At a Glance
Hours: Open 24/7, year-round. Access roads might be closed in the event of snow, ice, or flooding.
Tips: Bring a spotting scope. ◾ Deal Island WMA is an active public hunting area. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ Mosquitoes and other biting insects are common from spring through early fall. Be prepared. ◾ There may be portable restrooms at some or all of the boat ramps. This tends to change unpredictably.
Best Seasons: Winter for waterfowl, summer for breeding sparrows and waders, spring and fall for migrating shorebirds and others.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Monie NW, Monie NE, Monie CW, Monie SW, Deal Island CE, Deal Island SE, Deal Island CW, Deal Island SW, Terrapin Sand Point NW, Terrapin Sand Point NE
Deal Island Wildlife Management Area
Dames Quarter, MD 21821
Expanses of tidal marsh, frequently broken by open water, characterize most of the habitat of Deal Island Wildlife Management Area. The 13,000 acres contain forested wetlands and a 2,800-acre man-made pond or “impoundment.” The diversity of habitats and excellent access combine to make Deal Island WMA the #1 eBird Hotspot in Somerset County. There are 9 miles (14 km) of flat trails/gravel roads suitable for hiking, nature photography, birding, hunting and other recreational activities, but the trails are not actively marked.
There are two main access points generally used by birders: the first is the so-called “Green Dumpster Road” (though the Green Dumpster is long gone); this road is named “Game Reserve Road” on some maps. It is located on the south side of MD Route 363/Deal Island Road, and will be a left turn if you are traveling west on Deal Island Road. The other often-used access point is via Riley Roberts Road, accessed through the tiny town of Dames Quarter, and also located on the south side of Deal Island Road. Actually, Riley Roberts Road and Green Dumpster/Game Reserve Road connect to one another far back in the marsh, but depending on water levels and whether gates are open, it may not be possible to drive or even walk all the way through. A third access point is via Drawbridge Road, which leads north off of Deal Island Road, where MD Route 627/Oriole Road goes south. There are more access points and places to explore within this huge WMA, including many of the boat ramps, which generally offer excellent views of the water and/or marsh. See the WMA map at the link at left for additional locations.
In addition to land access, there are three water trails for paddlers, located in the marshes adjacent to the Wicomico River and Monie Bay, in the northern section of Deal Island WMA. These trails were created by the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Maryland (CBNERR-MD), a partner of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. There are excellent water trail maps available for download at https://dnr.maryland.gov/waters/cbnerr/Documents/MB_watertrails_all.pdf. The water trail map also includes information about the ecosystem and the birds of the area, so it’s worth taking a look at the map even if you don’t plan to paddle.
An aggregate of 265+ species have been reported from the various hotspots on eBird associated with Deal Island WMA, making it the #1 location in Somerset County in terms of number of species reported. There eBird hotspots for Deal Island WMA are:
- Deal Island WMA (224+ species) covers the entire WMA: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L446894
- Deal Island WMA—Riley Roberts Rd. (224+ species): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L368645
- Deal Island WMA—Riley Roberts Rd. Turnoff (164+ species): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1106952
- Deal Island WMA—Game Reserve Rd. (158+ species): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L368647
- Deal Island WMA—Dove Hunting Area (119+ species): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L989432
- Deal Island WMA—Drawbridge Rd. Section (108+ species):https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2677092
- Deal Island WMA—Monie (72+ species): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L368644
- Deal Island WMA—Riley Roberts Rd. Boat Ramp (57+ species): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L5131274
- Deal Island WMA—Transfer Station Access (29+ species): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2494136
Many, many species of waterfowl nest, feed and migrate through this area. The WMA also supports one of the largest concentrations of herons, egrets, and ibis in Maryland. Shorebirds use the marshes during migration, and a few species (Willet, both yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper) can be found all through the warm months. A breeding population of Black-necked Stilts thrives here. The rare Eurasian Wigeon is seen almost annually in large flocks of American Wigeon that spend the winter here. A Peregrine Falcon nest tower has been erected as part of the Eastern Peregrine Falcon Recovery Plan. Five species of owls are found here: Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned, Barn, Short-eared, and Northern Saw-whet, the latter two in winter only. Both Seaside and Salt-marsh Sparrows breed here, and Swamp Sparrows overwinter. Marsh Wrens sing, almost at your fingertips, all through the warmer months. This is a great place to search for rails. Overall, Deal Island WMA provides unsurpassed access to the habitats of water- and marsh-dwelling birds.
For those who are mobility-impaired, there is good birding from the roads and parking areas within Deal Island WMA. You don’t have to go far from the car to see great birds.
Pets on leash are permitted.
The Monie Bay area of Deal Island WMA is one of three Maryland locations for the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve; the other two are the Anita Leight Estuary Center at Otter Point Creek (Harford County) and Jug Bay (Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties). ◾ Deal Island WMA is contained within the Somerset-Wicomico Marshes Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Tri-County Bird Club, serving Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties. Tri-County Bird Club offers field trips and meetings with presentations by guest speakers, free and open to the public.
Free, near a boat launch ramp on Green Dumpster/Game Reserve Rd., along Riley Roberts Rd., and at other locations. See trail map at link at left.
From Salisbury: Take US Route 13 south from Salisbury. In Princess Anne, turn right to go west on MD Route 363/Deal Island Road west for about 11 miles to Deal Island WMA. Marked parking areas are located off Deal Island, Riley Roberts, and Drawbridge Roads, as well as at other locations, including boat ramps. See trail map at link at left.
Dorchester County: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge ◾ Cambridge – Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Dorchester County Side) ◾ Cambridge – Great Marsh Park ◾ Cambridge – Oakley Street ◾ Cambridge – Sailwinds Park & Visitor Center ◾ Chesapeake Forest – North Tara Road ◾ Elliott Island Road / Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area (Eastern Section) ◾ Hooper’s Island ◾ Taylor’s Island
Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park ◾ Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area ◾ Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck ◾ Pemberton Historical Park ◾ Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor ◾ Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park ◾ Ward Museum & Schumaker Pond
Worcester County: Assateague Island National Seashore & Assateague Island State Park ◾ Castaways RV Resort & Campgrounds ◾ E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area ◾ Ocean City Inlet ◾ Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area ◾ Truitts Landing & Other Bayside Landings ◾ West Ocean City Pond
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsHay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Features:Birding By CarBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchCampingFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:#1 Hotspot in County or CityAudubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreDriving Tour (Roadside Birding)Hunting AreasThe Rivers of the Eastern ShoreWater Trails