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.

Cost: Free.

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.

Best Seasons: Winter for sparrows and waterfowl, spring for warblers and other migrants.

Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Laurel NW, Laurel NE

Local MOS Chapter: Anne Arundel Bird Club

Oxbow Natural Area

8020 Oxbow Place, Laurel, MD 20724
(410) 222-7317

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, Oxbow Natural Area is home to an abundance of birds, animals, plants, and insects. See the Nature Conservancy’s Visitor Guide at for a description of the native plants and animals 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 205 species have been reported on eBird from Oxbow Lake. A specialty here are the large flocks of Wilson’s Snipe that can accumulate; 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 Cranes.

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.

Wheelchair Access:

There is a wheelchair-accessible deck and overlook near the parking area. The foot-trails are not wheelchair-accessible.

Special Designations:

The Nature Conservancy helped Anne Arundel County acquire 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.

Special Features:

Fishing and biking are 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 the Baltimore-Washington Area: Use I-95 , US Route 1, or the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD Route 295) to reach MD Route 198. From MD Route 198/Fort Meade Boulevard, turn north on Russet Green West, which is on the north side of MD Route 198, just west of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD Route 295). Drive north 0.8 mile on Russet Green, then turn left to go north on Oxbow Place. Go past Bayou Bend Boulevard. Approx 200 feet after four lanes become two, look for parking and wheel-chair access. The trail-head is on the left (west) side of the road.

Nearby Sites:

Anne Arundel County: Davidsonville ParkDowns Memorial ParkFort Smallwood ParkGreenbury PointJug Bay Wetlands SanctuaryKinder Farm ParkLake Waterford ParkMandares Creek MOS Sanctuary ◾ Patuxent Research Refuge – North TractPiney Orchard Nature PreserveQuiet Waters ParkSandy Point State ParkSmithsonian Environmental Research CenterSwan Creek Wetlands | Cox Creek Dredged Material Containment Facility

Prince George’s County: Fran Uhler Natural AreaGreenbelt (National) Park ◾  Greenbelt Lake Municipal Park (Buddy Attick Lake Park) ◾ Lake Artemesia Natural Area ◾  Patuxent Research Refuge – South Tract (National Wildlife Visitor Center)


Bottomland DeciduousUpland Deciduous Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams


BeginnersFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedWater ViewWheelchair Accessible Features


Community and Urban ParksPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsThe Rivers of the Western Shore