Lake Artemesia Natural Area
55th Street and Berwyn Road, Berwyn Heights, MD 20740
Lake Artemesia Natural Area is located in the community of Berwyn Heights, just outside College Park in northern Prince George’s County. It is a large (by suburban standards) 38-acre lake created on the site of a former maze of fish ponds, excavated by the DC Metro for gravel for its rail line. In mitigation, Metro constructed the lake and surrounding paved trails and facilities. Lake Artemesia Natural Area and adjoining Indian Creek Park now comprise almost 225 acres of open space, managed by the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (MNCPPC, which is the Department of Parks and Recreation for Prince George’s County). Indian Creek flows from north to south on the east side of Lake Artemesia, and at the south end, Paint Branch flows west to east. The two streams join near the southeast tip of the park to form the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River, which is a major tributary of the Potomac River.
Lake Artemesia provides one of the best inland aquatic habitats in the DC suburban area. The lake is known as a wintering spot for waterfowl and has an uncanny ability to draw in birds usually associated with larger bodies of water or salt water, such as Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, and Redhead. A small meadow with pollinator plants is located on the peninsula that projects from the west side of the lake, and the rest of the peninsula contains good shrubby habitat that attracts sparrows and birds such as Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, and Willow Flycatcher. The surrounding deciduous woods are good for warblers, vireos, thrushes, and flycatchers in migration.
The Luther Goldman Birding Trail loops around the lake and is paved and wheelchair-accessible. A trail guide for the Luther Goldman Birding Trail has been written by local birder Dave Mozurkewich, who leads twice-monthly bird walks at Lake Artemesia. The trail is named in memory of Luther Goldman (1909–2005), who was best known for his photographs of endangered species of birds, taken during his service as chief photographer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The influential wildlife biologist lived in College Park during the latter years of his life, when he led many natural history tours and field trips, both in the National Capital area as well as abroad. He was a member of both the Patuxent Bird Club chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society and the Prince George’s Audubon Society, and received honors from many organizations in recognition of his contributions to the cause of wildlife preservation.
As can be seen on the park map and the trail system map at the links at left, the trails around Lake Artemesia are part of the larger Anacostia Tributary Trail System, a huge hiker-biker trail network that permeates the entire northern section of Prince George’s County. The Anacostia Tributary Trail System connects numerous community parks and greenways in the suburban areas of Prince George’s County near College Park and the northern boundary of Washington, DC. Almost the entire trail system is paved and wheelchair-accessible.
Bird walks are offered at Lake Artemesia twice a month by Prince George’s Audubon Society and Patuxent Bird Club. See the MOS calendar for details.
Over 215 species have been reported on eBird from Lake Artemesia.
In winter, the lake may have a good collection of ducks including Redheads, mergansers, and other diving species; loons; and grebes. Gallinules and even rails have shown up when the vegetation on the lakeside is allowed to grow. The pollinator meadow, if unmowed, is good for sparrows and other wintering birds.
In spring the surrounding woods are a magnet for warblers and other passerines. The lake itself is good for gulls and terns and swallows, in season.
In summer, egrets and herons may stop by. Breeding birds include Wood Duck, Green Heron, Purple Martin, Warbling Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, and both orioles.
Fall migration is also good, with Rusty Blackbirds and Bobolinks possible.
Paved lot at the intersection of Berwyn Road and Ballew Avenue (which becomes 55th Avenue) in Berwyn Heights.
The entire trail around Lake Artemesia is paved and can be navigated in a wheelchair. Handicapped-accessible side-trails are located in the 5200 block of Calvert Road in College Park, or Osage Street and Swathmore Court in Berwyn Heights. ◾ To celebrate the dedication of the Luther Goldman Birding Trail, Dr. Donald Messersmith, the MOS Historian, wrote A History of Birding in Prince George’s County, Maryland. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Patuxent Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
From the Capital Beltway (I-495): Take Exit 23 South (Kenilworth Avenue). In just half-a-mile, at the first intersection, turn right (west) onto MD Route 193/Greenbelt Avenue. In 0.8miles, turn right again onto Branchville Road. After curving to the left, Branchville Avenue runs parallel to Route 193, and then bends left again, passing under Route 193 and becoming Ballew Avenue. Follow Ballew Avenue south for just 0.3 miles, passing a lot of industrial operations on the right, until you get to the intersection of 55th Avenue and Berwyn Road. Watch out for heavy trucks in this section! Parking is in a paved lot on the left (east) side of the road at the intersection. Walk south on the blacktop trail along 55th Avenue to reach the main gate into Lake Artemesia Natural Area.
Prince George’s County: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (restricted access) ◾ Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Colmar Manor Community Park & Anacostia River Trail ◾ Fran Uhler Natural Area ◾ Governor Bridge Natural Area ◾ Greenbelt (National) Park ◾ Greenbelt Lake Municipal Park (Buddy Attick Lake Park) ◾ Merkle Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Milltown Landing Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Patuxent Research Refuge – South Tract (National Wildlife Visitor Center) ◾ Patuxent River Park – Jug Bay Natural Area ◾ Patuxent River Park – Mount Calvert Historical & Archaeological Park ◾ Piscataway MOS Sanctuary ◾ Rosaryville State Park ◾ Schoolhouse Pond
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseReclaimed Industrial SiteUrban or Small Town Landscape Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Community and Urban ParksHiker-Biker Trails (Paved)Ponds, Lakes, and Reservoirs