Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center
1000 Frankfurst Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21226 (410) 246-0669 ext. 100
Limited access in effect as of December 15, 2020: The Masonville Bald Eagle pair have returned and are exhibiting nesting behaviors. To protect the birds during nesting season, access will be closed within a 660-ft radius around the nest on the Sycamore Trail (see map). This closure will continue until the eaglets fledge, which is usually in early July. This means that most of the Masonville trail system will be inaccessible, but visitors can still walk the Captain Trash Wheel Trail and scope from the Education Center deck.
Located on the shore of the Patapsco River in an industrial area in south Baltimore City, Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center features 54 acres of restored wetlands, nature trails, and a protected bird sanctuary. This nature area is small, but has incredible diversity for such a tiny place. The public waterfront access and wide viewing angles are unique in urban Baltimore.
In times past, the Masonville Cove area was a thriving residential neighborhood, but industrial development led to the abandonment of the residences, and also brought detrimental environmental impacts. In 2004, there came an opportunity for environmental revitalization when the Army Corp of Engineers and the Maryland Port Administration partnered to restore and preserve the natural beauty of Masonville Cove and construct an environmental education center in conjunction with a dredging project for Baltimore Harbor.
Since 2007, restoration of Masonville Cove has been underway, including removing derelict vessels from the water, and removing over 14,000 tons of wood and assorted other debris. Nearby, a Dredged Material Containment Facility (DMCF) was created to hold the materials from the harbor dredging, and although the DMCF is not open to the public, many of the shorebirds and other birds that use the DMCF stop by the adjacent Environmental Education Center where they can be enjoyed by visitors.
The grounds at Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center are open for drop-in birding and other public uses. Opened in 2009, the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center provides environmental educational programs for the neighboring communities, as part of the $153 million restoration effort for the cove, which included building of bike trails, environmental restoration, and the creation of new habitat. The Education Center was designed to be a focal point for school programs and community efforts. The Center itself is a “Near-Zero Net Energy Building,” designed to consume 75% less energy than a standard commercial building of its size.
Notably, Masonville Cove provides the first public access to the Baltimore waterfront in generations. Masonville Cove has a public pier for fishing and canoe/kayak launching. Trails throughout the campus are open for hiking and most are wheelchair accessible. The Bird Sanctuary on the property is protected from human disturbance, but provides high-grade habitat for a large number of bird species. This habitat creates abundant birding opportunities throughout the campus. The grounds also feature a children’s nature exploration area and native gardens. The restored wetlands have both tidal and non-tidal areas.
Note that a pair of Bald Eagles has taken up residence at Masonville Cove, and parts of the facility may be closed to visitors during nesting season (January through July) in order to prevent disturbance to the birds.
Over 255 species have been reported on eBird from this small nature area. In 2019 and 2020, a pair of Bald Eagles nested and successfully fledged two young each year.
Species found year-round, or nearly so, include Canada Goose; American Black Duck; Mallard; Lesser Scaup; Ruddy Duck; Double-crested Cormorant; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Bald Eagle; Cooper’s Hawk; Red-shouldered Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Killdeer; Ring-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls; Rock Pigeon; Mourning Dove; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; American and Fish Crows; Carolina Chickadee; Carolina Wren; American Robin; Northern Mockingbird; European Starling; Song Sparrow; Northern Cardinal; Red-winged Blackbird; House Finch; American Goldfinch; and House Sparrow. Notably, both Ring-necked Pheasant and Northern Bobwhite have been reported here, sporadically throughout the year.
In winter, ducks congregate in large numbers in the sheltered harbor, and other water birds can be seen in abundance flying overhead or further out in the water. Expected species in winter include Gadwall; American Wigeon; Northern Shoveler; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Greater Scaup; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; and Red-breasted Merganser; as well as Common Loon; Pied-billed and Horned Grebes; and American Coot.
In the warm months, the selection of wading birds includes Great Blue, Little Blue, and Green Herons, along with Great Egret and Snowy Egret and both Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. Shorebirds seen in the summer or in migration include Black-bellied Plover; American Golden-Plover; Semipalmater Plover; Stilt Sandpiper; Sanderling; Dunlin; and Least, White-rumped, Pectoral, Semipalmated, Western, Spotted, and Solitary Sandpipers; along with Short-billed Dowitcher; Wilson’s Snipe; American Woodcock; and both yellowlegs. Laughing Gulls and Ospreys move into the area in summer, along with terns such as Least, Caspian, Common and Forster’s. Chimney Swifts are abundant in summer and in migration.
Flycatchers, vireos, swallows, gnatcatchers, and warblers can also be found in migration and some stay through the summer, such as Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, and Yellow Warbler. A good selection of sparrows is present during migration.
Free parking in paved lot, but there is a limited number of parking spots.
Most of the trails at Masonville Cove are wheelchair-accessible. ◾ The public pier at Masonville Cove provides a place for launching canoes and kayaks (bring your own), as well as fishing. ◾ The Living Classrooms Foundation and the National Aquarium provide educational and environmental program at Masonville Cove, and the Center conducts extensive nature education programs in partnership with local schools. ◾ Masonville Cove is a certified Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) Green Center. ◾ Masonville Cove is the heart of the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, as designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. ◾ 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. ◾ For a whimsical look at birding activities in Baltimore, check out the graphic arts booklet, “Birdland,” created by local artist Book Karnjanakit.
From south of Baltimore: Take I-295/Baltimore-Washington Parkway North or I-95 North and follow signs for I-895 North and the Harbor Tunnel (Toll). Follow I-895 North to the toll booth and get into the far right lane. Immediately after the toll, exit far right – DO NOT ENTER TUNNEL. Take Exit 9 for Childs Street and make a right (southbound) onto Childs Street. Then make a right (westbound) onto Frankfurst Avenue and follow it as it goes under I-895. Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center will be on the right.
From north of Baltimore: Take I-95 South and follow signs for I-895 South and the Harbor Tunnel (Toll). Follow I-895 through the tunnel and get into the far right lane as you approach the toll booth after the tunnel. Immediately after the toll, take Exit 8B westbound toward Hanover Street, and merge onto Frankfurst Avenue, heading north. Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center will be on the right.
Fort McHenry National Monument; Patterson Park; Cylburn Arboretum; Druid Hill Park.
HedgerowsUpland Deciduous Dredged Material Containment FacilityGarden or ArboretumUrban or Small Town Landscape Old Fields, Shrubby MeadowsSandy Beach or Dunes Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or Estuary
BeginnersBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFree - No Entry FeeGift Shop or BookstoreHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerParkingRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Chesapeake Bay Western ShoreMAEOE Green CenterNature CentersThe Rivers of the Western Shore