Patuxent River Park – Jug Bay Natural Area
16000 Croom Airport Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Patuxent River Park is a string of park properties along the Prince George’s side of the Patuxent River, operated by the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation/Maryland-National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission. The Patuxent is the longest river located entirely within the state of Maryland, and a portion forms the boundary between Prince George’s and Anne Arundel and Calvert Counties. At the northern end of Prince George’s County, the river is just a narrow stream, but below Route 4 the river widens to an impressive tidal channel. The river as a whole is an important migration corridor and its banks hold pristine habitat. Patuxent River Park provides significant protection to this habitat.
Jug Bay Natural Area refers to an extensive area on the Prince George’s side of the river that has been set aside with special protections and limited development. (Note that the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary is on the opposite shore, in Anne Arundel County; see https://www.mdbirdingguide.com/Jug_Bay_Wetlands). The “Jug Bay” itself is an expanded section of the river where it is about a half-mile wide. The convoluted shoreline is bordered by brackish marsh and inlets, with extensive wild rice beds that form ideal habitat for waterfowl and other marsh birds. The Jug Bay Natural Area includes Park Headquarters and Visitor Center; restrooms; boat launch and canoe/kayak rental at Jackson Landing; trailheads for the Jug Bay Natural Area and Black Walnut Study Area; the Rural Life Museum; a pollinator garden; observation platform overlooking the river; habitats include tidal marshes, non-tidal wetlands, and hardwood forests. To reach Jackson’s Landing via navigation system, enter 84 McClure Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772.
Also within the Jug Bay Natural Area, Selby’s Landing (16000 Croom Airport Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772) has a boat launch; trailheads; The habitats at the Selby’s Landing area include tidal marshes; non-tidal wetlands; cultivated fields; grassy fields; mixed forests; numerous streams. The adjacent Croom Airport/Columbia Air Center Historical Site features a historic display of the first African-American flying field in the US.
The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Driving Tour is a mostly one-way route that starts at Selby’s Landing and ends at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary. See https://www.mdbirdingguide.com/Merkle_Wildlife_Sanctuary. The entire Driving Tour (that is, from Selby’s Landing to Merkle) is open to cars only on Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm, year-round. Pedestrians and bikers may use the entire Driving Tour route daily, year-round. In addition, the 2-mile portion of the tour located within Merkle Wildlife is open for driving, hiking, biking, and horseback riding daily, year-round, but the part of the tour that starts at Selby’s Landing is only open to cars on Sundays.
The Patuxent River Park’s official bird checklist for the Jug Bay area of the Patuxent River lists 305 species. Over 220 species have been reported on eBird from the vicinity of Patuxent River Park-Jackson’s Landing (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L882481). There are separate eBird hotspots for Patuxent River Park as a whole (205+ species, https://ebird.org/hotspot/L282704); Selby’s Landing (210+ species, https://ebird.org/hotspot/L519664); and Croom Airport (145+ species, https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1035363).
During migration, there can be a rich diversity of species all through the park. During fall, Sora and Virginia Rail are in the wild rice marshes near Jackson’s Landing and Selby’s Landing. After harvest, leased agricultural fields at Croom Airport may harbor sparrows, American Pipits, and Horned Larks. Waterfowl are a highlight of the winter months all along the river. Summer features terns and waders. Nesting areas for Marsh Wren, Least Bittern, Horned Lark, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole and many other species are located throughout the park system. IN some years, depending on the crops that are planted, Dickcissels may breed at the Aquasco Farm section of Patuxent River Park, farther south on the river
Ample parking at Visitor Center, Jackson’s Landing, Selby’s Landing, Croom Airport.
Extensive historical features and interpretation are found throughout the Park. ◾ Canoe/kayak launch sites and rentals are available at Jackson’s Landing, and a boat launch (bring your own) is at Selbys Landing. Group pontoon boat rides are available with advance arrangements. ◾ Patuxent River Park is a site on the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network. ◾ The Jug Bay area has been designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. ◾ In addition, the Jug Bay area is one of three Maryland locations for the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve; the other two are the Anita Leight Estuary Center at Otter Point Creek (Harford County) and Monie Bay (Somerset County). ◾ Both Selby’s Landing and Jackson’s Landing are sites on the Patuxent Water Trail. ◾ Patuxent River Park is a certified Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) Green Center. ◾ Patuxent River Park-Jug Bay Natural Area is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ Greg Kearns, a naturalist with Patuxent River Park, has been conducting banding studies on Sora at Jug Bay for many years. Greg Kearns is also involved with a long-term project monitoring productivity of Osprey at Jug Bay. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Patuxent Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
For Jackson’s Landing and Park Headquarters/Visitor Center: From US Route 301 at MD Route 4 near Upper Marlboro, go south on Route 301 for about 4.0 miles and turn left (southeast) onto MD Route 382/Croom Road. Proceed 3.0 mi. to Croom Airport Rd on left, watching carefully for turn, which is marked with a sign for Patuxent River Park. Continue 1.4 miles, bearing right at sharp curve at bottom of a hill, where Duvall Road comes in from the left. Continue on Croom Airport Road for another 0.7 miles to the park entrance road on left, which is marked with large stone pillars. Turn left through the pillars on the Park Entrance Road, which leads to the Visitor Center, park headquarters, Jackson’s Landing boat launch, restrooms, Rural Life Museum, and more. Good birding all along the entrance road, so drive slowly with the windows down. ◾If you prefer to go to Selby’s Landing and Croom Airport, just continue on Croom Airport Road past the pillars marking the entrance road for the Visitor Center/Park Headquarters/Jackson Landing. The parking area for the Croom Airport historic monument will be on the right at a T-intersection in about 0.9 miles. To reach Selby’s Landing and the start of the Critical Area Driving Tour, turn left at the Croom Airport monument and follow the road to where it ends at a parking lot near the boat launch.
Patuxent River Park – Mount Calvert; Merkle NRMA; Milltown Landing WMA; Schoolhouse Pond; Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary (Anne Arundel County).
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Bird Feeding StationBirding By CarBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsCampingFishingFree - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHorseback RidingHuntingLake, Pond, Bay, River, OceanNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature CenterObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Audubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkDriving Tours (Birding By Car)State Natural Areas & WildlandsThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails