At a Glance
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
Cost: Grounds are free. No fee to launch canoes or kayaks. A yearly county permit is required to launch boats from trailers.
Tips: Bring a scope to look out over the marsh. ◾ Elk River Park is closed during inclement weather or if there is flooding. Call before visiting to check conditions. ◾ Portable restrooms are at the boat launch.
Best Seasons: Year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Elkton NW, Elkton CW
Local MOS Chapter: Cecil Bird Club
Elk River Park & Elkton Marsh
59 River Bend Parkway, Elkton, MD 21921
The Elkton Marsh is located south of the Town of Elkton in northeastern Cecil County, where the Little Elk Creek joins the main stem of the Big Elk Creek. The extensive freshwater marsh, covering over 650 acres, can be viewed from several roadside vantage points (see below), but the best spot is the county-owned 68-acre Elk River Park, located where Big Elk Creek abruptly widens to form the Elk River. Here, there are several dredged material containment impoundments that also offer good birding. The park includes hardwood woodlands, a brushy area bordering the containment impoundments, and a shoreline that offers extensive views of the marsh. There is a boat launch that offers boaters and paddlers (bring your own canoe or kayak) the opportunity to explore the marsh by water.
In the spring, Elkton Marsh is alive with the songs and calls of migrating birds and resident breeders. In the fall and winter, just before dusk, there are impressive flights of mixed blackbird flocks moving to their night time roosts. Also before dusk, Northern Harriers will be out hunting over the marsh. Waterfowl use the marsh all winter long.
The marsh is also visible from points a bit farther north. One good spot is along Old Field Point Road, near where a bridge carries the road over Little Elk Creek. There is no designated parking area here, but it is possible to carefully pull the car off the road in a couple of spots to scan the marsh on both sides of the road and to listen for marsh dwellers.
Another vantage point of the very northernmost area of the marsh is at the historic Elk Landing, an enclave owned by the Town of Elkton, located at 590 Landing Lane, just east of the Old Field Point Road bridge over the Little Elk Creek. Park your car near the historic buildings at Elk Landing and then walk around to get views of the creek and marsh through the trees on the creek’s shoreline.
A third vantage point for the northwestern portion of the marsh is at tiny Hollingsworth Park (12 acres), owned by the Town of Elkton and located at 177 Cow Lane (Cow Lane goes west from Landing Lane). Also check the agricultural fields along Landing Lane and Old Field Point Road for shorebirds, especially if the fields hold puddles, and for field birds such as pipits and sparrows.
At Elk River Park, migrating passerines can be found in the spring and fall in the wooded areas. During migration, also check the wooded shoreline at Elk Landing as the trees there attract migrating passerines. Listen for Virginia Rails in the spring and for Sora in the fall. Sparrows, including American Tree Sparrows and Fox Sparrows, use the brushy areas of Elk River Park from late fall to late winter.
Least Terns are easily seen over the marsh in the summer, and Caspian and Forster’s Terns are present during spring and fall migration. Six species of swallows use the marsh during the warm months. There are also herons, egrets, and Least Bittern. Shorebirds use the mudflats in the marsh for stopovers during migration, and these can be observed from the boat launch area at Elk River Park as well as in the park’s impoundments.
Breeding birds of the Elkton Marsh include Osprey, Bald Eagle, Wood Duck, American Woodcock, Green Heron, Warbling Vireo, Marsh Wrens and both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles.
Paved parking areas at Elk River Park. Grass parking area at Elk Landing and Hollingsworth Park. Roadside (with extreme caution) along Old Field Point Road.
Elk River Park and Old Field Point Road provide excellent views of Elkton Marsh from or near the car, so this spot provides good birding for those who are mobility-impaired. ◾ The marsh is best explored by canoe or kayak (bring your own). ◾ 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.
From I-95 north of Perryville: Take Exit 109 for MD Route 279 south toward Elkton. In 4.0 miles, turn left to go east on US Route 40. Follow Route 40 for 0.8 miles and then turn right at the traffic light to go south on Landing Lane.
To reach Hollingsworth Park: Go south on Landing Lane and make the second right onto Cow Lane. The park is ahead in about 0.3 miles, on the left (south) side of the road. After walking out in the park to scan the creeks and marsh, return to Landing Lane.
To reach Elk Landing: Continue south on Landing Lane to its south end near the historic building at Elk Landing (sign at entrance). Park on the grass where indicated by signs and walk the property to look through the treeline at the creek and marsh.
To reach the view of the marsh from Old Field Point Road: Go north from Elk Landing to the intersection with Old Field Point Road and turn left (west). Stay on Old Field Point Road over the bridge over Little Elk Creek, and try to find a spot to safely pull off the road. Be aware of soft/muddy shoulders and be extremely cautious of the traffic. It may be impossible to pull over if there is flooding or if traffic is too strong.
To reach Elk River Park: Continue south on Old Field Point Road and then make a left to go east on River Bend Parkway. River Bend is approximately 1.8 miles south of the bridge over the Little Elk Creek, and the previous road is Brownies Shore Lane (private). Follow River Bend Parkway as it goes past impoundments on the right (south) side of the road. There is a large parking area just past the impoundments. Walk back up the hill to explore the impoundments on foot, or continue to the boat launch area for a view of the marsh. There are no maintained trails through the wooded sections, but you can explore the woods from the edges or by using some of the small foot-trails.
Cecil County: Bethel Managed Hunting Area ◾ Bohemia River State Park ◾ Courthouse Point Managed Hunting Area ◾ Elk Neck State Forest ◾ Elk Neck State Park – Turkey Point ◾ Elkton – Meadow Park, Eder Park, Hatchery Park, & Howard’s Pond ◾ Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area ◾Funk’s Pond Recreation Area & Old Conowingo Area ◾ North East Community Park ◾ Octoraro Creek Trail at Conowingo Park ◾ Perryville Community Park ◾ Port Deposit & Susquehanna River Road Driving Tour ◾Woodlawn Wildlife Area / New Beginnings
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Dredged Material Containment FacilitySuburban Neighborhood Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
Features:Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsWheelchair Accessible Features
Type:County ParksDriving Tour (Roadside Birding)The Rivers of the Eastern Shore