At a Glance
Hours: Sunrise to sunset for the Turkey Point area; main park hours are 9 am-sunset..
- No fee for the Turkey Point Area.
- Entry fee for day-use areas at the North East River Beach and Rogue’s Harbor Boat Launch (even when not launching a boat). Maryland residents: weekends and holidays:$3/person, weekdays:$3/vehicle. Out-of-state residents: weekends and holidays: $5/person, weekdays:$5/vehicle.
- State park passes may be used.
- There are separate fees for boat launching, for camping, and for picnic shelter reservations.
Tips: The parking area at Turkey Point fills to capacity on weekends and additional cars will be turned away. There is no overflow parking available. Arrive early on weekends to ensure getting a parking spot, or visit on weekdays. ◾ Bring a scope for waterfowl in winter or for hawk-watching. ◾ Hiking boots or sturdy shoes are suggested. ◾ There is a picnic bench at the hawk watch area but if you intend to stay all day, you might consider bringing a folding chair. ◾ Public hunting occurs in parts of the park. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ A portable restroom at the lighthouse is available seasonally. There are also restrooms at the North East River Day-Use Area; the Rogue’s Harbor Boat Launch Area; and the campground.
Best Seasons: Late summer to late spring.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: North East SW, Earleville NW, Earleville CW, Spesutie NE, Spesutie CE
Local MOS Chapter: Cecil Bird Club
Elk Neck State Park – Turkey Point
4395 Turkey Point Road, North East, MD 21901
Turkey Point at Elk Neck State Park is located on a peninsula between the North East and Elk Rivers, at the top of the Chesapeake Bay. The Elk Neck peninsula acts as a migrant trap, and is best-known as a hawk watch spot during fall migration. In addition, Turkey Point is a great place for migrating passerines in both spring and fall and for waterfowl in winter. The rich habitat and strategic location combine to make Turkey Point the #1 eBird hotspot in Cecil County, with over 215 species reported. The Turkey Point area consists primarily of hardwood forest and open meadows located on high bluffs above the rivers and the Bay.
From 1994 through 2016, volunteers from the Cecil Bird Club staffed the Turkey Point Hawk Watch, and their data can be viewed in the database of the Hawk Migration Association of North America. Although the Turkey Point hawk watch site no longer has official counters, it is still a good place to watch migrating hawks.
As of fall 2021, the Maryland Biodiversity Project has launched a daily fall bird count that collects data on all birds, not just hawks, at Turkey Point. The project, sponsored in part by the Maryland Ornithological Society, seeks to document fall migrating birds. Data can be viewed on the Maryland Biodiversity Project’s website, almost in real time during the fall count season, which runs from August 1 through November 15.
The Turkey Point area of Elk Neck State Park (about 278 acres) is separated from the rest of the 2,369-acre state park by a private residential community, known as Chesapeake Isle. Note that it is not permitted to park on the private roads within Chesapeake Isle to walk into the park.
The parking lot for Turkey Point, at the southern terminus of MD Route 272, is small, and on weekends fills quickly. Rangers will turn excess cars away, so be sure to arrive early. It is about a one-mile walk to the Point and its historic lighthouse, with good birding all the way. Most of the walk is on a gravel lane on level ground, although the first part is a short uphill section with spectacular views of the water from the top of the cliffs.
After parking, walk past the gate onto the gravel lane, which heads south with cliffs overlooking the Northeast River on your right. The treetops on the cliffs can be filled with migrant songbirds during migration. Continue south on this lane, which will soon veer inland, passing through two meadows. The wood edges on both sides of the lane are prime places to look for migrating warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, and more. Especially good is the corner where the lane makes a sharp left as it veers inland. The trees in this corner are festooned with vines where songbirds like to hunt for insects and berries. The ground underneath has a lot of downed wood, which attracts migrant thrushes and Winter Wrens.
To reach the hawk watch site, continue on the gravel lane through the first meadow and then through a small strip of trees, emerging in the second meadow. The hawk watch site is near a picnic bench and a kiosk installed by the Cecil Bird Club that displays paintings of the common hawks that fly over in the fall.
Be sure to continue past the hawk watch site to the lighthouse area and the Point itself. The gravel lane will take you through a small woodlot to emerge at the historic lighthouse (no longer operational). As you emerge into the clearing by the lighthouse, check the vines and shrubs on both sides of the lane, as well as the tall red cedar trees, for migrant songbirds. Also be sure to check the vegetation at the top of the cliffs past the lighthouse, and on the cliffs, for more migrants. Palm Warblers especially like the cliffs in fall. From the lighthouse, the trail continues to the west (your right as you face the water), skirting the cliffs to go downhill to the site of the old boat landing used by the long-gone lighthouse keepers. At this point, the trail turns inland through the woods, going up a slope to re-emerge in the meadow near the hawk watch site.
Camping, a boat launch, and a day-use picnic and swimming area are available nearby in the main part of the state park, along with more trails. For a description of other trails at Elk Neck State Park, consult the trail map at link at left and see https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Documents/ElkNeck_TrailDescriptions.pdf. Also see the Birdlife section below for other eBird hotspots in the park.
Over 224 species have been reported to eBird from the Turkey Point section of Elk Neck State Park. There is a set of six eBird hotspots covering the park:
- Elk Neck State Park overall – 168+ species
- Elk Neck SP–Turkey Pt. – 224+ species
- Elk Neck SP–Campground – 114+ species
- Elk Neck SP–North East Beach – 101+species
- Elk Neck SP–Mauldin Mountain – 44+ species
- Elk Neck SP–Beaver Marsh Loop Trail – 97+ species
Late summer and early fall brings good flights of migrating hawks, as well as swallows, swifts, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, tanagers and orioles, loons, and waterfowl. On a good day in the fall, the skies and the woods are just full of migrating birds. Red-headed Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches and Pine Siskins may also be seen in fall and winter. Spring migration brings flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, tanagers and orioles moving north. Breeding birds include Bald Eagle, Osprey, Warbling Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Prairie Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler. The Point is a roosting and hunting spot for owls, with Barred, Great-horned, and Eastern Screech-Owl present all year. In the 1990s, a banding study conducted by MD DNR trapped and banded over 350 Northern Saw-Whet Owls in one season.
There is a small unpaved parking lot at the trail-head to Turkey Point. Parking space is limited; cars will be ticketed for parking in prohibited areas. Do not park on the residential streets in nearby Chesapeake Isle. There is ample parking in paved lots at the day-use, camping areas, and boat launch areas north of Turkey Point.
The trail at Turkey Point is not wheelchair accessible, but the day-use area on the Northeast River (north of Turkey Point) offers a spectacular view of the water from the parking area and is a good spot for birders who are mobility-impaired, as is the boat launch area at Rogue’s Harbor. The woods edges on the way to, and near, the Rogues Harbor Boat Launch offer good birding.◾ Camping (including cabins, tent camping, and RV hook-ups), camp store, swimming, boat launch, and picnic areas are all available at the main part of Elk Neck State Park. Canoes and kayaks can be launched at the North East River Day Use Area as well as at the Rogue’s Harbor Boat Launch. ◾ There is a seasonally open Nature Center that offers displays and programs about the natural and cultural history of Elk Neck; the center has live animals, local history displays, and hands-on activities for all ages. Naturalists offer programs during the spring, summer and fall including Canoe Adventures, Campfire Programs, Reptile Shows, and Guided Hikes. ◾ Elk Neck State Park is one of the focal points of the Elk Neck Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society. The IBA encompasses most of the Elk Neck peninsula. ◾ Elk Neck State Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Cecil Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
- Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television: Episode 2601 has three segments, including one on Elk Neck State Park that features members of the Cecil Bird Club talking about the park. Other segments in this episode cover wild rice restoration and Sora rails at Jug Bay on the Patuxent River, and the Outward Bound program for youth.
- Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television: Episode 2616 features a segment on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, a water trail that traces the explorations of John Smith. Elk Neck State Park, Turner’s Creek Park, and Susquehanna State Park are featured in the John Smith Trail segment. Other segments cover a kayaking trip to three of the iconic islands along the Chesapeake’s Eastern Shore, and tubing and flyfishing on the upper reaches of the Gunpowder River.
From I-95 north of Perryville: Take Exit 100 for MD Route 272 southbound for approximately 14 miles to where Route 272 ends at the parking lot for Turkey Point.
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & Streams
Features:BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsCampingEntry Fee (for Some Areas, Other Areas Free)FishingHawk WatchHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingHuntingOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsSnack Bar, Camp Store, Food ConcessionsSwimmingWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:#1 Hotspot in County or CityAudubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkNature CentersState ParksThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore