At a Glance

Hours: Daily, daylight hours.

Cost: Free. Donations to the MOS Sanctuary Fund are appreciated.

Tips: The adjoining Gardner Road Park is an active hunting area. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ No restrooms.

Best Seasons: Spring and fall migration; early summer breeding season.

Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Piscataway CW

Local MOS Chapter: Patuxent Bird Club

Piscataway MOS Sanctuary

14302 Hardy Tavern Road, Accokeek, MD 21031
MOS Voice Mail: 301-588-4250

Piscataway MOS Sanctuary, consisting of 82 acres, is located in southwestern Prince George’s County. The land was donated to th Maryland Ornithological Society in 2008 by Mid-Atlantic Builders and is protected by an easement under Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act.

[Note: Do not confuse Piscataway MOS Sanctuary with Piscataway Park, a National Park Service property located on the Potomac River, about 6 miles to the west of the sanctuary, as the crow flies.]

Piscataway Sanctuary lies in the watershed of Piscataway Creek, a major tributary of the Potomac River. The land is mostly wooded, with beech, oak, tulip poplar, and sweet gum predominating. A good understory of dogwood, sassafras, and other small trees is present, with shrubs including spicebush and viburnums. Ferns and spring ephemeral wildflowers form a groundcover. A full assessment of the habitat and vegetation has yet to be conducted.

The Piscataway MOS Sanctuary is bounded on the north by the residential community “The Preserve at Piscataway.” To the south lies Gardner Road Park, 120 acres owned by the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) and managed as a cooperative hunting area by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Immediately to the east and west of the sanctuary are private lands. Another MNCPPC property, Danville Estates Park (25 acres), is located nearby to the east, along with sizeable Homeowners Association tracts; both Danville Estates Park and the Homeowners Association lands are under a Forest Conservation easement. Thus the MOS Sanctuary is part of a cluster containing over 274 acres under permanent protection. Even more land is protected just a short distance away: MNCPPC owns a string of parcels on the north side of Floral Park Road and extending west that protects the stream valley of Piscataway Creek all the way to the Potomac River.

The main access to Piscataway MOS Sanctuary is from the north, at the end of Hardy Tavern Road in the adjoining residential development. One can park a car on the cul-de-sac just outside the gate or in the gravel MOS parking lot near MOS’s covered pavilion; the gate to the gravel lot is closed but not locked. Take the obvious double-track grassy trail down the hill from the parking area, and at the bottom of the hill, turn right (west) to follow the sanctuary’s Stream Valley Trail, a broad wood-chipped path that follows an unnamed tributary of Piscataway Creek. The trail can be wet at times and there are several stream crossings, so waterproof footwear is advised. The trail ends at the junction of two streams that cannot easily be crossed on foot. Note that there is a large and well-vegetated stormwater pond adjacent to the homes just north of the end of the trail. Linger here a while to watch for waterfowl and waders. Then turn around here and retrace your steps to return to your car

A second access point to Piscataway Sanctuary is through the 120-acre Gardner Road Park to the south. A parking area is located at the north end of Gardner Road; leave your car here and walk northwest into the woods following the obvious double-track old dirt road, which eventually narrows to a single track. The initial half-mile will be on Gardner Road Park property, and then the trail continues into Piscataway Sanctuary, with an MOS sign on a tree to the left of the trail. The mostly flat Gardner Park Road Trail takes you through open moist deciduous woodland of oak, beech, and tulip poplar, with several small stands of pine and small streams to both east and west. The trail heads northwest and nears, but does not currently connect with, the Piscataway Sanctuary’s Stream Valley Trail described above. The Gardner Road Park Trail peters out just before the slope that leads down to the stream valley. Turn around here and retrace your steps to the Gardner Road parking area. Be aware that Gardner Road Park is an active hunting area, and you should not enter during hunting season, especially deer seasons (archery, muzzleloader, shotgun, and primitive weapons).

Another area that you might want to check out when in the vicinity is along the northern edge of the “Preserve at Piscataway” community. There is a large wetland near the intersection of Floral Park Road and Saint Mary’s View Road (see Google Map at left) that may contain good birds. There are no trails into the wetland but good views can be obtained from or near the road.

Birdlife:

There is one eBird hotspot covering both the north and south sides of Piscataway MOS Sanctuary, with 96 species reported as of September 2020. We are still discovering the birdlife using Piscataway, and we invite your contributions to eBird using the hotspot at http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L5941724.

Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, and Killdeer use the stormwater ponds in the neighboring residential community and these birds are common flyovers at the sanctuary. The longer list of waterfowl included in the eBird bar charts for Piscataway Sanctuary date to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the neighboring development did not yet exist and waterfowl were using natural wetlands in the vicinity. You might still find assorted waterfowl in the wetlands visible from Floral Park Road near the intersection with St. Mary’s View Road, at the entrance to the “Preserve at Piscataway” neighborhood.

The woods of Piscataway Sanctuary offer year-round habitat for small woodland birds such as Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and White-breasted Nuthatch. Pileated Woodpeckers are found here, along with Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Northern Flickers, and, in winter, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Other year-round residents include Blue Jays, American and Fish Crow, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Eastern Towhee, and Northern Cardinal. Overhead, watch for Turkey and Black Vultures, Osprey, Bald Eagles, and assorted flyover waterfowl, gulls, and terns – remember that the Potomac River is only about 5 miles away, to the west. Red-shouldered Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks likely breed in the vicinity.

Warm season birds include Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird. You might find Great Blue Heron or Green Heron on one of the streams or flying up out of one of the nearby stormwater ponds. Other summer residents include White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, House Wren, Gray Catbird, Chipping Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, and Indigo Bunting.

Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins are present year-round. Wood Thrushes breed here in the summer; Hermit Thrushes overwinter; and Veery have been found during migration.

Ovenbirds are so prolific here that one birder who visited in 2009 nicknamed the sanctuary “MOS Ovenbird Alley.” Pine Warblers are present in the small conifer patches in the adjoining Gardner Road Park and on the ridge line on the south side of the sanctuary’s stream valley. Other warblers that have been found here include Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, Palm, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Green.

Wintering birds include both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creeper, Field Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, and Song Sparrow.

When entering the sanctuary from the Gardner Road side, be alert for possible Northern Bobwhite in the grassy fields near the intersection of Gardner Road and Accokeek Road. This area was one of the last strongholds for bobwhite in Prince George’s County; the last report was in spring of 2017.

Pet Policy:

Pets are allowed but must be leashed at all times. Please pick up after your pet.

Wheelchair Access:

The trails in the sanctuary are not wheelchair-accessible.

Special Designations:

The Piscataway Sanctuary is protected by an easement under the Maryland Forest Conservation Act.

Special Features:

The name “Piscataway” comes from the local Native American Piscataway people. “Accokeek,” the name of a nearby road, is the name of another, related Native American tribe. Members of these groups still live in the area today. The present-day Piscataway Conoy Tribe has become involved in environmental protection activities throughout Southern Maryland.

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.

Parking:

Small gravel lot at the sanctuary’s north (main) entrance at 14302 Hardy Tavern Road. The gate to the lot is kept closed but not locked. At the south side, there is a partly paved, partly gravel lot at Gardner Road Park, at the north end of Gardner Road. The nearest house is at 14700 Gardner Road.

Directions:

Piscataway MOS Sanctuary is located in southwestern Prince George’s County, near the community of Accokeek.

