At a Glance
Hours: Dawn to dusk. This site is in a residential neighborhood. Please be on your best behavior and avoid disturbing the residents.
Tips: Take a companion.◾ Bring a spotting scope. ◾ Wear sturdy waterproof hiking boots and consider bringing a hiking stick for muddy and steep slopes. ◾ Use tick precaution. ◾ No restrooms.
Prohibited: Camping, fires or cookouts. ◾ Driving motorized vehicles, including ATV’s, except on designated access roads.◾Biking ◾ Trapping or hunting, except as otherwise posted. ◾ Horseback riding. ◾ Feeding wildlife. ◾ Releasing animals or introducing plants. ◾ Disposing of trash or other waste, including biodegradable materials
Best Seasons: Winter for sparrows and waterfowl, spring for warblers and other migrants.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Laurel NW, Laurel NE
Oxbow Natural Area
8020 Oxbow Place, Laurel, MD 20724
Located east of Laurel in Anne Arundel County, Oxbow Natural Area (aka Oxbow Nature Preserve) comprises over 300 acres of public land surrounding a 70-acre lake in the floodplain of the Little Patuxent River. Oxbow Lake is considered to be the largest naturally occurring body of freshwater in Maryland; other large lakes are all man-made, the result of damming creeks or rivers. The land in Oxbow Natural Area consists of several parcels owned by Anne Arundel County, the Anne Arundel Board of Education, and the State of Maryland, and is managed by the Anne Arundel County Department of Parks and Recreation.
Preserved with the help of The Nature Conservancy, the rich habitats at Oxbow Natural Area are home to an abundance of birds as well as rare plants and other animals, including wetland specialities such as dragonflies and damselflies and amphibia. See the Nature Conservancy’s website description of Oxbow Lake as well as the downloadable Visitor Guide for a description of the native plants and the special ecological features found here.
Oxbow Natural Area includes wetlands, uplands, and lowland wooded swamp. A mature deciduous forest of oak, beech, and mountain laurel surrounds the bowl of marshy vegetation around the lake. Much of the site is covered with shallow water even during the dry summer months. A natural surface foot-trail almost encircles the lake, and other trails wind through the woods south and north of the lake. See the trail map at the link at left; map was provided by Marcy Stutzman, a local resident who birds at Oxbow Natural Area on a regular basis.The unpaved trails can be steep and muddy in spots. There is a wheelchair-accessible deck and overlook near the parking area.
Over 210 species have been reported from the Oxbow Lake eBird hotspot. A specialty here is the occurrence of large flocks of Wilson’s Snipe; snipe are usually present from October through mid-May and the numbers peak in late March and early April. Rarities that have shown up include Sandhill Crane and Black Tern. From 2006 through early 2009, a Trumpeter Swan, rare in Maryland, became a regular visitor to Oxbow Lake. Then starting in 2020, a pair of Trumpeter Swans began frequenting Oxbow Lake as well as Merganser Pond at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, just a short distance away. Oxbow Lake and North Tract are now reliable places to find this species.
Winter: Tundra Swan, Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Blue-winged Teal,Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Killdeer, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco.
Spring: Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Osprey, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Snipe, Great Horned Owl, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, Palm Warbler.
Summer: Great Egret, Green Heron, Barred Owl, Chimney Swift, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet Tanager, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole.
Fall: Little Blue Heron, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Year-round: Canada Goose, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren.
There is a wheelchair-accessible deck and overlook near the parking area. The foot-trails are not wheelchair-accessible.
Pet are permitted on leash; pick up after your pet.
The Nature Conservancy helped Anne Arundel County acquire part of this natural area. The wetland is home to at least 106 species of native vascular plants, including rare species such as water-shield (Brasenia schreberi) and dodder (Cuscuta polygonorum). ◾ Oxbow Natural Area has been designated as part of Anne Arundel County’s Patuxent River Greenway.
Fishing is permitted here. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Anne Arundel Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
Park on the west side of the road (facing south) on Oxbow Place. Or use one of the other entrances shown on the trail map at the link at left.
From I-95 or US Route 1 between Baltimore and Washington: From I-95 or US Route 1, take MD Route 198/Fort Meade Boulevard eastbound toward Maryland City. You will pass the entrance to Laurel Park Racetrack (thoroughbred horse racing) on the left; go another 1.3 miles and then turn left at a traffic light to go north on Russet Green West* (landmark: 7-11 store on the right side of Route 198). Drive north 0.8 mile on Russet Green West, then turn left to go north on Oxbow Place. Go past Bayou Bend Boulevard. The trail-head is on the left (west) side of the road. When you see a sign that says Oxbow Lake Nature Preserve, make a U-turn and park on the west side of the road (facing south), and enter the woods at the wheelchair ramp on the side of the street.
*There is also an entrance into the Russett community at the next traffic light, at Russett Green East, which forms a loop with Russett Green West. However, we do not recommend using Russett Green East because of congestion at businesses along the road, and the approach to the Oxbow Lake parking area is slightly longer via Russett Green East. However, if you do use Russett Green East, note that the turn onto Oxbow Place will be a right turn.
From I-295 (Baltimore Washington Parkway) between Baltimore and Washington:
Take the exit for Route 198 west toward Laurel. In less than 1 mile, turn right at the second traffic light to go north on Russett Green West*. Drive north 0.8 mile on Russet Green West, then turn left to go north on Oxbow Place. Go past Bayou Bend Boulevard. The trail-head is on the left (west) side of the road. When you see a sign that says Oxbow Lake Nature Preserve, make a U-turn and park on the west side of the road (facing south), and enter the woods at the wheelchair ramp on the side of the street.
*The first traffic light is at Russett Green East, which forms a loop with Russett Green West. However, we do not recommend turning at Russett Green East because of congestion at businesses along the road, and the approach to the Oxbow Lake parking area is slightly longer via Russett Green East. However, if you do use Russett Green East, note that the turn onto Oxbow Place will be a right turn.
Anne Arundel County: Davidsonville Park ◾ Downs Memorial Park ◾ Fort Smallwood Park ◾ Greenbury Point◾ Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary ◾ Kinder Farm Park ◾ Lake Waterford Park ◾ Mandares Creek MOS Sanctuary ◾ Patuxent Research Refuge – North Tract ◾ Piney Orchard Nature Preserve ◾ Quiet Waters Park ◾ Sandy Point State Park ◾ Smithsonian Environmental Research Center ◾ Swan Creek Wetlands | Cox Creek Dredged Material Containment Facility
Prince George’s County: Fran Uhler Natural Area ◾ Greenbelt (National) Park ◾ Greenbelt Lake Municipal Park (Buddy Attick Lake Park) ◾ Lake Artemesia Natural Area ◾ Patuxent Research Refuge – South Tract (National Wildlife Visitor Center)
Features:BeginnersFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedWater ViewWheelchair Accessible Features
Type:Community and Urban ParksPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsThe Rivers of the Western Shore