Fort Frederick State Park / Big Pool
11100 Fort Frederick Road, Big Pool, MD 21711
Fort Frederick State Park, with 585 acres, is also known among birders as Big Pool on account of one of its prominent features. The park includes open mowed areas, the Potomac River, a portion of the C&O Canal, a small beaver pond, and Big Pool itself, a natural depression that was filled with water when the C&O Canal was created. Fort Frederick offers many different types of bird habitat and is the #1 eBird hotspot in Washington County in terms of number of species reported.
Fort Frederick also has significant historical interest, the fort having played a role in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) and in the American Revolution. During the summer months, there are tours of the restored fort, military reenactments, and other special events. Nearby, an abandoned railroad bed has been converted to a paved hiker-biker path, part of the Rails to Trails system. Fishing and boating are permitted on Big Pool as well as on the Potomac River. A boat ramp (no gasoline motors) is located on Big Pool. The park features a visitor center, campsites, a camp store, a hiking trail, interpretive and educational programs, picnicking, a playground, and a shelter.
Also nearby is the Woodmont Natural Resource Management Area (NRMA). This former rod and gun club , with overt 3,400 acres of land, is managed through a cooperative agreement between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Woodmont Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America. The property is open to hiking and birding, but a portion of the property is off-limits to public use for part of the year. The limited use section is shown on the Woodmont NRMA trail map at https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Documents/Woodmont-Map.pdf. The habitat diversity at Woodmont provides birders with a mix of mature and young growth forests and fields and includes frontage on the Potomac River. To reach Woodmont NRMA from I-68, take exit 77. Turn left onto US Route 40, then turn right onto Woodmont Road. Follow Woodmont Road approximately 6 miles. Signs mark the entrance.
Over 200 species have been reported on eBird for Fort Frederick/Big Pool. The park hosts nesting Baltimore Orioles during the summer and migrating warblers in the spring and fall. Louisiana Waterthrush, Cerulean Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, and American Redstart can be found here. Many Eastern Bluebirds can be seen in the open areas of the park. Big Pool and the Potomac River offer a good place to observe migrating and overwintering ducks , including Common Merganser, Wood Duck, and Lesser Scaup.
Paved and unpaved roadside lots, as designated on the Trail Map at the link at left.
The nearby Western Maryland Rail Trail is paved and wheelchair-accessible. Caution during peak usage will be necessary because of bikers. The Indigo Tunnel on the Rail Trail is home to eight different bat species. The tunnel is closed to entry to protect the bats, but they can be seen at dusk and dawn, when they leave and enter the tunnel. ◾ A portion of the C&O Canal towpath goes through the park, offering an additional longer-distance hiking or biking opportunity. ◾ The Canal Trust has produced a mobile app, the C&O Canal Explorer, with over 600 points of interest mapped in a searchable format, allowing you to find hiking trails, campgrounds, history, trailheads, parking, and more at a glance, along the entire length of the Canal. The app is available to download for 99 cents and runs on Android and IOS devices. ◾ Wake up with the birds along the Canal: through the Canal Quarters Program, visitors may arrange for overnight stays at seven historic lockhouses along the Canal: five in Montgomery County, one in Frederick County, and one in Washington County. See https://www.canaltrust.org/programs/canal-quarters/canal-quarters-lockhouses-overview/ for details. ◾ The Fort Frederick site holds many features of interest to history buffs and is an ideal spot for a family trip. Reenactments and other events are held throughout the warm months. A photographic tour of the fort’s barracks is available online at https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Documents/FFSP_Virtual%20Tour.pdf. ◾ The Friends of Fort Frederick State Park provide volunteers and financial support to the park. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Washington County Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with information presentations, all free and open to the public.
From I-70, take Exit 12 (Big Pool). Travel one mile east on MD Route 56 to the park’s entrance.
Antietam National Battlefield, Indian Springs WMA, Sideling Hill WMA, Greenbrier State Park.
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchCampingFishingHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHuntingParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsSnack Bar, Camp Store, Food ConcessionsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
#1 Hotspot in County or CityC&O Canal AccessHiker-Biker Trails (Paved)Historical SitesState Parks