Piscataway (National) Park: National Colonial Farm, Boardwalk, Wharf Road/Farmington Landing & Marshall Hall
National Colonial Farm – 3400 Bryan Point Rd., Accokeek, MD 20607
Boardwalk – 2800 Bryan Point Rd., Accokeek, MD 20607
Farmington Landing Fishing Area – 14100 Wharf Rd., Accokeek, MD 20607
Marshall Hall Boat Ramp, 1005 Marshall Hall Road, Bryans Road, MD 20616
Piscataway (National) Park, a facility of the National Park Service, lies along three miles of the south bank of the Potomac River and its tributary, Piscataway Creek, in southern Prince George’s County, covering about 750 acres. Although the official name is simply Piscataway Park, we have included National in the title here to distinguish it from the nearby Piscataway MOS Sanctuary and the county-owned Piscataway Creek Stream Valley Park system. Piscataway Park is accessed at four separate entrances: on the west end at National Colonial Farm (a re-created colonial-era farm); at the parking lot for the boardwalk at Accokeek Creek along the Potomac shore; at the end of Wharf Road, where a fishing area at Farmington Landing provides a panoramic view of the Piscataway Creek estuary; and at the Marshall Hall Boat Ramp, located just across the county line in Charles County.
Piscataway Park is probably the best site in Prince George’s County for winter waterfowl. Here the Potomac River runs east to west, so views across the river are in favorable light all day, although the river is fully one mile wide and a scope is essential. (Listers should note that the entire river up to the Virginia shore lies within Maryland).
Many birders choose to work from east to west when visiting Piscataway Park, so the first stop will be at Wharf Road/Farmington Landing. Use your scope to scan the water for waterfowl and gulls in winter and terns in summer. In spring, early summer, and fall, walk back on Wharf Road from the fishing area to check the woodlands and brushy areas, which are very good for migrant passerines and for nesting species such as Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush, and Northern Parula.
The next stop will be the Boardwalk at Accokeek Creek, accessed from Bryan Point Road; look for a gravel lane on the right (north) side of the road, at a break in a post-and-rail fence. Drive down the lane to a parking area, checking the shrubby fields and second-growth woodlands as you go. Prairie Warblers breed here. After parking your car, proceed onto the gravel foot-trail which will soon bring you to a wooden boardwalk along the shore of the Potomac and adjacent to the Accokeek Creek marsh on the inland side. The boardwalk is about 0.2 miles long, and beyond the boardwalk, a natural-surfaced trail continues along the shore of the Potomac, all the way to Mockley Point at the mouth of Piscataway Creek, another 3/4 of a mile. The marsh may hold rails and other wetland birds; the wooded borders of the boardwalk and trail are good for migrant passerines. Red-headed Woodpeckers breed near the marsh. A couple of small side trails (see detail map in the park map link at left) extend south near the marsh and near the parking lot.
The third stop is at the National Colonial Farm, which is a reconstruction of a colonial-era farm with live animals and educational exhibits. There are also some scattered pollinator gardens on the grounds. You will want to walk the short trail from the parking lot past the Visitor Center to access the fishing pier that extends well into the river. There is a fine network of trails along the shore and throughout the Colonial Farm; the woodlands and brushy areas are good for migrants in spring and fall. A detailed online brochure describes the trails. The grass pastures and fields near the entrance road may hold breeding Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks in spring and summer. Do not enter any of the fenced fields or farm animal enclosures.
The fourth and last stop will be at Marshall Hall Boat Ramp, just a short drive over the county line into Charles County. Here, the boat ramp and pier area gives another fine view of the Potomac River, and is especially good in winter when waterfowl abound. This spot can also be good for terns in summer. The shrubby areas and the trees near the ruins of the historic home can be good for passerines.
Historic note: Looking across the Potomac, Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, is a prominent landmark on the opposite shore, visible from many vantage points within Piscataway Park. In fact, the entire national park area at Piscataway was acquired specifically to preserve the viewshed from Mount Vernon. Even the many private residential in-holdings within Piscataway Park are under easement to prevent development.
There are separate eBird hotspots for the different areas within Piscataway Park:
Winter waterfowl visible from the Boardwalk and other vantage points include both dabbling and diving ducks, swans, with 29 species reported, including all three mergansers and salt-water species such as White-winged Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. This is probably the most reliable spot in Prince George’s County for Common Goldeneye. Loons and grebes area also readily found in season. Come back in summer to look for terns. Breeding birds at the Boardwalk area include Red-headed Woodpecker, which can often found along the side trails from the Boardwalk, wher hey lead into wet woodland habitat. Also be alert for Red-headed Woodpeckers flying over the open marsh on the inland side of the Boardwalk.
Wharf Road, in addition to providing waterfowl views equivalent to, or better than, those at the Boardwalk, also offers good passerine birding during spring and fall migration; park at the fishing area at Farmington Landing and walk back along the road. Some breeding specialties along Wharf Road include Eastern Screech-Owl, Willow Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, and Blue Grosbeak.
Grassland birds such as Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and Grasshopper Sparrow may occur along the entrance roads to the National Colonial Farm and the Boardwalk. Prairie Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat will be in the shrubby areas.
At Marshall Hall, besides looking for waterfowl in winter and terns in summer, be sure to walk around the scrubby areas near the Marshall Hall historic home ruins, checking for passerines in the shrubs and in the trees along the historic entrance lane.
Designated gravel lots at the National Colonial Farm, the Boardwalk at Accokeek Creek, and the Farmington Landing fishing area at the end of Wharf Road. Large paved lot at the Marshall Hall Boat Ramp. Do not attempt to park along the roadsides on any of the public roads in the area; there is no shoulder and too much traffic.
The Boardwalk at Accokeek Creek is wheel-chair accessible, but the trail beyond the Boardwalk is natural-surfaced and too irregular for a wheelchair. The fishing pier at the National Colonial Farm, the fishing area at Wharf Road/Farmington Landing, and the boat ramp area at Marshall Hall are all wheelchair-accessible and offer excellent barrier-free viewing. The foot-trails at the National Colonial Farm are not, for the most part, wheelchair-accessible. ◾ The non-profit Accokeek Foundation assists the National Park Service with the operations of the National Colonial Farm. In addition, the Accokeek Foundation has programs that focus on sustainable agriculture, such as their showcase Ecosystem Farm, which can be reached via the Blackberry Trail or the Pumpkin Ash Trail from near the Visitor Center at the National Colonial Farm. ◾ The Accokeek Foundation operates a gift shop in the Visitor Center. ◾ Activities at Piscataway Park include boating and fishing. Canoes and kayaks (bring your own – no rentals) can be launched at the National Colonial Farm fishing pier, at Wharf-Road/Farmington Landing, and at Marshall Hall. The Potomac River is wide and open here, so be prepared for strong tides and currents and possible wind. ◾ The outdoor exhibits and live animals at the National Colonial Farm are great for families with children.
Along the trail that goes beyond the Boardwalk at Accokeek Creek lies the grave of Chief Turkey Tayac, a chief of the Piscataway Native American people, who was buried there in 1979. It took an act of Congress to grant permission to bury Chief Tayac there, as burials are prohibited on National Park Service property. It was the Chief’s wish to be buried at the site, where archaeological excavations had confirmed the previous existence over many centuries of a large Piscataway Native American village and burial ground. The park takes its name from the Piscataway people. “Accokeek” is the name of another, related tribe. The present-day Piscataway Conoy Tribe has become involved in environmental protection activities throughout Southern Maryland. ◾ The Marshall Hall Ramp Ramp is adjacent to the ruins of Marshall Hall itself, a home built in 1690 on land purchased from the Piscataway Indian people. The home is now just a roofless shell of brick walls. The grounds near the home were at one time the site of an amusement park that attracted people from Washington, DC, and Arlington and Alexandria, VA, who came by ferry.
