At a Glance
Hours: Sunrise to sunset.
Tips: On weekends, Morgan Run is extremely popular with horseback riders and bicyclists; try to visit on weekdays. ◾ In late fall and winter, horse hoofprints on muddy trails become frozen, making walking difficult. Sturdy hiking boots, with hard soles, are recommended. ◾ Portable restroom at the Benrose Lane parking area; may not be available in winter.
Hunting: Hunting is allowed in designated sections of Morgan Run, including the main trail area off Benrose Lane; be aware of hunting seasons and visit accordingly.
Best Seasons: Year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Winfield NE, Finksburg NW, Finksburg CW
Local MOS Chapter: Carroll County Bird Club
Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area
4000 Benrose Lane, Sykesville, MD 21784
Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area (NEA) encompasses 1,930 acres of natural area. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began acquiring land for the NEA in the 1970s, and parcel by parcel, has built up the state’s holdings over the years. The entire area has been mostly left alone, with well-maintained trails but no unnecessary “improvements,” making it a perfect place to bird. A 499-acre section of Morgan Run has been set aside as a State Wildland, with restrictions to protect the sensitive habitat and allowing only passive recreation. The Morgan Run stream, which flows though the NEA, is a tributary of the Patapsco River, and Morgan Run NEA helps to protect the water quality of the Patapsco and Liberty Reservoir, which supply drinking water to Baltimore and outlying areas.
Morgan Run NEA has a wide variety of habitats and, thus, a wide diversity of bird species. In fact, before you even get out of the car, the first thing you notice is bird activity: songbirds flitting about, shuttling from the tall trees to the regenerating fields and their many nesting boxes, while within the woods woodpeckers and small songbirds make their incessant noises and hawks and turkey vultures wheel overhead. Flocks of turkeys are seen by local residents, but usually heard rather than seen by birders.
A network of trails emanates from the main parking area at the north end of Benrose Lane, just east of MD Route 97. The trails are natural surface, mostly mown grass or dirt. There are some steep slopes. The trails are not named or color-blazed or signed, so birding this area will be a good test of your map reading skills. The MD DNR trail map (link at left) is laid out on a topographic map background that will help you navigate the NEA. Or, better yet: for those who like to use GPS, the DNR map is geolocator-enabled, meaning that you can load the map into a GPS smartphone app such as Avenza; the app will show your location on the map and you can track your location as you move along the trails. There are many trail loops and interconnections, enabling you to pick a walk as short as a mile or as long as 15 miles.
Morgan Run itself is a catch and release trout stream. A wheelchair accessible parking lot and an accessible platform for fishing are available for anglers (or birders) where Klees Mill Road crosses Morgan Run (see the DNR trail map for the location or use the Google map). From the fishing area, an out-and-back trail heads southeast to follow Morgan Run to the Liberty Watershed lands at London Bridge Road. This trail is not shown on the MD DNR trail map but is included as the “Klee Mill Path” in the free AllTrails app. The one-way distance on the Klee Mill Path is 3.0 miles.
There are other sections of Morgan Run that are used for hunting, including an area off Old Washington Road and one at Cherry Lane. However, there are few formal trails in these areas. The state-owned land at Morgan Run is dotted with the remnants of former farms and homesteads, some of which have historical value, as documented by the Maryland Historical Trust. Some of the houses are leased to tenants and the area around these houses are off-limits to the public, so if you explore parts of Morgan Run away from the main trail area, obey the posted “No Entry” signs.
Some, but not all, of the trails at Morgan Run are open for biking and for horseback riding, both of which are popular activities. The Wildlands Section, which lies to the north of the Benrose Lane parking area, is closed to both bikes and horses. There are a couple of picnic tables located at the edge of the Benrose Lane parking area, and there is a portable toilet (may not be available in winter).
Over 167 species have been reported on eBird from Morgan Run. There are four eBird hotspots covering the NEA: –
- overall Morgan Run NEA – 167+ species
- Morgan Run NEA – Jim Bowers Rd. – 100+ species
- Morgan Run NEA – Klees Mill Rd. – 43+ species (only 15 checklists)
- Morgan Run NEA – Old Washington Rd. – 55+ species (only 12 checklists)
Some highlights are: Wild Turkey (breeder), American Woodcock (spring migrant), Willow Flycatcher (breeder), Blue-winged Warbler (breeder), Yellow-breasted Chat (breeder). A pair of Long-eared Owls was seen for a period in early winter some years ago. Flocks of turkeys are often seen by local residents, but usually heard rather than seen by birders.
