At a Glance
Hours: Grounds open daily sunrise to sunset. Pemberton Hall is open for tours on Saturdays from noon-2 pm from May through October. Tours of Pemberton Hall are also available by appointment.
Tips: Scope helpful in winter for waterfowl. ◾ No bikes. ◾ Dogs on leash are permitted. ◾ Large events are sometimes scheduled; see the list of events on the official website if you want to avoid crowds. ◾ Trails, especially through the bottomlands, can be muddy at times. ◾ Insects are only rarely a problem in winter, but ticks and mosquitoes can be plentiful in season. ◾ Restrooms are located near the parking area.
Best Seasons: Year round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Eden NE
Pemberton Historical Park
5561 Plantation Lane, Salisbury, MD 21801
(410) 548-4900 ext. 108
Dr. Ron Gutberlet, Professor of Biology at Salisbury University, was the primary author of this description of the Pemberton Historical Park. Ron passed away in November of 2015. He is fondly remembered by his birding friends in MOS.
Pemberton Historical Park, owned by Wicomico County, is a 262-acre former plantation that includes a historic home built in 1741 by Isaac Handy, one of the founders of the town of Salisbury. The home and surrounding 2 acres are maintained by the Pemberton Hall Foundation, which restored the once-crumbling structure and now offers public tours. Don’t let the name “historical park” dissuade you from birding here. Pemberton is the #1 eBird hotspot in Wicomico County and it has a lot to offer.
The park is located on the Wicomico River west of Salisbury.The larger part of the grounds offer a system of natural-surface trails, which are thoughtfully arranged in loops that allow exploration of all the different habitats on the property. You can walk for as little as a 0.2 miles, or do the whole trail system of about 4.5 miles. A boardwalk will carry you through some wet places.
Habitats here include old fields and pastures, croplands, upland pine woods containing Loblolly and Virginia Pine, scattered small ponds, freshwater marshes, and tidal wetlands with brackish marshes. An overlook provides an excellent view of the Wicomico River.
The bottomland forest includes Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and many fern species; this forest provides nesting habitat for Wood Duck, Prothonotary Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush, as well as wintering and passage habitat for Rusty Blackbirds.
Tidal freshwater marsh on the Wicomico River has Spatterdock (Nuphar luteum), Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), Cattail (Typha spp.), and Phragmites (Phragmites australis. Beautiful stands of Wild Rice (Zizania aquatica) and abundant Marsh Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) bloom in late summer. The tidal marsh supports rails, sparrows, and sometimes Bobolinks in migration. Ducks can be seen on the river, and sometimes a Northern Harrier courses the larger river marsh in late fall and winter. An active Great Blue Heron rookery can be seen across the river from the park. Bald Eagles have nested in tall pines near the marsh.
Over 200 species have been reported on eBird at the hotspot for Pemberton Historical Park, making it the #1 eBird hotspot in Wicomico County. The river and ponds provide wintering grounds for a variety of waterfowl, with 20 species reported. Wood Ducks are local breeders. Pied-billed and Horned Grebes pass through in spring, along with an occasional Red-necked Grebe and Common Loon.
Virginia Rail and Sora are found in the marshland during migration, along with Wilson’s Snipe and both yellowlegs. Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed Gulls are present fall through spring, while summer brings Laughing Gulls and Common and Forster’s Terns. Great Blue Herons are present year-round, while Great Egrets, Green Herons, Snowy Egrets and Glossy Ibis are restricted to the warmer months.
Bald Eagles are found year-round, and Osprey have a long season here, from late February through early fall. Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks can be found fall through spring, while Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels are found during breeding season. Owls includes Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred, and Great Horned.
Northern Bobwhite can be found in the meadows and adjacent edges. All of the Maryland woodpeckers are present – Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Northern Flicker, Pileated, and even Red-headed (fall migrants), along with wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatches breed here and are year-round residents. Eastern Bluebirds breed here and are numerous.