To reach the north (main) entrance to the sanctuary at 14320 Hardy Tavern Drive:

  • From the Washington DC area: Near the southeast corner of the Beltway, take Exit 7 onto MD Route 5/Branch Avenue south toward Waldorf. In 4.2 miles, exit onto MD Route 223/Woodyard Road west toward Clinton and Melwood. Note that Route 223/Woodyard Road will become Piscataway Road as you travel west. In 6.8 miles, turn left (east) onto Floral Park Road. In 0.2 miles, turn right (south) into The Preserve at Piscataway community on Saint Mary’s View Road. At the traffic circle, take the second right to continue south on Saint Mary’s View Road. At the end of Saint Mary’s View Road, turn right (south) onto Hardy Tavern Road and continue to its end at a cul-de-sac with a yellow metal gate across a gravel drive into the MOS parking area. The gate is kept closed but not locked. You can either park outside the gate on the cul-de-sac of feel free to open the gate and park inside.
  • From the Baltimore area: From the Baltimore Beltway/I-695, take Exit 4 for I-97 southbound. In 9.8 miles, take Exit 7 for MD Route 3 southbound toward Bowie. In 9.5 miles, Route 3 will cross under US Route 50, and at that point, US Route 301 southbound will merge with the road you are on, known as Robert Crain Highway. Continue south on Route 301 for another 21 miles, passing the outskirts of the town of Upper Marlboro. Turn west onto MD Route 381/Brandywine Road. In 0.4 miles, use the ramp to merge onto MD Route 5/Branch Avenue heading north, but stay in the right lane. Following signs for Route 373 westbound, use an overpass-crossover (“Spine Road”) to make a U-turn and head south on an access road that parallels Route 5 south. Again, stay in the right lane and DO NOT merge left into the main lane of travel for Route 5 southbound. Turn right at the second intersection to go west on MD Route 373/Accokeek Road. In 2.8 miles, turn right (north) onto Danville Road. Be careful not to turn onto Springfield Road, which also goes north from Accokeek Road and cuts across Danville Road; stay straight on Danville Road. In 1.9 miles, turn left (west) to enter the “Preserve at Piscataway” community on Lusby Ridge Road. [Warning: many maps, including the Google Map, erroneously label a power line cut as Lusby Ridge Road. The actual road is about ¾ miles past the power line cut.] After turning onto Lusby Ridge Road, you will come to a traffic circle; take the third right to go east on Saint Mary’s View Road. At the end of Saint Mary’s View Road, turn right (south) onto Hardy Tavern Road and continue to its end at a cul-de-sac with a yellow metal gate across a gravel drive into the MOS parking area. The gate is kept closed but not locked. You can either park outside the gate on the cul-de-sac of feel free to open the gate and park inside.
  • From the Eastern Shore via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge: Use US Route 50/US Route 301 to cross the Chesapeake Bay and continue on Route 50/301 past Annapolis. Take Exit 13 and follow signs for US Route 301/Robert Crain Highway southbound. Continue south on Route 301 for another 21 miles, passing the outskirts of the town of Upper Marlboro. Turn west onto MD Route 381/Brandywine Road. In 0.4 miles, use the ramp to continue north on Brandywine Road, which has become an entrance ramp for MD Route 5/Branch Avenue heading north, but stay in the right lane on this ramp. Following signs for Route 373 westbound, use an overpass-crossover (“Spine Road”) to make a U-turn and head south on an access road that parallels Route 5 south. Again, stay in the right lane and DO NOT merge left into the main lane of travel for Route 5 southbound. Turn right at the second intersection to go west on MD Route 373/Accokeek Road. In 2.8 miles, turn right (north) onto Danville Road. Be careful not to turn onto Springfield Road, which also goes north from Accokeek Road and cuts across Danville Road; stay straight on Danville Road. In 1.9 miles, turn left (west) to enter the “Preserve at Piscataway” community on Lusby Ridge Road. [Warning: many maps, including the Google Map, erroneously label a power line cut as Lusby Ridge Road. The actual road is about ¾ miles past the power line cut.] After turning onto Lusby Ridge Road, you will come to a traffic circle; take the third right to go east on Saint Mary’s View Road. At the end of Saint Mary’s View Road, turn right (south) onto Hardy Tavern Road and continue to its end at a cul-de-sac with a yellow metal gate across a gravel drive into the MOS parking area. The gate is kept closed but not locked. You can either park outside the gate on the cul-de-sac of feel free to open the gate and park inside.
  • From the Annapolis area: Follow US Route 50/301 westbound and use directions as above for people coming from the Eastern Shore.
  • From points south, such as Waldorf: Use US Route 301 northbound and head toward Upper Marlboro. At the split between Route 301 and MD Route 5, bear left to continue north on Route 5, but stay in the right lane as you will be taking the next exit for Brandywine Road. At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn left to go north on Brandywine Road, which at this point is merely a ramp that parallels the main travel lanes for Route 5 northbound. Following signs for Route 373 westbound, use an overpass-crossover (“Spine Road”) to make a U-turn and head south on an access road that parallels Route 5 south. Again, stay in the right lane and DO NOT merge left into the main lane of travel for Route 5 southbound. Turn right at the second intersection to go west on MD Route 373/Accokeek Road. In 2.8 miles, turn right (north) onto Danville Road. Be careful not to turn onto Springfield Road, which also goes north from Accokeek Road and cuts across Danville Road; stay straight on Danville Road. In 1.9 miles, turn left (west) to enter the “Preserve at Piscataway” community on Lusby Ridge Road. [Warning: many maps, including the Google Map, erroneously label a power line cut as Lusby Ridge Road. The actual road is about ¾ miles past the power line cut.] After turning onto Lusby Ridge Road, you will come to a traffic circle; take the third right to go east on Saint Mary’s View Road. At the end of Saint Mary’s View Road, turn right (south) onto Hardy Tavern Road and continue to its end at a cul-de-sac with a yellow metal gate across a gravel drive into the MOS parking area. The gate is kept closed but not locked. You can either park outside the gate on the cul-de-sac of feel free to open the gate and park inside.

