Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum
10515 Mackall Road, St. Leonard, MD 20685
Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in Calvert County is a unique state park that houses Maryland’s state museum of archaeology. The park was established for the purpose of using the onsite archaeological discoveries to preserve and interpret the rich history of the area and its inhabitants. Although it has a historical focus, the park is an excellent location for birding, being situated on a peninsula, bordered on the south by St. Leonard’s Creek and to the west by the Patuxent River, offering 2.5 miles of waterfront. This is an excellent location to view waterfowl.
A good network of trails covers the park’s 560 acres of woodlands, meadows, beaches, and cultivated fields (see trail map at link at left). Most of the park is only accessible on foot. The one-mile-long Riverside Trail, which starts at the Breckinridge Educational Center, passes along the river and the King’s Reach archeology site. There is often a raft of winter waterfowl in this area. The Woodland Trail, at 0.6 miles, is a fairly strenuous hike through primary forest and a lowland riparian zone; this trail goes through good habitat for breeding warblers and migrating thrushes. The Point Trail loops down to the junction of St. Leonard’s Creek and the Patuxent River, offering views of a nice variety of wintering waterfowl that prefer deeper water. A canoe and kayak launch is on the property for those who wish to explore by water.
The park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally the estate of Jefferson and Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson. They were a remarkable couple: Jefferson was in the US diplomatic service and served on five continents, including Europe during World War II; Marvin, as she was known, was a broadcaster for CBS News during World War II. Under their direction, their estate in Calvert County, where they eventually retired, became a model of best farming practices.
After a tenant found Native American artifacts on the property, Marvin, by then a widow, decided to donate the estate to the State of Maryland in order to preserve what turned out to be numerous archaeological sites on the property. The archaeological sites thoroughly document a history that goes back thousands of years. Archaeologists have uncovered not only Native American sites, but also sites related to colonial and post-colonial use of the farm, including dwellings of enslaved people who lived on the property. Even after more than twenty-five years of excavations, archaeologists have explored less than one percent of the potential sites on the property, so exploration work continues.
Once the public park was established, the management of its natural resources has continued in an environmentally sensitive manner. The park was set up not only for public education and enjoyment, but also as a demonstration site for living shoreline and environmental research. As such, it is a splendid place for a day of birding and for family outings.
About 205 species have been reported on eBird from Jefferson Patterson Park. Notable breeding species include Bald Eagle; Osprey; Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded, Kentucky, and Yellow-throated Warblers; and Summer Tanager. Winter months bring an excellent assortment of dabbling and diving ducks. Rarities here have included Tufted Duck and Barrow’s Goldeneye, as well as the expected Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, and Redhead. Grebes and loons can also be found regularly in the cold months. The woodlands, meadows, and field edges are good in fall and spring for migrating passerines.
Ample paved lo; see trail map at link at left.
Jefferson Patterson Park is one of the sites on the 80-mile-long Patuxent Water Trail. ◾ The Jefferson Patterson Park to St. Leonard Creek Water Trail runs along the Patuxent River shoreline and up St. Leonard Creek a short distance. This water trail is described in the Calvert County Water Trails brochure. ◾ The non-profit Friends of Jefferson Patterson Park supports educational programs and family events, teaching about environment, history, heritage, and archaeology. ◾ To learn about some of the interesting artifacts that have been found at Jefferson Patterson Park, browse the collection of monthly “Curator’s Choice” articles. ◾ The Jefferson Patterson Park website contains a wealth of downloadable material on environmental management practices at the park; this material includes an alphabetical Guide to Birds of Calvert County, a Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Calvert County, and a guide to plants on the Plant Walk at the park. ◾ An interesting annual event to attend is Senator Bernie Fowler’s Patuxent River Wade In on the 2nd Sunday in June. Former Senator Bernie Fowler and other dignitaries wade into the Patuxent River to run the annual “white sneaker” test as a means of checking water clarity. Before and after wading, enjoy environmental demonstrations, music, and exhibits. For details, see https://jefpat.maryland.gov/Pages/events/annual-events.aspx. ◾ Tours of labs and other facilities are available – see https://jefpat.maryland.gov/Pages/events/annual-events.aspx. ◾ Summer camps for kids and other educational programs are available, as well as workshops for kids and adults. • Jefferson Patterson Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society in Calvert County, but many birders participate in MOS through the Anne Arundel Bird Club or the Patuxent Bird Club; both of these MOS chapters offer field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. ◾ In addition, the Southern MD Audubon Society serves birders in Charles, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Prince George’s Counties.
Jefferson Patterson Park has three audio tours focusing on three different times in the park’s history, accessible via cell phone. Walking in their Footsteps: A Patuxent Community showcases the replica Indian Village; 1812 Remembered highlights the effects of the War of 1812 on southern Maryland; and A Culture Revisited allows listeners to re-live the experiences of the men and women of Maryland who worked and lived on the lands from colonial time to present. Using their cell phones to access the tour, visitors can dial into an introductory segment and step by step journey following signage to key locations on the property. Walking in their Footsteps begins at the head of the Indian Village trail, while 1812 Remembered starts just outside the Visitor Center. This ongoing project is a collaboration that began in 2009 between the park and the Huntingtown High School Archaeology Class. The tours are open year-round and are free for all. To activate the tours, dial 410-246-1966.
From points north: From Prince Frederick in Calvert County, follow MD Route 4 south for approximately 3.8 miles. Turn right on MD Route 264/Broomes Island Road. Follow Route 264 south-southwest for 2.2 miles, then turn left (south) on MD Route 265, Mackall Road. The Park & Museum entrance will be on the right in 5.6 miles. Turn right into the park entrance. Follow driveway into the park, and the Visitor Center will be on your left. Parking is on your right directly across from the Visitor Center.
From points west: From Waldorf in Charles County, follow MD Route 5 south to Hughesville. Take exit for MD Route 231/Prince Frederick Road, eastbound. Follow for 12.3 miles to the intersection with MD Route 4 at Prince Frederick. Turn right (south) and then follow directions as above.
From points south: From Lexington Park in St. Mary’s County, follow MD Route 4 north for approximately 13.8 miles. Turn left (west) onto Parran Road and follow for 1.8 miles, to a T-intersection at MD Route 265/Mackall Road. Turn left (south). The Park & Museum entrance will be on the right in 5.6 miles. Turn right into Park entrance. Follow driveway into the park, and the Visitor Center will be on your left. Parking is on your right directly across from the Visitor Center.
Calvert County: American Chestnut Land Trust – Parkers Creek Preserve, Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary / Gatewood Preserve / Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, Calvert Cliffs State Park, Chesapeake Beach, Flag Ponds Nature Park, Kings Landing Park & Huntingtown Natural Resources Management Area, North Beach, Solomons Island
Charles County: Indian Creek Natural Resources Management Area
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerows Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby MeadowsSandy Beach or Dunes Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
BeginnersBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFree - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewYoung People / Families
Chesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails