At a Glance
Hours: 9 am to sunset. Certain activities are permitted outside of the regular park hours (e.g. fishing, boat launch, hunting where permitted). Check with the park before your visit if you plan to be in the park before or after official hours.
Tips: No restrooms. Be prepared for ticks. Wear sturdy waterproof hiking boots for muddy and slippery trails. A hiking stick would be helpful on steep trails. Bring an extra layer of clothing as it is cooler near the river.
Best Seasons: Spring and fall migration, early summer.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Sykesville NE
Patapsco Valley State Park – Henryton
815 Henryton Road, Marriottsville, MD 21104
Patapsco Valley State Park is huge, extending along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, spanning four counties, and encompassing 16,043 acres and eight recreational areas. Patapsco Valley State Park, originally called the Patapsco Forest Reserve, was the very first state park established in Maryland; the nucleus of the park dates back to 1907, with the donation of 43 acres of land in Catonsville by the philanthropist John Mark Glenn. Other portions of Patapsco Valley State Park included in this Birder’s Guide include the Daniels Area, which is nearby in Howard County, and the McKeldin Area in Carroll County.
The Henryton area is included in the McKeldin North area of the park. Henryton is one of the park’s most popular and productive areas for birding and comprises roughly 1,000 acres – a lot of territory to explore.
The Henryton area features one of Howard County’s finest and most extensive mature woodlands, harboring some of the county’s rarer birds and wildflowers. Henryton is on the South Branch of the Patapsco River and consists of floodplains and upland deciduous forest with some fields and edge habitat. The river in this area forms the boundary between Howard County and Carroll County to the north.
On the south side of the river (the Howard County side), a network of trails is accessed from a parking area at the end of Henryton Road, which runs north from Old Frederick Road/MD Route 99 and then dead ends almost at the river, at a point where a long-gone bridge once crossed.
Before you even reach the park, there is good birding all along Henryton Road, starting as soon as you turn off Old Frederick Road. Possibilities include field birds such as Eastern Meadowlark, Worm-eating Warblers along the slopes on the left, and Louisiana Waterthrushes in the stream valley to the right.
Before birding, consult the trail maps at the link at left. The geolocator-enabled map provided by the MD Department of Natural Resources can be loaded into a handheld GPS unit or a GPS-app on your smartphone, and will enable you to pinpoint your exact location on the map in real-time. However, the Henryton area is not labelled on the DNR map – it is located at the far right side of the map. Compare the DNR map to the simple map also provided at left to find the area known as Henryton on the DNR map.
From the parking area at the end of Henryton Road, trails lead both west (upstream) and east (downstream), as well as a short section of old road leading to the river. The riverside trail east of the parking area (downstream) provides views of a very wild and scenic part of the South Branch of the Patapsco River.
After parking, cross the guardrail and bird the short section of blocked-off road ending at the river. This higher vantage point gives mid-level views into the trees and across the river. The brushy shoulders of the abutment and parking area are good for sparrows in an otherwise open forest.
There is a choice of three trails that head downstream (to the east). Be aware that the trail beginning to the right of the abutment at the parking lot (marked “1” on the trail map at link at left) runs very close to the river and contains a challenging section with steep, often slippery footing. Another downstream trail (marked “2” on the trail map at link at left) leads east from the parking lot along the slope. Shortly from that path, a third trail branches to the right upslope (marked “3” on the trail map at link at left), leading in 0.3 miles to a meadow where field birds such as Wild Turkey are possible. Most birders will stay on the middle trail (trail 2) which leads along the slope above the river, giving mid-level views into the floodplain trees and down to the river.
To explore upstream to the west of the parking area, descend the road shoulder on a horse trail and follow the river to a small stream. This section is often quite birdy. Follow the trail up the small stream away from the river. When the water is low, you may be able to cross the stream at a horse crossing; otherwise, follow the trail back toward the road and at a Y-intersection, turn right, away from the river, to follow a trail to a bridge along on old road, now a private driveway (Brooks Road on the trail map at the link at left). After crossing the bridge, turn right, following the trail back to the river and continue upstream. After 0.3 miles another old road will join the river trail from the left. To make a circuit hike, turn left and follow the old road eastward. This old road eventually joins the private driveway (Brooks Road) that you were on earlier. Continue heading east to the bridge and back to the parking lot.
