At a Glance
Hours: Dawn to dusk, or as posted at kiosk on Pebble Beach Drive.
Tips: No restrooms. ■ Smoking is not allowed in any Howard County park. ■ Check Howard County Parks website for closures for deer hunting in late fall through winter. ■ Parking is on-street in a residential neighborhood. Please be respectful of the residents, especially taking care to avoid disturbance in the early hours of the morning.
Best Seasons: Fall and spring migration.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Sykesville CE, Sykesville SE, Ellicott City CW, Ellicott City SW
David Force Natural Resource Area
2995 Pebble Beach Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21042
David Force Natural Resource Area is a 221-acre site, managed by Howard County Recreation & Parks, that is relatively undisturbed, although nestled into a residential area. The heart of David Force NRA is the forested valley of the Little Patuxent River. The NRA has been allowed to remain as an important forested area to protect water quality, provide habitat for wildlife, and support recreational hiking and nature observation.
David Force NRA is located between I-70 to the north and US Route 40 to the south. The main entrance is located on the south edge of the property, off of Pebble Beach Drive in the community of Turf Valley. The surrounding area is residential, and Turf Valley Country Club is located to the north and west of the park. An undeveloped area at the northeast corner is designated as a future community park.
As of this writing (Spring 2019), there are maintained trails only in the south area of David Force NRA, off Pebble Beach Drive. Here, the one or two miles of trails cover about 34 acres, going through deciduous upland and floodplain forest as well as scrubby fields. Some fields are mowed to stop woody succession; others have been planted with saplings. Wetlands, an old farm pond, a white pine grove, and an unmaintained wildlife demonstration garden are also present. See the trail map at the link at left for the trailheads and parking locations.
There are unmaintained trails in the east, north, and south areas, but these trails require some scrambling and are recommended only for the adventurous birder. These areas have no direct connection to other sections of the park, so it would be necessary to sample each area one by one. For parking and trail details, see the Howard County Bird Club site guide for David Force NRA at at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/david-force/.
Over 135 species have been reported on the eBird hotspot for David Force NRA. Most prominent are forest interior dwelling species such as thrushes and Scarlet Tanagers, and scrub birds such as White-eyed Vireo and Indigo Bunting. Owls are occasionally found. Winter Wrens can often be found along the Little Patuxent River in appropriate seasons. In winter, large numbers of sparrows can roost in the brambles along the Little Patuxent. Warblers are present in migration and some remain to nest in summer; 27 species have been reported. Notable birds that have been found here include American Bittern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Merlin, American Woodcock, Winter Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Lincoln’s Sparrow.
The starting points of some of the trails are paved at the point that they go between the house, but the main sections of the trails are natural surface and hilly – not accessible to wheelchairs.
Pets are allowed on leash; pick up after your pet.
- A seasonal list of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, and herps found at David Force NRA is available at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/david-force/david-force-species-lists/, courtesy of the Howard County Bird Club.
- Bicycling is permitted on the trails.
Local MOS Chapter:
The Howard County Bird Club, a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, holds bird walks throughout the county; such walks are free and open to the public. See the Howard County Bird Club’s calendar for more information.
The Howard County Bird Club has a detailed online guide, “Birding Howard County,” on their website at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/. Edited by Joanne Solem, the online guide replaces an older printed guide, now out-of-print. The website is up-to-date and extremely detailed. Check it out!
Roadside parking along Pebble Beach Drive, Boca Raton Drive, Pinehurst Court, and Congressional Court. See trail map at link at left for trailhead locations.
From points south, use I-95 or I-295 or I-97, and then take MD Route 32 westbound toward Columbia. From MD Route 32, take Exit 16A for US Route 29 north. In 7.8 miles, take Exit 24 B for US Route 40 westbound. In 3.2 miles, turn right to go north on Pebble Beach Drive. The parking area, marked by a kiosk at #2995, will be on the right in a half-mile, and is just past a home at #3001. Park along the street; be careful not to block any driveways.
From points west, take I-70/US Route 40 east to Exit 82. From the exit, continue onto US Route 40 east toward Ellicott City for 2.6 miles. Turn left to go north on Pebble Beach Drive. The parking area, marked by a kiosk at #2995, will be on the right in a half-mile, and is just past a home at #3001. Park along the street; be careful not to block any driveways.
From points east, including the Baltimore Beltway, take I-70 west to Exit 87A for US Route 29 southbound. Take US Route 29 south for 1.7 miles; then take Exit 24B onto US Route 40 westbound. In 3.2 miles, turn right to go north on Pebble Beach Drive. The parking area, marked by a kiosk at #2995, will be on the right in a half-mile, and is just past a home at #3001. Park along the street; be careful not to block any driveways.
To access other areas of David Force NRA, follow the directions on the Howard County Bird Club’s Birding Howard County website: https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/david-force/david-force-detailed-description/.
Howard County: Centennial Lake & Park ■ Howard County Conservancy – Mount Pleasant Farm ■ Lake Elkhorn ■ Middle Patuxent Environmental Area ■ Patapsco Valley State Park – Daniels Area ■ Patapsco Valley State Park – Henryton ■ Patuxent River State Park – Annapolis Rock Road Area ■ Patuxent River State Park – Hipsley Mill Road Area ■ Rockburn Branch Park ■ Schooley Mill Park ■ Triadelphia Reservoir (Brighton Dam) ■ Western Regional Park ■ Wilde Lake
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Features:Free - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsParkingPets AllowedWater View