At a Glance
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
Tips: Bring a scope for viewing the river. ◾ No restrooms. ◾ The trail can become slippery and muddy when it becomes necessary to discharge large volumes of water from the Conowingo Dam; sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are recommended. ◾ The trail and the park may be closed or partially closed because of high water.
Best Seasons: Year-round.\
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Conowingo Dam SE
Local MOS Chapter: Cecil Bird Club
Octoraro Creek Trail at Conowingo Park
1775 Susquehanna River Road (MD Route 222), Conowingo, MD 21918
The Octoraro Creek Trail is a delightful spot for a short bird walk and because of its strategic location, holds more diversity than you might think. The trail goes through woods paralleling Octoraro Creek, to emerge in half-a-mile at the mouth of the creek at the Susquehanna River, just below Conowingo Dam. Short spur trails go north and south along the river and creek bank from there. The trail-head begins and ends at Conowingo Park, a small (33 acres) county-owned park with ball fields, playground, and a pavilion. Park at the lot just off MD Route 222 and look near the northeast corner of the park for the gravel trail that heads north along a post-and-rail fence and then into the woods.
The trail passes through deciduous second-growth hardwood forest with lush understory, prime habitat along the south bank of the Octoraro Creek. Though the trail is mostly gravel-surfaced, some low parts may be muddy or wet. The trail’s end at the Susquehanna River offers an opportunity to scope the river below the dam. You can return to the parking area via a short cut that branches off from the main trail. The short cut emerges into the main part of the park near the picnic pavilion, making this a loop trail. There is also a paved walking trail that circles the park, that can be used to bird the woods edges. Though short, the Octoraro Creek Trail provides rare access to the Cecil County side of the Susquehanna and affords good views of the area below the Conowingo Dam.
While in the area, you can explore nearby roads that run along the Octoraro Creek on the east side of MD Route 222. Start by taking Route 222 north from Conowingo Park, cross over the Octoraro, and watch for Moore Road on the right. Turn right to go east on Moore Road and follow it as it winds along the north bank of the Creek. There are several roadside pull-offs, much used by fishermen, and an actual fishing park (Rowlandsville Fishing Park (http://www.ccgov.org/Home/Components/FacilityDirectory/FacilityDirectory…) on Basin Run Road. The roads here (Moore Road, Basin Run Road, Rowlandsville Road, Dr. Jack Road, McCauley Road) wind through the Octoraro Creek Valley, with mature hardwood forests, and picturesque historic railroad trestles. In spring, check the sycamores for Yellow-throated Warblers, Warbling Vireos, and other goodies – maybe even a migrating Cerulean. Bird from the roadside along Basin Run Road, Moore Road, and McCauley Road and look in the crowns of Sycamore Trees for these canopy-dwelling species. Some of the land here is part of a tract of 102 acres administered by Susquehanna State Park; the main portion of Susquehanna State Park lies across the river in Harford County. There are no trails in the Cecil tract of Susquehanna State Park, but there are excellent roadside birding opportunities.
About 150 species have been reported to eBird from Conowingo Park and the Octoraro Creek Trail. The area is a mini-migrant trap. Many species of migrating songbirds pass through during spring migration and it is a good location for sighting early spring warblers. Bald Eagles (year-round) and Ospreys (March through September) are abundant and can be easily viewed from the mouth of Octoraro Creek. Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, and Black-and-white Warblers nest here, as do Yellow-throated and Warbling Vireos. It’s a good place to look for sapsuckers and Brown Creepers in winter. Scope the Susquehanna in winter for waterfowl and gulls, and in summer for terns. Sometimes, if the water levels are right, it is possible to spot migrating shorebirds on exposed rocky flats on the Susquehanna shore below Conowingo Dam.
Free paved parking lot at Conowingo Park; ample space for many cars.
A large portion of the Susquehanna River and its shores, from north of the Pennsylvania border to Port Deposit on the Cecil County side and to I-95 on the Harford County side, has been designated as the Susquehanna River Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Cecil Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
From Exit 93 off I-95: Follow MD Route 222 north for approximately 8 miles to the sign for Conowingo Park on the left. Watch the signage for Route 222 carefully. Initially Route 222 follows Perrylawn Drive, then makes a left turn at Bainbridge Road and then a sharp right at the bottom of the hill approaching the town of Port Deposit. Route 222 then follows Main Street north through Port Deposit. Once north of Port Deposit, Route 222 travels through mature hardwood forest where warblers sing in the spring. Conowingo Park will be on your left (west side of road) and the open area with ballfields should be obvious. If you cross the bridge over the Octoraro Creek, you’ve gone too far.
Along the way, use any available roadside pull-offs to stop to look and listen for birds, but be cautious since many cars speed along Route 222. Upon arrival at Conowingo Park, look for the trail-head for the Octoraro Creek Trail at the northeast corner of the parking lot, near a kiosk.
Cecil County: Elk River Park & Elkton Marsh ◾ Elkton – Meadow Park, Eder Park, Hatchery Park, & Howard’s Pond ◾ Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area ◾Funk’s Pond Recreation Area & Old Conowingo Area ◾ North East Community Park ◾ Perryville Community Park ◾ Port Deposit & Susquehanna River Road Driving Tour ◾Woodlawn Wildlife Area / New Beginnings
Harford County: Anita C. Leight Estuary Center – Otter Point Creek ◾ Bradenbaugh Flats & Upper Deer Creek Valley ◾ Conowingo Dam / Fisherman’s Park (Harford County Side) ◾ Havre De Grace Marina | Tydings Memorial Park ◾ Rocks State Park ◾ Susquehanna State Park ◾ Swan Harbor Farm & Tydings Park (Oakington)
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
Features:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasCounty ParksThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore