbler.
If you can get your wheelchair past the gate at the parking area, it would be possible to travel the lower road that goes to the pond and around the large impoundment. But the road is clay and surfaced with big chunks of gravel, so it would be best to use a wheelchair equipped with large fat tires for off-road use. The road may be muddy at times. Another option is to watch for times when the gate is left open during hunting season, when it is possible to drive your vehicle in. There is no hunting at Courthouse Point on Sundays and so you could explore then.
Pets are allowed on leash; be prepared to pick up after your pet.
Portions of Courthouse Point MHA lie within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area; special laws regulate what kind of development can take place within the Critical Area.
In addition to birding and hunting, Courthouse Point MHA allows horseback riding (bring your own horse); fishing; and biking. No ATVs or motorcycles are allowed.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Cecil Bird Club, offering field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
There is a small gravel parking area outside the gate at the entrance to the MHA off Courthouse Point Road. There are three small hunter parking areas inside the MHA that can be used during hunting season.
Courthouse Point MHA is located in Cecil County, southwest of Chesapeake City, on the eastern shore of the Elk River.
The street address is: Intersection of Sunnyside Drive & Courthouse Point Road, Chesapeake City, MD 21915
GPS Coordinates (Main Parking Area): 39.507755, -75.874629
From Elkton: Take Take MD Route 213 south to Chesapeake City and cross the tall bridge over the C&D Canal at Chesapeake City. After the bridge, go south on Route 213 for another 2 miles and turn right (west) onto Courthouse Point Road. Drive west on Courthouse Point Road for about 2.3 miles to the signposted MHA entrance and parking area on the left.
From points south on the Eastern Shore: From the Ocean City, Salisbury, Cambridge or Easton areas, use US 50 north to reach US 301 north. Follow Route 301 north for approximately 32 miles, counting from the 301/50 split. At Massey, take the exit for MD Route 313 north. Follow Route 313 north for 2.5 miles, to the town of Galena. At Galena, stay straight at the traffic light to continue onto MD Route 213 north. Follow Route 213 north toward Chesapeake City for a total of 12.5 miles. You will pass over the Sassafras River at Georgetown/Fredericktown, then through the small town of Cecilton and then over the Bohemia River at Hacks Point. After crossing the Bohemia River, go north another 3.5 miles and turn left (west) onto Courthouse Point Road. Drive west on Courthouse Point Road for about 2.3 miles to the signposted MHA entrance and parking area on the left. Note: along Route 213, the little towns of Galena, Fredericktown, and Cecilton all have very strict low speed limits and vigorous enforcement. Mind the speed limit signs to avoid a ticket. This is true for Chesapeake City as well.
From Baltimore and points west: If traveling from western MD, use I-70 to reach I-695, the Baltimore Beltway. From the Beltway, take Exit 33 to I-95 north. Follow I-95 north to Exit 109 for Elkton; at the exit, follow signs for MD Route 279 south. In 2.6 miles, turn left to go south on MD Route 213/North Bridge Street. Follow Route 213 for 7.0 miles, passing through the town of Elkton and over the tall C&D Canal bridge at Chesapeake City. After the bridge, go south on Route 213 for another 2 miles and turn right (west) onto Courthouse Point Road. Drive west on Courthouse Point Road for about 2.3 miles to the signposted MHA entrance and parking area on the left.
From the Washington, DC area or the Annapolis area: Use US Route 50 eastbound to reach the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. After the bridge, at the split between US Route 301 and US Route 50, bear to the left to follow Route 301 north toward Wilmington (do not take US Route 50 to Ocean City). Follow Route 301 north for approximately 32 miles, counting from the 301/50 split. At Massey, take the exit for MD Route 313 north. Follow Route 313 north for 2.5 miles, to the town of Galena. At Galena, stay straight at the traffic light to continue onto MD Route 213 north. Follow Route 213 north toward Chesapeake City for a total of 12.5 miles. You will pass over the Sassafras River at Georgetown/Fredericktown, then through the small town of Cecilton and then over the Bohemia River at Hacks Point. After crossing the Bohemia River, go north another 3.5 miles and turn left (west) onto Courthouse Point Road. Drive west on Courthouse Point Road for about 2.3 miles to the signposted MHA entrance and parking area on the left. Note: along Route 213, the little towns of Galena, Fredericktown, and Cecilton all have very strict low speed limits and vigorous enforcement. Mind the speed limit signs to avoid a ticket. This is true for Chesapeake City as well.
From Southern MD (Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties): In Calvert or St. Mary’s County, use MD Routes 2 or 4 northbound to reach US Route 50 near Annapolis. Then follow directions from Annapolis as above. If starting in Charles County, use MD Route 5 to reach US Route 301, then follow 301 to US Route 50 and the Bay Bridge as described for Annapolis above.
Cecil County: Bethel Managed Hunting Area ◾ Bohemia River State Park ◾ Elk Neck State Forest ◾ Elk Neck State Park – Turkey Point ◾ Elk River Park & Elkton Marsh ◾ Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area ◾Elkton – Meadow Park, Eder Park, Hatchery Park, & Howard’s Pond ◾ North East Community Park ◾ Octoraro Creek Trail at Conowingo Park ◾ Perryville Community Park ◾ Woodlawn Wildlife Area / New Beginnings
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Dredged Material Containment Facility Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
Features and Amenities:Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:Hunting AreasUS Army Corp or BLM