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 visit accordingly. ◾ Obey all “No Entry” and “No Parking’ signs. ◾ No restrooms.
Best Seasons: Spring, summer and fall; winter can be good for ducks, sparrows, and woodpeckers but be aware of deer hunting in winter.
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: Baltimore Bird Club
Liberty Reservoir – Baltimore County
5685 Oakland Road, Eldersburg, MD 21784-6828
Liberty Reservoir is located on the border of Baltimore and Carroll Counties. A section in Carroll County accessed from Bollinger Mill Road is described separately in this Birder’s Guide.
Liberty Reservoir provides birders with an unparalleled opportunity to explore undeveloped woodlands with access to the reservoir’s waterfront. The reservoir itself covers over 3,000 acres and is 11 miles long, with 82 miles of shoreline. The total size of the surrounding watershed lands, including the reservoir, is 9,200 acres. The reservoir was formed by damming the North Branch of the Patapsco River to produce a source of drinking water for the City of Baltimore. Liberty Reservoir and the lands around it are owned by the city, and are managed with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a Cooperative Wildlife Management Area (CWMA), protecting the water quality in the reservoir while providing public recreation opportunities. The forested lands of the watershed protect the water from runoff and ensiltation.
Liberty Reservoir is open to birding, hiking, horseback riding, nature photography, fishing, and boating (no gasoline motors or inflatables). The area is also open to archery hunting for all game species during the regular hunting seasons established by the state. The watershed lands provide habitat for upland and forest wildlife species, primarily white-tailed deer, Wild Turkey, and songbirds, among others.
There are numerous access points and roadside parking areas on public roads throughout the city-owned watershed lands, but good trail maps are hard to come by. You can start with the Parking Locations Map and the Mountain Biking Trail Map at the links at left. In addition, 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), but the Hiking Project maps do not show many trails on the Baltimore County side. Open Street Map also shows trails around the reservoir, and has good coverage of both sides of the reservoir; trails will appear as dotted or dashed lines on the map as you zoom in.
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. 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.
A number of eBird hotspots cover the Baltimore County section of Liberty Reservoir and its surrounding watershed lands:
- Liberty Reservoir–Content Lane Trail – 111+ species – Note: this area is now closed to the public; see Access Note above.
- Liberty Reservoir–Dam Trail – 143+ species
- Liberty Reservoir–Liberty Dam Road – 148+ species
- Liberty Reservoir–Locust Run Trail – 132+ species
- Liberty Reservoir–Norris Run Trail – 129+ species
- Liberty Reservoir–Oakland Trail – 110+ species – Note: part of this area (Old Oakland Road to Wards Chapel Road) is now closed to the public; see Access Note above.
- Liberty Reservoir–Route 140 – 128+ species
- Liberty Reservoir–Timber Run Trail – 70+ species
The lands surrounding Liberty Reservoir are forested, and all the usual forest-dwelling bird species can be found here in appropriate seasons: warblers, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, woodpeckers, and more. Swallows, including Cliff, can be found in the summer months.
Wood Ducks nest at the reservoir. Other notable breeding birds include Willow Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Cerulean Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prairie Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler. The greatest diversity of species is found at the north end of the reservoir, near MD Route 140/Baltimore Boulevard, but the entire CWMA is worth exploring.
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 some of the parking areas.
Pets are OK on leash; pick up after your pet.
Liberty Reservoir is contained within the Patapsco Valley Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Baltimore Bird Club. The Baltimore Bird Club is the founding chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, and remains an important hub of birding activity in the state. The club offers monthly meetings with informative presentations and a full schedule of field trips and bird walks, all free and open to the public.
Parking is available along the numerous roads throughout watershed property, unless otherwise designated as a no-parking zone. See the Parking Locations Map at the link at left.
From US I-70, take MD Route 32/Sykesville Road north to MD Route 26/Liberty Road. Turn right (east) onto MD Route 26/Liberty Road, and cross the bridge over the Reservoir. The trails on the Baltimore County side of Liberty Reservoir (i.e., the eastern side), are accessed via roads that go north and south from Route 26. More specific directions to trailheads will be coming soon. Meanwhile, use the Parking Locations Map and the Trail Maps at the links provided at left to navigate to the trailheads, which are accessed from roadside parking spots.
Carroll County: Avondale Wildlife Management Area ◾ Hashawha Environmental Center / Bear Branch Nature Center ◾ Krimgold Park ◾ Liberty Reservoir Cooperative Wildlife Management Area – Bollinger Mill Road ◾ Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area ◾ Patapsco Valley State Park – McKeldin Area ◾ Piney Run Park & Nature Center ◾ Wakefield Valley Park
Howard County: David Force Natural Resource Area ◾ Howard County Conservancy – Mount Pleasant Farm ◾ Patapsco Valley State Park – Daniels Area ◾ Patapsco Valley State Park – Henryton ◾ Western Regional Park
Features:Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasHunting AreasPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsThe Rivers of the Western Shore