Patuxent River State Park – Annapolis Rock Road Area
17261 Annapolis Rock Road, Woodbine, MD 21797
Patuxent River State Park is comprised of 6,700 acres of natural areas and farmlands, located in Howard and Montgomery Counties along the upper 12 miles of the Patuxent River. The Patuxent is the longest river contained entirely within Maryland, and along its length, changes from a sleepy, slow-moving stream to a wide tidal estuary that empties into the Chesapeake Bay near the southernmost point of Maryland’s Western Shore. Do not confuse Patuxent River State Park with Patuxent River Park – Jug Bay and Patuxent River Park – Mount Calvert; the latter two are part of a county-owned series of parks in Prince George’s County on the tidal portion of the river.
Patuxent River State Park, following the river valley, is long and narrow, with its long axis oriented approximately northwest to southeast. A portion of Patuxent River State Park is a designated State Wildlands Area. There are numerous parking areas and access points, as shown on the official park trail map at the link at left. This description is for the Annapolis Rock Road access in Howard County on the north side of the river, where Annapolis Rock Road runs roughly east-west, between Hipsley Mill Road and Woodbine Road/MD Route 94.
The Annapolis Rock Road area of Patuxent River State Park is about 450 acres with extensive pine plantings and deciduous woods, scrub and second-growth, upland and floodplain, cultivated fields, streams, a pond, and a beaver-created wetland. The main parking area on the south side of Annapolis Rock Road is marked by a small sign across from the entrance. Designed to accommodate horse trailers, the parking area is entered through a metal gate which is usually closed, but not locked. The deeply rutted lane leading to the parking area can be difficult for a car with low clearance to negotiate, especially in wet, snowy, or icy weather. The main parking area is in a large, circular, grassy (sometimes muddy) area.
From the main parking area, an extensive network of wide and easily followed horse trails (also used by hikers) fans out through patches of planted pines, along old farm fields, and through young deciduous woods. Trails are generally dry except after heavy rains or where they drop down to cross small streams. Consult the official DNR trail map at the link at left, as well as the detailed trail map also linked at left.
There are also several roadside pull-offs in the vicinity, and these are handy for roadside birding; see the map and descriptions provided by the Howard County Bird Club at https://howardbirds.website/birding-hoco/site-guide-annapolis-rock-directions.pdf.
There may be bird feeders in the winter behind the MD-DNR Forestry & Inland Fisheries building at #17400 Annapolis Rock Road (north side of road), and you can stop in to check the feeders in colder months.
Note that the trails at the Annapolis Rock Road area connect with those at the Hipsley Mill Road Area, covered separately in this Birder’s Guide.
Over 155 species have been reported on eBird for the Annapolis Rock Road area of Patuxent River State Park. Extensive pine plantings regularly produce breeding and wintering owls; American Woodcock display here in late winter and early spring; and a variety of warblers (including Cerulean) nest in the floodplain. A total of 27 migrating and nesting warbler species have been reported. Specialties at Annapolis Rock Road include Wild Turkey, American Woodcock, Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, Common Raven, Winter Wren, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and a number of nesting warblers.
To look for feeder birds in winter, go to the MD-DNR Forestry & Inland Fisheries building at #17400 Annapolis Rock Road (north side of road), a quarter-mile west of the large gated parking lot. The feeders are behind the building and may offer chances for winter finches and nuthatches.
Free. Unpaved lot and roadside pull-offs.
The trails at Annapolis Rock are not wheelchair-accessible, but there is fairly good birding at the parking area and at the roadside pull-offs. ◾ The large horse trailer parking lot and some of the roadside pull-offs offer a good view of the sky and the area is a favorite for star-watchers. ◾ Almost 1,600 acres of Patuxent River State Park in the area of Hipsley Mill Road have been designated as a State Wildlands. Maryland Wildlands are areas of state-owned land or water that have retained their wilderness character or contain rare or vanishing species of plant or animal life or similar features worthy of preservation. These sites are Maryland’s equivalent to the federal Wilderness Preservation System. Passive recreation such as birding and hiking are permitted on State Wildlands. ◾ Patuxent River State Park offers hunting, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding (bring your own horse). The park includes a catch and release trout stream, designated hunting areas, and unmarked hiking and equestrian trails. ◾ A seasonal list of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, and herps at Patuxent River State Park is available at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/patuxent-river-state-park/patuxent-river-state-park-species-lists/, courtesy of the Howard County Bird Club. ◾ The Howard County Bird Club, a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, holds bird walks at Patuxent River State Park and other sites in 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!
From points south: Use I-95 or I-295 or I-97, and then take MD Route 32 westbound toward Columbia. From MD Route 32, take Exit 20 for MD Route 108 southbound. In just 0.1 miles, turn right to go west on Ten Oaks Road. In 0.7 miles, at the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit to continue west on Brighton Dam Road. In 4.2 miles, just after crossing over Brighton Dam at the foot of Triadelphia Reservoir, turn right to go north on MD Route 650/New Hampshire Avenue, which later becomes MD Route 108/Damascus Road. Stay on Route 650/Route 108 for 9.3 miles and then turn right to go northeast on Annapolis Rock Road,which quickly becomes Woodbine Road/MD Route 94. In 1.8 miles, turn right to stay eastbound on Annapolis Rock Road. The parking area will be on the right in about 0.9 miles, on the south side of the road.
From the DC Beltway/I-495: Take Exit 28 for Route 650 northbound. Stay on Route 650 for approximately 23.4 miles, then turn right to go northeast on Annapolis Rock Road,which quickly becomes Woodbine Road/MD Route 94. In 1.8 miles, turn right to stay eastbound on Annapolis Rock Road. The parking area will be on the right in about 0.9 miles, on the south side of the road.
From the Baltimore Beltway/I-495: Take Exit 16 for I-70 westbound. In about 18 miles, take Exit 73 onto MD Route 94/Woodbine Road southbound. At the traffic circle in 0.6 miles, take the second exit to continue south on Route 94/Woodbine Road. Continue for 5.9 miles to Annapolis Rock Road on the left. (You will pass another intersection with Annapolis Rock Road at only 1.6 miles south; do NOT turn there.) Turn left to go east on Annapolis Rock Road and continue 0.9 mile to the horse trailer parking lot on the right.
From points west: Take I-70 east to Exit 73. At the Exit, follow signs for MD Route 94/Woodbine Road southbound. At the traffic circle in 0.6 miles, take the second exit to continue south on Route 94/Woodbine Road. Continue for 5.9 miles to Annapolis Rock Road on the left. (You will pass another intersection with Annapolis Rock Road at only 1.6 miles south; do NOT turn there.) Turn left to go east on Annapolis Rock Road and and continue 0.9 mile to the horse trailer parking lot on the right. For additional parking and access points in this area, see the excellent map and instructions at http://www.howardbirds.org/birdinghowardcounty/AnnapolisRock/AnnapolisRock_directions.htm.
Middle Patuxent Environmental Area; Patuxent River State Park – Hipsley Mill Road Area; Schooley Mill Park; Triadelphia Reservoir; Western Regional Park.
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Bird Feeding StationBirding By CarFishingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
State Natural Areas & WildlandsState ParksThe Rivers of the Western Shore