To reach the southside entrance to Piscataway Sanctuary through Gardner Road Park from the MOS parking lot at the northside of Piscataway Sanctuary:

  • From the MOS parking lot: Go north on Hardy Tavern Drive to Saint Mary’s View Road. Turn left (west) on Saint Mary’s View road. At the traffic circle, take the first right to go north on Lusby Ridge Road. Exit the development by turning right to go south on Danville Road. In 1.9 miles, turn right (west) onto MD Route 373/ Accokeek Road. In 1.1 miles, turn right (north) onto Gardner Road. Continue north on Gardner Road for 0.9 miles to its end at a parking area. Park and walk north on the obvious double-track dirt road into Gardner Road Park; this dirt road will become a single-track trail and will reach the south border of Piscataway Sanctuary in about 0.5 miles; there is a white MOS Sanctuary sign on a tree to the left of the trail. The trail dead-ends near a slope down into the stream valley of Piscataway Sanctuary, but does not join the Sanctuary’s Stream Valley Trail. Turn around where the trail ends to retrace your steps to the Gardner Road Park parking area.

Nearby Sites:

Prince George’s County: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (restricted access) ◾ Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Colmar Manor Community Park & Anacostia River Trail ◾ Fort Foote Park ◾ Fort Washington (National) Park ◾ Fran Uhler Natural Area ◾ Governor Bridge Natural Area ◾ Greenbelt (National) Park ◾ Greenbelt Lake Municipal Park (Buddy Attick Lake Park)Lake Artemesia Natural Area ◾ Merkle Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Milltown Landing Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm ◾ Patuxent Research Refuge – South Tract (National Wildlife Visitor Center)Patuxent River Park – Jug Bay Natural Area ◾ Patuxent River Park – Mount Calvert Historical & Archaeological ParkPiscataway (National) Park: National Colonial Farm, Boardwalk, Wharf Road/Farmington Landing & Marshall Hall ◾ Rosaryville State Park ◾ Schoolhouse Pond

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Stormwater Retention PondSuburban Neighborhood Forested SwampRivers & Streams

Features and Amenities:

BeginnersFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets Allowed

Type:

MOS Sanctuaries