Summering songbirds include Eastern Wood-Pewee; Acadian Flycatcher; Great Crested Flycatcher; Eastern Kingbird; Yellow-throated, White-eyed, Warbling, and Red-eyed Vireos; Purple Martins and Tree, Bank, Barn, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows; Scarlet and Summer Tanagers; Baltimore and Orchard Orioles; and Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Buntings. Thirty-two species of warblers have been reported, mostly on migration; breeding species include Worm-eating, Prothonotary, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow, and Pine.
Winter songbirds include Brown Creeper; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Winter Wren; both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets; Hermit Thrush; Swamp, Fox, and Savannah Sparrows.
There are reserved handicapped parking spaces in the designated parking area. There is decent access on flat level ground from the parking area to some good viewing spots. Wheelchair access is decent, but muddy trails and some small slopes may limit access to some degree. The entrance road provides some limited birding from the car. A handicapped-accessible bathroom is available.
Pets are allowed on leash. Be prepared to clean up after your pet.
Pemberton Historical Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service.
Pemberton Historical Park includes an Environmental Education Center and offers nature education programs; summer nature camps for children; ranger-led interpretive programs; field trips and school group programs. There are facilities available for rent for weddings and such, and tours of the historic home by appointment. There are numerous volunteer and internship opportunities. There is a full schedule of special events, including festivals and running events. ◾ The Pemberton Historical Foundation maintains and operates the historical home.
Local MOS Chapter:
The Tri-county Bird Club is the local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, serving Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties; the club offers field trips to local birding areas and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.
Designated gravel lots. Park only in designated lots; do not park on grass or driveway edges. See trail map at link at link at left for parking location.
From the South (Princess Anne, Pocomoke, and Virginia): Take US Route 13 Business into downtown Salisbury. At the US Route 50 overpass, turn left onto US Route 50 Business westbound. Travel over the Mill Street bridge and then turn left to go west on MD Route 349/Nanticoke Road. In just 400 feet, turn left to go southwest on Pemberton Drive. Continue southwest on Pemberton Drive for 2.1 miles, then turn left to go south on Plantation Lane. The Park entrance will be on the left (east) side of the road in about 0.4 mile.
From the North (Delmar and Delaware points of origin): Take US Route 13 Business south into Salisbury. At the US Route 50 overpass, turn right onto US Route 50 Business westbound. Travel over the Mill Street bridge and then turn left to go west on MD Route 349/Nanticoke Road. In just 400 feet, turn left to go southwest on Pemberton Drive. Continue southwest on Pemberton Drive for 2.1 miles, then turn left to go south on Plantation Lane. The Park entrance will be on the left (east) side of the road in about 0.4 mile.
From the East (Berlin, Ocean City, and other beaches): Take US Route 50 Business westbound to and then through Salisbury. Turn left to go west on MD Route 349/Nanticoke Road. In just 400 feet, turn left to go southwest on Pemberton Drive. Continue southwest on Pemberton Drive for 2.1 miles, then turn left to go south on Plantation Lane. The Park entrance will be on the left (east) side of the road in about 0.4 mile.
From the Upper Eastern Shore: Use MD Route 213 and/or US Route 301 south to access US Route 50. Take US Route 50 south and then east into Salisbury, using Business Route 50. Turn right to go west on MD Route 349/Nanticoke Road. In just 400 feet, turn left to go southwest on Pemberton Drive. Continue southwest on Pemberton Drive for 2.1 miles, then turn left to go south on Plantation Lane. The Park entrance will be on the left (east) side of the road in about 0.4 mile.
From the Western Shore: Follow US Route 301/50 over the Bay Bridge, and then continue on US Route 50 south and then east toward Salisbury. Follow US Route 50 Business into Salisbury. Turn right to go west on MD Route 349/Nanticoke Road. In just 400 feet, turn left to go southwest on Pemberton Drive. Continue southwest on Pemberton Drive for 2.1 miles, then turn left to go south on Plantation Lane. The Park entrance will be on the left (east) side of the road in about 0.4 mile.
Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park ■ Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area ■ Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck ■ Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor ■ Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park ■ Schumaker Pond & Salisbury City Park
Worcester County: Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area
ConifersHedgerows Lawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseSuburban Neighborhood Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Features:BeginnersFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater ViewYoung People / Families
Type:#1 Hotspot in County or CityChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkHistorical SitesNature CentersThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore