At a Glance
Hours: Sunrise to sunset, or as posted.
Tips: There is a comfort station at the Trotter Road parking area, which also has drinking water available during the warm months. ■ Smoking is not allowed in any Howard County park. ■ Trails may be muddy and grass wet; wear waterproof boots.
Best Seasons: Year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Clarksville NE, Clarksville CE
Middle Patuxent Environmental Area
5795 Trotter Road, Clarksville, MD 21029
The 1,021-acre Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA) is managed by the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks in cooperation with the Middle Patuxent Environmental Foundation. This natural area is home to a diversity of wildlife, including an impressive list of over 180 species of birds, over 40 species of mammals, and numerous plants, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, butterflies, and other wildlife. The MPEA protects the valley of the Middle Patuxent River, which flows from north to south through the MPEA. Natural resource conservation, environmental education, research, and passive recreation, are goals for the management of the MPEA. The MPEA is actively managed to control invasive exotics, control the deer population, monitor stream quality, and monitor birds and other species.
The MPEA contains a combination of upland, steep slopes, and floodplain along with deciduous woods, edge, second-growth, a warm-season grass meadow, river, streams, ponds, wooded wetlands, and a few pines, making this a premier Howard County birding destination.
American Woodcock management is a major focus: the Aelred D. Geis Woodcock Habitat Management Area, in the vicinity of the Wildlife Loop Trail, provides breeding habitat for these quirky birds that breed in early successional habitat.
Like much of Howard County, Middle Patuxent Environmental Area has suffered in the last decades from an exploding white-tailed deer population. Much of the native understory has been destroyed and large sections have been invaded by non-native plants. Managed hunts have stabilized deer numbers to some degree, and there are signs that the understory is improving. It is hoped that, eventually, some of the ground-nesting birds that formerly nested will return.
Five and one-half miles of hiking trails, with descriptive brochures, give visitors an opportunity to enjoy and learn about the area. The marked nature trails and main conservation sites are reached from either of two entry points–one off Trotter Road and the other from South Wind Circle. Both entrances feature a large display map and “take one” tri-fold brochures with maps and accompanying interpretive descriptions tied to the numbered marker posts found along the trails. Each brochure is specific to the particular entry point, although each also features a complete Middle Patuxent Environmental Area map. See the
Note that a recent upgrade at the Trotter Road parking area has brought improvements including pervious-surface parking, a comfort station, and a maintenance building. The comfort station restrooms are all-season and will be open year-round. There are also outside drinking fountains but they are not freeze-proof and are turned off for the winter.
For more suggestions regarding exploring Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, see the detailed site guide provided by the Howard County Bird Club at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/MPEA/.
Over 175 species have been reported on eBird from the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area. There are three eBird hotspots covering the park:
- Middle Patuxent Environmental Area overall – 180+ species
- Middle Patuxent Environmental Area–South Wind Trail – 155+ species
- Middle Patuxent Environmental Area — Wildlife Loop Trail – 141+ species
Breeding birds include Wood Duck, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Acadian Flycatcher, White-eyed, Yellow-throated, and Red-eyed Vireos, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Kentucky Warbler. American Woodcock also breed here and perform breeding displays in early spring. Veeries and Yellow-billed Cuckoos are relatively plentiful. The three county-breeding owls (Barred, Great Horned, and Eastern Screech) all occur here, with Barred Owls the most conspicuous.
The best potential for species diversity is during peak migration periods when almost any county passerine can occur here and a variety of waterfowl, long-legged waders, hawks, and gulls may be seen overhead. MPEA is a prime county location for migrant and breeding thrushes. Twelve species of sparrows and 35 species of warblers have been reported. MPEA is fairly reliable for Mourning and Connecticut Warblers in migration.
Generally, the most productive areas year-round are the trails adjacent to the Middle Patuxent River. This is particularly the case in less-than-perfect weather.
Most of the MPEA is not handicapped-accessible, although a short section at the entrance to each main trail is level and either grass or gravel. Parts of all trails are rough and contain steep slopes; portions along the river may contain standing water after heavy rains. There is a network of paved paths in the far northeast corner of the property, near the Hobbit’s Glen area, and another section of paved trails on the east side of the property between Little Patuxent Parkway and Cedar Lane. The access points and the routes for these paved paths can be visualized on Google Maps or on Open Street Maps.
Pets are allowed on leash; pick up after your pet.
- Download a pictorial Wildflower Calendar for Middle Patuxent Environmental Area from the Howard County Parks website.
- A set of seasonal lists of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, and herps at MPEA is available at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/mpea/mpea-species-lists/, courtesy of the Howard County Bird Club.
Local MOS Chapter:
The Howard County Bird Club, a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, holds bird walks at MPEA and other locations in the county; such walks are free and open to the public. See the Howard County Bird Club’s calendar for more information.
The Howard County Bird Club has a detailed online guide, “Birding Howard County,” on their website at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/. Edited by Joanne Solem, the online guide replaces an older printed guide, now out-of-print. The website is up-to-date and extremely detailed. Check it out!
Gravel lot at Trotter Road, roadside at South Wind Trail.
From points south: Take I-95, I-295, or I-97 north and then take the exit for MD Route 32 westbound. From Route 32, take Exit 20, turning right to go north on MD Route 108/Clarksville Pike. Proceed 1.4 miles and then turn right (southeast) onto Trotter Road. The Trotter Road parking area will be 0.9 miles on the left (east side of the road). To reach the South Wind Circle trailhead, continue south on Trotter Road for an additional one-quarter mile; at the traffic circle turn into South Wind Circle, and park roadside where you see the trailhead kiosk.
From the Baltimore Beltway/I-695: Take Exit 11 to go south on I-95. Stay on I-95 for 14 miles, then take Exit 38B to go west on MD Route 32. From Route 32, take Exit 20, turning right to go north on MD Route 108/Clarksville Pike. Proceed 1.3 miles and then turn right (southeast) onto Trotter Road. The Trotter Road parking area will be 0.9 miles on the left (east side of the road). To reach the South Wind Circle trailhead, continue south on Trotter Road for an additional one-quarter mile; at the traffic circle turn into South Wind Circle, and park roadside where you see the trailhead kiosk.
From points west: Take I-70 east to Exit 80 for MD Route 32 eastbound. In 8.6 miles, take Exit 20 for MD Route 108/Clarksville Pike northbound. Follow Route 108 north for 1.4 miles and turn right (southeast) onto Trotter Road. The Trotter Road parking area will be 0.9 miles on the left (east side of the road). To reach the South Wind Circle trailhead, continue south on Trotter Road for an additional one-quarter mile; at the traffic circle turn into South Wind Circle, and park roadside where you see the trailhead kiosk.
Howard County: Centennial Lake & Park ■ David Force Natural Resource Area ■ Howard County Conservancy – Mount Pleasant Farm ■ Lake Elkhorn ■ Patapsco Valley State Park – Daniels Area ■ Patapsco Valley State Park – Henryton ■ Patuxent River State Park – Annapolis Rock Road Area ■ Patuxent River State Park – Hipsley Mill Road Area ■ Rockburn Branch Park ■ Schooley Mill Park ■ Triadelphia Reservoir (Brighton Dam) ■ Western Regional Park ■ Wilde Lake
Features:FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:County ParksThe Rivers of the Western Shore