The outdoor exhibits and live animals at the National Colonial Farm are great for families with children. ◾ Activities at Piscataway Park include boating and fishing. Canoes and kayaks (bring your own – no rentals) can be launched at the National Colonial Farm fishing pier, at Wharf-Road/Farmington Landing, and at Marshall Hall. The Potomac River is wide and open here, so be prepared for strong tides and currents and possible wind. ◾ The three launch sites in Piscataway Park (Farmington Landing, the fishing pier at the National Colonial Farm, and Marshall Hall) are waypoints on the Lower Potomac Water Trail, which covers 115 miles from Washington, DC to the river’s mouth at the Chesapeake Bay. ◾ Piscataway Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ 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.
From the D.C. area: From south end of the Capital Beltway (I-495), take Exit 3 to Indian Head Highway (MD Route 210 South), and go approximately 8.5 miles. Turn right to go west on Farmington Road West.
- For Wharf Road, go 1.0 miles on Farmington Road West, then a sharp right to go north on Wharf Road. Follow Wharf Road to the Farmington Landing fishing area at the end in approximately 0.6 miles.
- For the Boardwalk at Accokeek Creek from Wharf Road/Farmington Landing: Drive south on Wharf Road and turn right to go west and southwest on Farmington Road West for 0.8 miles. At the intersection with Bryan Point Road, turn right to go northwest. Stay on Bryan Point Road for 2.4 miles, passing Hard Bargain Farm (no public access) on the right, and its wetland boardwalk on the left, at an S-curve. The next lane on the right leads to the Boardwalk parking area.
- For National Colonial Farm: Return to Bryan Point Road and turn right to go west for 0.3 miles. Turn right at the signed entrance for Piscataway Park and the National Colonial Farm. Bear right to the Visitor Parking Area.
- For Marshall Hal Boat Ramp: From the National Colonial Farm, return to the entrance at Bryan Point Road and bear right to go south on Cactus Hill Road for 0.8 miles. Cactus Hill Road will come to an intersection with Colonial Road to the left, then after a few feet, Old Marshall Hall Road will be to the right and left. Turn LEFT onto Old Marshall Hall Road and immediately go around a sharp bend onto a southbound section of Old Marshall Hall Road. Follow this for 1.0 mile, then turn right to go west on Marshall Hall Road, which becomes Barry’s Hill Road. In 1.4 miles, turn right again to go north on MD Route 227/Marshall Hall Road, which ends at the boat ramp in 1.7 miles.
Directions from Waldorf and other points south: Take US Route 301/Crain Highway and turn onto MD Route 228/Berry Road westbound. Proceed on Berry Road for 7 miles to a T-intersection at MD Route 210/Indian Head Highway. Turn right (north) onto Indian Head highway and move into the far left lane. Take the next left turn onto Livingston Road (look for B&J Carryout). Drive one block and turn right onto Biddle Road. Go another block and turn left on Bryan Point Road.
- To reach Wharf Road, proceed north on Bryan Point Road for 0.5 miles and turn right onto Farmington Road West. Follow Farmngton Road west in an eastward direction for o.8 miles, then make a sharp left turn to go north on Wharf Road. Follow Wharf Road to the Farmington Landing fishing area at the end in approximately 0.6 miles.
- Proceed as above for Boardwalk, National Colonial Farm, and Marshall Hall.
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 Park ◾ Piscataway MOS Sanctuary ◾ Rosaryville State Park ◾ Schoolhouse Pond
Charles County: Allen’s Fresh Natural Area / Zekiah Swamp Natural Environmental Area ◾ Chapman State Park & Chapman Residual Wildlife Management Area ◾ Indian Head Rail Trail ◾ Smallwood State Park
Washington, DC: Anacostia Park ◾ Constitution Gardens ◾ East Potomac Park (Hains Point) & the Tidal Basin ◾ Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens ◾ National Arboretum, ◾ National Zoo ◾ Rock Creek Park
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Farmyard Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
BeginnersBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Chesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkHistorical SitesNational Parks & MonumentsThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails