Janes Island State Park
26280 Alfred Lawson Drive, Crisfield MD 21817
Janes Island State Park offers an exceptional opportunity to experience the saltmarshes of the Chesapeake Bay. The park, with 3,160 acres near Crisfield in Somerset County, has two sections: a mainland section (about 300 acres) with picnic area, tent and RV campsites, overnight cabins, a conference center with group lodging, a nature center, short foot-trails, boat launch and boat rental; and a larger section (about 2,900 acres) on Janes Island itself, accessible only by boat, and featuring 8 marked water trails, sandy beaches, and extensive salt marsh habitat. Janes Island is sometimes called “the Caribbean of the Chesapeake” in reference to its pristine sandy beaches facing Tangier Sound.
The foot-trails on the mainland loop through the woods near the camping area. A tall observation tower near the nature center provides a view out over the saltmarshes on Janes Island.
The real attraction at Janes Island are the more than 30 miles of marked water trails that circumnavigate Janes Island and penetrate into the interior saltmarshes. The water trails range in length from 1.25 to 12.5 miles and include routes along the open waters of Tangier Sound, the Big and Little Annemessex Rivers as well as various smaller creeks. Most of the waterways are protected from wind and current, providing ideal conditions for both experienced and novice paddlers. The Janes Island water trail system was named by the American Canoe Association as one of North America’s best paddle trails. Three back country camp sites are located along the trails for overnight expeditions. An outline of the water trails is shown on the trail map at the link at left, but if you plan to paddle the trails, you should purchase the more detailed Janes Island Water Trail Map, available from the DNR online store at https://www.shopdnr.com/watertrails.aspx. You can also download a copy of the GPS waypoints for the watertrails from https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/JanesIsland/Water-Trails.aspx, and then upload the waypoints to your GPS device or smartphone app.
Over 150 species have been reported on eBird from Janes Island State Park. As you might expect given the water and marsh habitats at Janes Island, the bird checklist includes waterfowl, shorebirds, waders, gulls, and terns. But there are also woodland species on the mainland portion of the park.
The 14 reported species of waterfowl include sea and bay ducks such as scoters, Canvasback, Redhead, scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and mergansers. Clapper Rails are found throughout the park, and overnight campers are treated to their calls during breeding season.
Shorebirds include American Oystercatcher; Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers; American Woodcock; Greater Yellowlegs; and Willet. Ring-billed and Herring Gulls are present year-round; Laughing Gulls are found from spring through fall; and Great Black-backed Gulls are present in winter. Terns include Caspian, Forster’s, and Royal, as well as Black Skimmer. Waders include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Glossy Ibis, as well as an occasional Tricolored Heron or Cattle Egret.
Both Bald Eagle and Osprey breed in the vicinity; the eagles can be seen year-round, while the Osprey are present from spring through fall. Northern Harrier is a specialty of the park and is easily seen in winter and sometimes during the breeding season.
In spring and summer, the woods on the mainland ring with the calls of Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird. Both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets spend the winter, along with Brown Creeper and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Brown-headed Nuthatch breeds here, and can be found year-round. Marsh Wrens breed throughout the saltmarsh, and Winter Wrens can be found in protected pockets during the cold months. Sparrows include overwintering Savannah and Swamp, and breeding Seaside and Saltmarsh.
Red-winged Blackbirds are a predominant species of the marsh almost the entire year, along with Common Grackles. Keep your eyes and ears open for the larger Boat-tailed Grackles, with their long tails and noisy calls. A smattering of warblers breed in the mainland woods, or on the marsh: Ovenbird; Common Yellowthroat; Pine Warbler; Prairie Warbler. More warblers come through on migration and two species overwinter: Palm and Yellow-rumped.
Pets are allowed in specific areas:
- Day-use area, marina area, on trails and on island.
- Campground loops B and C and in adjacent pet walking areas.
- Camp loop A and parking lot.
- Cabins #1 and #2 and mini-cabins C and D.
For those who are mobility-impaired, the park offers accessible restrooms and four accessible campsites. The Park Store and Nature Center, picnic pavilions and recreation area, fish cleaning station, and dock area are also accessible. A boat, kayak or canoe can offer access to the marshes.
Most of Janes Island State Park has been designated as a State Wildland, with special protections that limit use to passive recreation. ◾ Janes Island State Park is contained within the much larger Somerset-Wicomico Marshes Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society.
Recreational opportunities include picnicking, hunting, fishing, crabbing, boat launch, canoe/kayak rental, water trails, nature center, observation tower, camping, cabins, conference center with overnight lodging for groups, and more. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Tri-County Bird Club, serving Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties. The club hosts field trips in the region as well as meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.
For an armchair visit to Janes Island State Park, watch a video segment that is part of the Maryland Public Television series “Outdoors Maryland”. This episode also includes segments on paddling the water trails of Maryland and on Calvert Cliffs State Park.
Designated lots in the mainland portion of the park.
From US Route 13 near Salisbury: Go south on Route 13 to Westover. Then bear right to take MD Route 413/Crisfield Highway south for approximately 11 miles to Plantation Road. Make a right turn to go west on Plantation Road. Note that in about 0.6 miles, there will be a sharp left curve where the name of the road changes to Jacksonville Road. Continue for about 0.9 miles on Jacksonville Road. and to the park entrance at Alfred Lawson Drive. Make a right onto Alfred Lawson Drive and continue to the park headquarters.
Somerset County: Deal Island Wildlife Management Area ◾ Fairmount Wildlife Management Area ◾ Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary ◾ Rumbley Boat Ramp ◾ Smith Island
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
Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park ◾ Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area ◾ Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck ◾ Pemberton Historical Park ◾ Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor ◾ Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park ◾ Ward Museum & Schumaker Pond
Worcester County: Assateague Island National Seashore & Assateague Island State Park ◾ Castaways RV Resort & Campgrounds ◾ E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area ◾ Ocean City Inlet ◾ Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area ◾ Truitts Landing & Other Bayside Landings ◾ West Ocean City Pond
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsOld Fields, Shrubby MeadowsSandy Beach or Dunes Jetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuarySalt or Brackish Marsh
BeginnersBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsCampingFishingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsSnack Bar, Camp Store, Food ConcessionsWater ViewYoung People / Families
Audubon Important Bird AreasState Natural Areas & WildlandsState ParksWater Trails