At a Glance
Hours: Sunrise to sunset.
Tips: Bring a scope, particularly in winter. ◾ The watershed lands are a public hunting area. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ Obey all “No Entry” and “No Parking’ signs.◾ No restrooms.
Best Seasons: Year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: (includes the entire extent of the City watershed property in Baltimore and Carroll Counties): Finksburg NE, Finksburg CW, Finksburg CE, Finksburg SE, Reisterstown NW, Reisterstown CW, Reisterstown SW, Sykesville NE
Local MOS Chapter: Carroll County Bird Club
Liberty Reservoir – Bollinger Mill Road
2598 Bollinger Mill Road, Finksburg, MD 21048
Liberty Reservoir is located on the border of Baltimore and Carroll Counties. The Baltimore County portion is described separately in this Birder’s Guide.
Owned by the City of Baltimore, the reservoir supplies drinking water to the City and some nearby areas. The 9,200 acres of watershed lands are maintained in forested habitat to protect the quality of the drinking water. The watershed lands are generally open to the public for hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting, although some areas are closed to public access (see Access Note below). The lands surrounding the reservoir are operated for public hunting as a Cooperative Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) under management of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The 3,100-acre reservoir sits on the former site of the town of Oakland Mills, which was inundated when the reservoir was created in 1956. The North Branch of the Patapsco River is the primary tributary that feeds the reservoir. The reservoir is 11 miles in length with 81 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 59 feet.
The watershed lands around Liberty Reservoir are criss-crossed with a network of unmarked and unnamed foot-trails. Typical trails around the reservoir are fire roads winding through forested uplands with occasional views of the lake and plenty of ups and downs.
The Middle Run Trail, accessed from the trailhead at the end of Bollinger Mill Road, is markedly different. Much of this trail lies in the shallow valley of Middle Run, a pretty little stream complete with pocket wetlands, open meadows and brushy coverts. The paths are broad and the few elevation changes are gradual. All in all, this may be the best hike at Liberty Reservoir.
To access the trail, simply drive to the east end of Bollinger Mill Road (see Directions below), leave your car at the small parking area at the end of the road, and then continue east on foot. You will soon come to a foot-trail that runs north and south along the edge of the water. Turning left to go north will take you up upstream along Middle Run, into good habitat for forest-dwelling interior birds. Alternatively, turning right to go south will take you along the edge of an arm of the reservoir, which may be desirable in winter when waterfowl are present.
In addition to the printable trail map provided at the link at left, you may wish to consult an interactive mapping app such as The Hiking Project (https://www.hikingproject.com/directory/8018678/liberty-reservoir-cooperative-wildlife-management-area) or the map at Mid-Atlantic Hikes (http://midatlantichikes.com/pineypoint.htm). At the latter website, the trail described for the “Piney Point-Middle Run Circuit” in Liberty Watershed starts at the Bollinger Mill Road parking area. Open Street Map also shows the trail from the Bollinger Mill Road parking area, as well as other watershed trails; trails will appear as dotted or dashed lines on the map as you zoom in.
The Middle Run Trail is also shown on the City of Baltimore’s Mountain Biking Trail Map, linked at left.
Access Note: It was reported by local media in summer of 2019 that the City of Baltimore has decided to permanently decommission seven fire roads within the Liberty Reservoir watershed lands. The public is no longer allowed to use these roads for hiking, hunting, biking, horseback riding, or any other use. The seven roads that have been decommissioned are Murray Road, Content Lane, Poole/Pouder Area, Glen Falls Road, Old Oakland Road to Wards Chapel Road, Cockeys Mill Road to MD Route 140 and Ivy Mill Road. A citizens’ group is working to attempt to restore access; see https://www.facebook.com/Friends-of-Liberty-Reservoir-384917249013180/. At this time, an updated trail map showing which roads and trails are open is not available. Obey posted signs at the property.
Over 150 species have been reported on eBird at the Liberty Watershed — Bollinger Mill Rd. hotspot. Birds to look for include summer waders and swallows; summer flycatchers and vireos; warblers during spring and fall migration as well as some breeding warblers (Worm-eating, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Kentucky, Hooded, American Redstart, Northern Parula); shorebirds in late summer/early fall; waterfowl in winter; woodpeckers year-round; good for migrating thrushes and for breeding Wood Thrush and possibly breeding Veery.
Additional Liberty Reservoir eBird hotspots in Carroll County include:
- Liberty Lake–North End – 168+ species
- Liberty Reservoir–Boat Dock (Carroll Co.) – 88+ species
- Liberty Reservoir–Glen Falls Rd. Crossing (Carroll Co.) – 135+ species – Note: this area is now closed to the public; see Access Note above.
- Liberty Reservoir–Murray Rd. mudflats (Carroll Co.) – 95+ species – Note: this area is now closed to the public; see Access Note above.
- Liberty Reservoir–Piney Point Trail – 81+ species
- Liberty Reservoir–Pouder Rd. (Carroll Co.) – 74+ species. Note: this area is now closed to the public; see Access Note above.
- Liberty Watershed–Deer Park Road – 112+ species
- Liberty Watershed–Oakland Road – 92+ species
- Pine Knob Road Trail – 98+ species
The trails at Liberty Watershed are natural-surface, dirt and grass lanes and are not wheelchair-accessible. Limited birding is possible from the car at the Bollinger Mill Road parking area or from other parking areas.
Pets are OK on leash; pick up after your pet.
Liberty Reservoir is contained within the Patapsco Valley Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society.
Fishing, hunting, paddling or boating, mountain biking, and hiking/trail running are popular activities at Liberty Watershed. ◾ A public boat launch ramp is located on the western shore of the reservoir; the boat launch is accessed from an unnamed road that goes east from Oakland Mills Road north of Lakeview Avenue. A special permit from the City of Baltimore is required for boats, canoes, and kayaks. Boats with propane or gasoline engines are not permitted. Boaters must agree not to use their watercraft on any other body of water, in order to curtail the spread of invasive aquatic species, such as zebra mussels.
Good trail maps of Liberty Watershed are hard to come by. Two good online resources are the Hiking Project (https://www.hikingproject.com/directory/8018678/liberty-reservoir-cooperative-wildlife-management-area) and Mid-Atlantic Hikes (http://midatlantichikes.com/pineypoint.htm). At the latter website, the trail described for the “Piney Point-Middle Run Circuit” in Liberty Watershed starts at the Bollinger Mill Road parking area.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Carroll County Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
Go to the east end of Bollinger Mill Road, passing a private residence on the left at #2590; continue to the parking lot near the end of the road. The parking area will be on the left (north side of the road). The parking lot will hold 10-15 cars.
From the Baltimore Beltway/I-695, take Exit 18 to go west on MD Route 26/Liberty Road. Then turn right (north) onto MD Route 32S/Sykesville Road. Make sharp right (east) onto Bollinger Mill Road. Continue to end of road just past residence on left at #2590. Trails from here head both north along the Middle Run valley and south through the Coot Peninsula.
Carroll County: Avondale Wildlife Management Area ◾ Hashawha Environmental Center / Bear Branch Nature Center ◾ Krimgold Park ◾ Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area ◾ Patapsco Valley State Park – McKeldin Area ◾ Piney Run Park & Nature Center ◾ Wakefield Valley Park
Baltimore County: Liberty Reservoir Cooperative Wildlife Management Area – Baltimore County ◾ Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area
Bottomland DeciduousConifersUpland Deciduous Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
Features:Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasHunting AreasPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsThe Rivers of the Western Shore