The trails at Morgan Run are natural surface and are not wheelchair-accessible. However, there is fairly good birding from or near the car at the parking area on Benrose Lane, or from the hunting area parking spots on Old Washington Road or Cherry Lane. A wheelchair accessible platform for fishing (or birding) is available on Klees Mill Road where it crosses Morgan Run.
Pets are allowed on leash; be prepared to clean up after your pet.
Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area is contained within the Patapsco Valley Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾ Additionally, part of the Morgan Run NEA has been designated by Maryland DNR as a State Wildland,with special protections in place that limit uses and development.
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.
Morgan Run NEA is located in central Carroll County, south of Westminster, and just off MD Route 97.
From the Baltimore Beltway/I-695: Take Exit 18 to go west on MD Route 26/Liberty Road. Liberty Road will take you across the dam at the south end of Liberty Reservoir. Continue going west on Liberty Road through Eldersburg. At Dorsey Crossroads, make a right to go north on MD Route 97/Old Washington Road. From Route 97 north, make a right turn to go east on Bartholow Road and then immediately turn left onto Jim Bowers Road, followed by another immediate left onto Benrose Lane. Follow Benrose Lane north to its terminus at the Morgan Run entrance in about 0.7 miles.
From Western Maryland: Use I-70 eastbound toward Baltimore. Take Exit 76 for northbound MD Route 97/Hoods Mills Road, which soon becomes Old Washington Road, then New Washington Road. Travel north on Route 97 for approximately 10.5 miles, then turn right to go east on Bartholow Road. Then immediately turn left onto Jim Bowers Road, followed by another immediate left onto Benrose Lane. Follow Benrose Lane north to its terminus at the Morgan Run entrance in about 0.7 miles.
From the Washington, DC area: There are many options to travel north from the DC Beltway and the best route will depend on traffic and on your exact starting point. The shortest route from the north side of the DC Beltway/I-695 is to take Exit 31 for MD Route 97/Georgia Avenue northbound. Follow Route 97 north for about 33 miles. Then turn right to go east on Bartholow Road, then immediately turn left onto Jim Bowers Road, followed by another immediate left onto Benrose Lane. Follow Benrose Lane north to its terminus at the Morgan Run entrance in about 0.7 miles.
- Variations on the route from DC are possible: for example, take Exit 28 for MD Route 650/New Hampshire Avenue northbound, following Route 650 to its intersection with Route 97, then continuing as above to Bartholow Road. Or use Exit 33 for MD Route 185/Connecticut Avenue northbound, following Route 185 to its intersection with Route 97, then continuing as above to Bartholow Road.
From the Eastern Shore and from the Annapolis Area: From the Eastern Shore, use US Route 50 to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and continue west on US Route 50 toward Annapolis. From US Route 50, take Exit 21 for I-97 northbound. (Note that I-97 is not the same road as MD Route 97, which comes up later in the route). Follow 1-97 north to the exit for MD Route 32 West. Follow MD 32 West to Route 70 westbound. From Route 70, take Exit 76 for northbound MD Route 97/Hoods Mills Road, which soon becomes Old Washington Road, then New Washington Road. Travel north on Route 97 for approximately 10.5 miles, then turn right to go east on Bartholow Road. Then immediately turn left onto Jim Bowers Road, followed by another immediate left onto Benrose Lane. Follow Benrose Lane north to its terminus at the Morgan Run entrance in about 0.7 miles.
From Southern Maryland: Either use Route 5 to approach the DC Beltway, and follow directions above for Washington, DC, OR use US Route 301 or MD Route 2 to access US Route 50, and proceed as give above for access from the Eastern Shore and Annapolis.
Carroll County: Avondale Wildlife Management Area ◾ Hashawha Environmental Center / Bear Branch Nature Center ◾ Krimgold Park ◾ Liberty Reservoir Cooperative Wildlife Management Area – Bollinger Mill Road ◾ Patapsco Valley State Park – McKeldin Area ◾ Piney Run Park & Nature Center ◾ Wakefield Valley Park
Features:Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingHuntingParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWheelchair Accessible Features
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasState Natural Areas & WildlandsState Parks