At a Glance
Hours: Open 24 hrs/day, 365 days/year
Tips: Wear waterproof boots; the trails are wet much of the year. ◾ Be prepared for biting insects in summer. ◾ No restrooms. ◾ A GPS is recommended for navigation; the WMA is large enough that you might lose your way. ◾ Idylwild is an active hunting area. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly.
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring, early summer.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Federalsburg NE, Seaford West NW, Hickman SW
Idylwild Wildlife Management Area
3348 Houston Branch Road, Federalsburg, MD 21632
Idylwild Wildlife Management Area, managed by the MD Department of Natural Resources, is a unique spot that protects a remarkable collection of habitats and hosts a number of rare, threatened, or endangered species. Idylwild is located in southeastern Caroline County near the Delaware state line. The surrounding landscape is rural, with forestland interspersed with agricultural fields and small settlements. Approximately 80% of the 3,577-acre tract is dominated by mixed hardwood/pine forests and bottomland hardwood forests along the Marshyhope Creek. The other 20% consists of agricultural fields, early successional fields, old gravel pit ponds, and a greentree impoundment. The entire WMA is traversed by an extensive network of dirt and sandy roads and trails (see trail map at link at left), allowing thorough exploration of the property. Idylwild is too big to be covered in one day, so we recommend multiple visits, using a different parking area as a base each time.
Within the WMA, 1,500 acres of upland sand ridges and high quality streams along the Marshyhope Creek have been set aside by the State as the Idylwild Natural Area. The ancient sand ridges found within the Natural Area represent the northernmost late Pleistocene sand ridge deposits on the Delmarva Peninsula. A mixture of pines, oaks, and heath shrubs can be found in the dry, sandy soils, supporting a diverse assortment of plants and animals, including a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species of plants, fish, herps, and insects. The small Houston Branch and Twiford Meadow Branch drain into the Marshyhope Creek, creating excellent canoeing and kayaking opportunities through impressive stands of green ash and pumpkin ash.
Also within the WMA, a 570-acre section has been designated as a State Wildland, with special protections that limit uses to passive recreation. The Idylwild Wildland is located along the Marshyhope Creek stream bottom and its tributaries.
The creek and ponds at Idylwild provide breeding, nesting, and feeding habitat for resident waterbirds, migratory waterfowl, and songbirds. Some of the “riffle” areas of the creek support native freshwater mussels, an indication of high water quality. The WMA also supports river otter, gray fox, and American mink, and vernal pool habitats surrounded by mature forest provide critical breeding and year-round habitat for a number of frog and salamander species. Idylwild is also well-known for its breeding communities of dragonflies and damselflies
Idylwild WMA comprises the majority of the Idylwild Important Bird Area (IBA) site designated by the National Audubon Society. This area was recognized as an IBA because of its importance for Forest-Interior Dwelling Species and shrub-land species. The floodplain forest on the WMA provides excellent habitat for Scarlet Tanager, Black-and-white Warbler, Prothonotary Warber, Ovenbird, and Wood Thrush. Bald Eagles also nest within the WMA. A 776-acre management area of young pine woodland and old-field habitats supports good numbers of shrub-land birds such as Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Field Sparrow, as well as Northern Bobwhite. This site holds one of the few remaining populations of Whip-poor-will on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Some of the acreage at Idylwild consists of agricultural fields managed to provide habitat and winter food for game and non-game wildlife. A section of Houston Branch creek is managed to provide winter habitat for waterfowl, including Wood Ducks, Mallards and American Black Ducks. Certain fields are managed as Mourning Dove hunting areas. The north end, off Noble Road, contains a large number of small ponds surrounded by woods; these ponds are the remnants of a sand and gravel mining operation and form a rich habitat for dragonflies and damselflies, as well as other aquatic species.
Over 130 species have been reported on eBird from Idywild WMA. There are three hotspots on eBird:
- Idylwild WMA overall – 132+ species
- Idylwild WMA—Noble Rd. covers the north end – 123+ species
- Idylwild WMA—southern portion – 104+ species
Breeding specialties include Whip-poor-will; Northern Bobwhite; American Woodcock; Bald Eagle; Broad-winged Hawk; Red-shouldered Hawk; Pileated Woodpecker; Yellow-throated Vireo; Wood Thrush; Kentucky Warbler; Prothonotary Warbler; Prairie Warbler; Worm-eating Warbler; Yellow-breasted Chat; Summer Tanager; and Scarlet Tanager.
A total of 25 species of warblers have been reported, most of which occur during migration.
The trails and interior roads at Idylwild are NOT wheelchair-accessible, but some good birding is possible from or near the parking areas.
Pets permitted on leash. Pick up after your pet.
Idylwild WMA forms the majority of the Idylwild Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society.◾ A 570-acre portion of Idylwild WMA has been designated as a State Wildland, and a 1,500-acre portion has been designated as a State Natural Area. See the Wildlife Management Plan for the WMA.
Idylwild WMA is renowned as a site for dragonflies and damselflies. The most productive habitats are in the northern portion off Noble Road. See the excellent write-up and a map with a marked walking trail on Michael Moore’s website “Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies.”
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Caroline County Bird Club. The club has meetings with presentations and field trips, all free and open to the public .
Ten designated gravel lots on the periphery. See trail map at link at left for locations.
From the Bay Bridge or from points north on the Eastern Shore: Take U.S. Route 50 south and east and stay on Route 50 at the split with US Route 301 North. Follow US Route 50 to Wye Mills, then turn left to go east on MD Route 404/Queen Anne Highway. Follow Route 404 for 23 miles, past the town of Denton. Turn right to go south on Noble Road for about 3.2 miles. The see directions below for parking areas.
From points south on the Eastern Shore: Take MD Route 313 north from US Route 50, toward the town of Federalsburg. At Federalsburg, turn right to go north on MD Route 306/Houston Branch Road. Then see directions below for parking areas and consult the trail map at the link at left.
(1) A parking area that serves the north end of Idylwild WMA is on the south side of Noble Road, in an open area just past a woodland, and opposite a house at #5619 Noble Road.
To access other parking areas, continue south for a short distance (about 1/2 mile) on Noble Road, and just after crossing the Delaware State Line, turn right onto Sandhill Road (becomes Hrynko Road), going south for 1.2 miles and crossing back into Maryland. At a T-intersection with MD Route 306/Houston Branch Road, turn right to go south on Houston Branch Road.
(2) A good parking area is at approximately 4000 Houston Branch Road, just south of a house at #4010; look for a sandy road that goes to the west along a tree line. Follow the sandy track to a parking area.
(3) Or continue further south on Houston Branch Road, to 3348 Houston Branch Road, at the WMA office. Turn into the parking area close to the road.
Caroline County: Adkins Arboretum ◾ Choptank Marina ◾ Daniel Crouse Memorial Park ◾ Martinak State Park ◾ Pelot MOS Sanctuary ◾ Skeleton Creek Road & Bethlehem Road ◾ Tuckahoe State Park (Caroline County)
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
Queen Anne’s County: Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center – Horsehead ◾ Conquest Preserve ◾ Ferry Point Park ◾ Matapeake Clubhouse & Beach / Matapeake Fishing Pier & Boat Ramp ◾ Terrapin Nature Park ◾ Tuckahoe State Park (Queen Anne’s County) ◾ Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area
Talbot County: Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Talbot County Side) ◾ Black Walnut Point Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Claiborne Landing ◾ Marengo Woods MOS Sanctuary ◾ Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary ◾ Pickering Creek Audubon Center ◾ Poplar Island
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Reclaimed Industrial Site Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Features:Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasHunting AreasState Natural Areas & Wildlands