If you wish to explore the Henryton trails in more depth, we recommend either printing DNR’s geo-locator-enabled PDF trail map “Patapsco Valley State Park – McKeldin North Area” from http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Documents/patapsco_mckeldinnorthmap.pdf, or, better yet, download the DNR trail map to an app on your smart phone and use it to follow the trails in real time as you hike. Alternatively you can use DNR’s free Interactive Trail Atlas or free Maryland Interactive Recreation Atlas, both of which are smart-phone-enabled; download these two apps from https://dnr.maryland.gov/Pages/DNR_TrailMaps.aspx. Also see the Howard County Bird Club’s online “Birding Howard County” section on the Henryton area , which contains detailed trail routes and a large-scale map.
Over 160 species of birds have been reported on the eBird hotspot for the Henryton area of Patapsco Valley State Park.
Nesting birds include some species that need extensive woodlands. Yellow-throated Warblers are found high in the sycamores. Cerulean Warblers are also treetop birds. Both species nest at Henryton in small numbers. Louisiana Waterthrushes sing along the streams and river. Listen for the fast, high-pitched trill of Worm-eating Warblers near the steeper, deeper woodlands. Acadian Flycatcher, three vireo species, Wood Thrush, Veery, Ovenbird, Kentucky and Hooded Warblers, and Scarlet Tanagers can be found here in late spring and early summer. This is also a good location for Pileated and Hairy Woodpeckers.
In late spring, watch the high riverbanks on the north shore for nesting Rough-winged Swallows. Wild Turkeys have been reported. Red-headed Woodpecker has been found here on a few occasions.
Spring and fall bring waves of neotropical migrants, many of which favor mature woodlands and bottomlands. Many flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, warblers, and tanagers found in Maryland fit this category. Generally, the peak migration periods run from April 25 to May 25 and from August 20 to October 15. In the spring, the best dates are usually in the middle of the period.
For those who are mobility-impaired, there is good birding from the car along Henryton Road and at the paved parking area. The trails are not accessible for wheelchair or walker.
Pets are permitted and must be on leash at all times. Be prepared to pick up after your pet and take the pet waste with you when you leave. All Maryland State Parks are trash-free.
Patapsco Valley State Park is contained within the Patapsco Valley Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society.
Patapsco Valley State Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service.
- A set of seasonal lists of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, and herps at Patapsco Valley State Park is available at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/patapsco-valley-state-park/patapsco-valley-state-park-species-lists/, courtesy of the Howard County Bird Club.
- Fishing is permitted (license needed), but is prohibited in some posted areas.
- Unguarded swimming is allowed in the river unless posted otherwise.
Local MOS Chapter:
The Howard County Bird Club, a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, holds bird walks at Patapsco Valley State Park and other sites within 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!
“Urban Oasis,” available on YouTube, is part of Episode 2615 of Maryland Public Televisions series Outdoors Maryland, and shows the trails and attractions of Patapsco Valley State Park, emphasizing the park’s role as a place of natural respite so close to the City of Baltimore.
Paved lot at end of Henryton Road, roadside shoulders; do not block the road or bridge 100 yards south of the turnaround area.
From points south: Take I-95, I-295, or I-97 north, and then take the exit for MD Route 32 westbound (parts of Route 32 actually run north-south). On Route 32 (the latter part of which is named Sykesville Road), you will cross under I-70, then in just 0.8 miles, turn right to go east on MD Route 99/Old Frederick Road. Drive 1.3 miles and make a left to go north on Henryton Road, just past Sandhill Road on the right. Follow Henryton Road north for about 2.4 miles to its end at the parking area just before the South Branch of the Patapsco River, birding along Henryton Road as you go.
From the Baltimore Beltway/I-695: Take Exit 16 to go west on I-70 toward Frederick. Stay on I-70 for about 11.7 miles, then take Exit 80 to go north on MD Route 32/Sykesville Road. In just 0.8 miles, turn right to go east on MD Route 99/Old Frederick Road. Drive 1.3 miles and make a left to go north on Henryton Road, just past Sandhill Road on the right. Follow Henryton Road north for about 2.4 miles to its end at the parking area just before the South Branch of the Patapsco River, birding along Henryton Road as you go.
From points west: Take I-70 east to Exit 80, then go north on MD Route 32/Sykesville Road. In just 0.8 miles, turn right to go east on MD Route 99/Old Frederick Road. Drive 1.3 miles and make a left to go north on Henryton Road, just past Sandhill Road on the right. Follow Henryton Road north for about 2.4 miles to its end at the parking area just before the South Branch of the Patapsco River, birding along Henryton Road as you go.
Howard County: Centennial Lake & Park ■ David Force Natural Resource Area ■ Howard County Conservancy – Mount Pleasant Farm ■ Lake Elkhorn ■ Middle Patuxent Environmental Area ■ Patapsco Valley State Park – Daniels Area ■ 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:Birding By CarFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkState ParksThe Rivers of the Western Shore