Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area and Turner’s Creek Park
13761 Turners Creek Road, Kennedyville, MD 21645
The 1,200-acre Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area is located on a northward-facing peninsula on the scenic banks of the Sassafras River and Turner’s Creek in Kent County and is operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The adjoining Turner’s Creek Park is managed by Kent County Parks and Recreation and offers an additional 147 acres of woods and open fields, perched on the waterfront overlooking Turner’s Creek. A public boat ramp and picnic area are available at the park. Both the park and the NRMA provide spectacular views of the Sassafras River and Turner’s Creek. Habitats here include upland deciduous woods, agricultural fields, grassland meadows, a freshwater ponds, and tidal marshes bordering the Sassafras River and Turner’s Creek. The diversity of habitats here attract a wide variety of birds.
The trail system at Sassafras NRMA is open to hikers, bikers and equestrians. There are approximately 9 miles of trails in the form of old dirt roads, field edges, and footpaths within forested areas. There are also additional trails at the adjoining Turner’s Creek Park; the trail systems interconnect near Turner’s Creek Road. The trail map at the link below shows trails within the NRMA but not within Turner’s Creek Park; there is a trail map posted at the kiosk at the Turner’s Creek parking area, which can be consulted when visiting.
At Sassafras NRMA, habitat to support Northern Bobwhite has been created through a partnership between Washington College’s Center for Environment and Society and the Maryland Park Service. During 2018, 83 acres of row crops at the NRMA were converted to upland meadow and hedgerows. Walking trails through the area are also being created. The new habitat was designed specifically for the ground-nesting Bobwhite, using native bunch grasses such as little bluestem, broomsedge, and Virginia rye, as well as native wildflowers such as partridge pea, ox-eye sunflower, black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower. In addition to serving as an ideal nesting habitat for quail and other grassland-dependent birds, the meadow will support pollinator insects. The project at Sassafras NRMA complements other restoration efforts in the region and provides an educational opportunity for visitors to the park. Read more about Northern Bobwhite restoration, Washington College’s programs, and its River and Field Campus. The Center for Environment and Society at the College welcomes donations to support its work in avian biology and habitat restoration.
There are two separate eBird hotspots for Sassafras NRMA (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L807850) and Turner’s Creek Park (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L807850), with over 140 species reported. The area features a smattering of waterfowl on the open waters of the Sassafras River and Turner’s Creek, as well as at the fishing pond in the NRMA; some waterfowl of interest include Snow Goose, Cackling Goose (occasional), Tundra Swan, Wood Duck (breeding), American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser (breeding), and Common Merganser.
As of fall 2019, there are no eBird reports of Northern Bobwhite in the newly created habitat at the NRMA (see above), but it is anticipated that they will appear in coming years, as they did at the restored habitat at Washington College’s Chester River Field Research Center (aka Chino Farms, not open to the public), nearby in Queen Anne’s County.
American Woodcock are found in winter, and are a potential breeding species, as there is good habitat to support them.
Gulls include the expected species: Ring-billed (year-round); Great Black-backed (winter)); and Herring (winter); as well as Laughing in summer and Bonaparte’s in winter. The river and creek are good places to watch for terns in summer: Least; Forster’s; Common; and Caspian. Osprey are numerous from March through September, and are conspicuous local breeders, with nests on buoys, platforms, and telephone poles throughout the region. Bald Eagles also nest here and are found year-round, along with Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. Cooper’s Hawks can be found year-round and Sharp-shinned Hawks and Northern Harriers are present in the winter. American Kestrels breed locally and can be seen mostly from April through November.
Breeding populations of forest-interior-dwelling species include Acadian Flycatcher; Eastern Wood-Pewee; White-eyed Vireo; Wood Thrush; and Scarlet Tanager. Breeding warblers include Ovenbird; Black-and-White; Common Yellowthroat; American Redstart; Yellow; and Prairie. Yellow-breasted Chats; Baltimore Orioles, Orchard Orioles, Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings are abundant breeders in the hedgerows and edges between field and forest. Bobolinks may also be present during breeding season. Winter features a selection of sparrows: Dark-eyed Junco; White-crowned; White-throated; Savannah; American Tree; Fox; and Swamp. Breeding sparrows include Eastern Towhee; Grasshopper; Chipping; Field; and Song. Migrant sparrows may include Clay-colored and Lincoln’s.
For those who are mobility impaired, there is good birding from the car at the Turner’s Creek Park boat launch area, as well as along the entrance road into Sassafras NRMA. Some of the dirt roads in the NRMA may be accessible to wheelchairs during dry weather. ◾ For history buffs, Knock’s Folly Visitor Center at Sassafras NRMA features exhibits highlighting the history of the farming community, the local Native American Tockwogh tribe, Captain John Smith’s visit to the Turner’s Creek area and the rich natural history and wildlife of the Sassafras area. ◾ There are displays of antique and historical agricultural equipment and early farmlife at an agricultural demonstration area and the Kent Museum within Turner’s Creek Park. These displays are open the first and third Saturday of each month from 10 am until 4 pm, May through October. ◾ Hiking, mountain biking, equestrian trail riding, and fishing are popular activities. ◾ Primitive youth group camping is available at Sassafras NRMA from May through October. The site has picnic tables, grills and fire rings. Groups must bring in their own potable water. To reserve the site, call the main park office at 410-820-1668. ◾ The Sassafras Environmental Education Center within the NRMA provides a variety of programs, most aimed at school students. The center demonstrates how outdoor education can enhance learning across various disciplines, and partners with local schools to serve as a ground for public school educators to implement Maryland’s environmental literacy standards. ◾ Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area and Turner’s Creek Park are part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Kent County Bird Club, which offers field trips and meeting programs that are open to the public, free of charge.
- Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television: Episode 2616 features a segment on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, a water trail that traces the explorations of John Smith. Turner’s Creek Park, Elk Neck State Park, and Susquehanna State Park are featured in the John Smith Trail segment. Other segments cover a kayaking trip to three of the iconic islands along the Chesapeake’s Eastern Shore, and tubing and flyfishing on the upper reaches of the Gunpowder River.
- A Voice for the Rivers is a special episode of Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television that focuses on the work of the riverkeepers in safeguarding and working to improve the health of the major rivers of the Upper Eastern Shore: the Sassafras, the Wye, the Miles, the Chester, and the Choptank. There is beautiful footage of the open waters, marshlands, and shoreline forests, as well as discussion of the challenges of pollution and sea level rise.
Designated lots at the NRMA and the county park. See trail map at link at left.
From I-95 in Cecil County: Take Exit 109 for MD Route 279/Elkton-Newark Road southbound and travel 2.7 miles. Turn left to go south on MD Route 213/Bridge Street in Elkton. Follow MD Route 213 south for 21 miles, crossing the Sassafras River into Kent County. In the town of Galena (obey posted speed limit), turn right to go west on MD Route 213/Cross Street, for another 5.7 miles. Turn right to go north on MD Route 298/Lambs Meadow Road for 1.3 miles, then turn right to continue north on MD Route 448/Turner’s Creek Road. Turner’s Creek Park is ahead in about 2.2 miles; parking for trails is on the left (west side) of the road and the boat launch area is straight ahead at the end of Turner’s Creek Road. To reach Sassafras NRMA from Turner’s Creek Park, turn around and retrace your route on Turner’s Creek Road for just half-a-mile, to the NRMA entrance on the right (west) side of the road. Follow the entrance road through the NRMA for about 0.9 miles to the parking area.
From the western shore, two alternate routes are possible:
1) Take I-95 north to Cecil County and follow directions given above.
2) Take US Route 50/301 over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. A few miles after the Bay Bridge, the highway will split, with Route 50 heading south to Salisbury and Route 301 heading north to Wilmington. Follow signs to stay on Route 301 heading north. In 5.5 miles after the 50/301 split, exit Route 301 to go north on MD Route 213/Centreville Road. Follow Route 213 north through Centreville, Church Hill, and Chestertown, for about 26 miles. In Kennedyville, turn left to go north on MD Route 448/Kennedyville Road. Turner’s Creek Park is ahead in about 3.5 miles; parking for trails is on the left (west side) of the road and the boat launch area is straight ahead at the end of Turner’s Creek Road. (Note that Kennedyville Road becomes Turner’s Creek Road upon crossing Route 298). To reach Sassafras NRMA from Turner’s Creek Park, turn around and retrace your route on Turner’s Creek Road for just half-a-mile, to the NRMA entrance on the right (west) side of the road. Follow the entrance road through the NRMA for about 0.9 miles to the parking area.
From points south on the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 50 to reach US Route 301 northbound. From the point where US Route 50 merges with US Route 301, drive 5.5 miles north, then exit Route 301 to go north on MD Route 213/Centreville Road. Follow Route 213 north through Centreville, Church Hill, and Chestertown, for about 26 miles. In Kennedyville, turn left to go north on MD Route 448/Kennedyville Road. Turner’s Creek Park is ahead in about 3.5 miles; parking for trails is on the left (west side) of the road and the boat launch area is straight ahead at the end of Turner’s Creek Road. (Note that Kennedyville Road becomes Turner’s Creek Road upon crossing Route 298). To reach Sassafras NRMA from Turner’s Creek Park, turn around and retrace your route on Turner’s Creek Road for just half-a-mile, to the NRMA entrance on the right (west) side of the road. Follow the entrance road through the NRMA for about 0.9 miles to the parking area. ◾
Kent County: Chesapeake Farms & St. Paul’s Millpond, Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Millington Wildlife Management Area
Caroline County: Adkins Arboretum, Idylwild Wildlife Management Area, Martinak State Park, Tuckahoe State Park (Caroline County)
Queen Anne’s County: Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center – Horsehead, Conquest Preserve, Ferry Point Park, Matapeake Clubhouse & Beach / Matapeake Fishing Pier & Boat Ramp, Terrapin Nature Park, Tuckahoe State Park (Queen Anne’s County), Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area
Talbot County: Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park – Talbot County Side, Pickering Creek Audubon Center, Black Walnut Point Natural Resources Management Area, Poplar Island
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsHay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & Streams
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Birding By CarBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHorseback RidingHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Chesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkDriving Tours (Birding By Car)Hunting AreasThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore