At a Glance
Hours: Regular hours 9 am to 5 pm. Visitor Center and historic fort close at 4:45 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1.
Cost: $10 fee for historic area of the park, but outer grounds, including the wetland, are free.
Tips: Join a free bird walk regularly scheduled by the Baltimore Bird Club. See http://baltimorebirdclub.org/schedule.html for details.
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring. Avoid summer weekends when the crowds are large.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Baltimore East SW
Local MOS Chapter: Baltimore Bird Club
Fort McHenry National Monument
2400 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 962-4290 ext. 250
The Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, administered by the National Park Service, commemorates the writing of the Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The Fort is located on a tip of land at the junction of the Baltimore Harbor and the Patapsco River. The strategic location of the fort allowed the U.S. forces to successfully withstand a sustained siege by the British Navy in September of 1814; the words of the Star Spangled Banner immortalize the victory. The grounds include the historic star-shaped fort and surrounding areas totaling 43 acres. The Fort’s Sea Wall Trail circles the outer edge of the grounds.
Adjacent to the Fort is a thriving urban wetlands area at the southwest corner of the grounds. The wetland, originally established as a mitigation site when the nearby Fort McHenry Tunnel was built, has been enhanced by National Park Service volunteer Jim Peters, who has added native plants and bird boxes and a butterfly garden in this area.
The Fort McHenry grounds rank #1 among eBird hotspots in the City of Baltimore, with 265 species identified as of April 2020. Located in the heart of bustling Baltimore, the Fort’s grounds provide a handy birding stop for visitors and local birders alike.
The Baltimore Bird Club chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society offers regularly scheduled bird walks at the Fort McHenry wetlands, currently on the first Wednesday and the third Saturday of each month. The bird walks are free and open to the public; see Baltimore Bird Club for details.
As of April 2020, 265 species have been reported on eBird for Fort McHenry. Waterbirds are the main attraction in winter. A large selection of ducks is usually present from November through March or April, as well as occasional loons and grebes. Wintering land birds include Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, kinglets and various sparrows.
Species present in the warm months and breeding here or nearby include herons and egrets, Osprey, Spotted Sandpiper, various terns, Chimney Swift, flycatchers, vireos, swallows, Marsh Wren, Yellow Warbler, and Common Yellowthroat.
Migrants found in spring and/or fall include Laughing Gull, thrushes, vireos, warblers, and sparrows.
Canada Goose, Double-crested Cormorant, Bald Eagle, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Belted Kingfisher, Fish Crow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, and American Goldfinch can be found year-round. Rarities have included Snowy Owl, Brown Pelican, American White Pelican, and Brown Booby.
Free parking. Park in the lot on Wallace Street to the left of the entrance gate.
The walkways in the Fort are wheelchair-accessible. ◾ For families, it would be fun to combine a morning visit to Fort McHenry with an afternoon visit to the nearby National Aquarium, or perhaps the Maryland Zoo in Druid Hill Park. ◾ The excellent Visitor Center at the fort has a video and numerous exhibits about the history of the fort, where our national anthem was written. ◾ Fort McHenry National Monument is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Baltimore Bird Club. The Baltimore Bird Club is the founding chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, and remains an important hub of birding activity in the state. The club offers monthly meetings with informative presentations and a full schedule of field trips and bird walks, all free and open to the public. ◾ For a whimsical look at birding activities in Baltimore, check out the graphic arts booklet, “Birdland,” created by local artist Book Karnjanakit.
You can watch a short video “A Stroll through the Fort McHenry Wetlands” featuring National Park Service volunteer Jim Peters, who planned and enhanced the wetland.
From I-95 going through downtown Baltimore, take Exit 55 for Hanover Street (last exit before the Fort McHenry Tunnel eastbound, first exit after the Tunnel westbound), then go east on McComas Street. Turn north (left) onto Key Highway which soon turns west; then take the first left (south) onto Lawrence Street. Next, turn left (east) onto East Fort Avenue, and continue east to the parking lot on Wallace Street, just to the left of the gate into Fort McHenry. Birders usually park in this lot for bird walks.
Fort McHenry can also be reached from downtown Baltimore by Bus #1 or from spring through fall by the Baltimore Water Taxi, which has stops all around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Features:BeginnersGift Shop or BookstoreHabitat Restoration ProjectHistorical FeaturesParkingPicnic AreaRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:#1 Hotspot in County or CityChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkChesapeake Bay Western ShoreHistorical SitesNational Parks & MonumentsThe Rivers of the Western Shore