At a Glance
Hours: Open sunrise to sunset, all year.
Cost: The trail around the pond is free. On-street parking on Governor Oden Bowie Drive is free on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays; the on-street parking meter fee is $2.50 per hour on weekdays 6 AM through 6 PM, free after 6 PM. The meters take credit cards and coins.
Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ There are usually a few fishermen about and often they can tell you what birds are being seen. ◾ No restrooms.
Best Seasons: All except mid-summer. The pond is extremely popular. Try to visit in early morning.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Upper Marlboro CE, Bristol CW
14100 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Schoolhouse Pond is a gem of a birding spot; in fact, this small park boasts the second highest eBird species list in Prince George’s County. The pond is located in the town of Upper Marlboro, directly across the street from the Prince George’s County Administration Building, and is managed as a conservation area by the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Interestingly, no one really knows how and when the pond originated. It is not shown on older maps of the town. Some say it was built as a mill pond, but that’s just speculation. The pond occupies about 12 acres of a 30-acre parkland and is stocked with fish. Amenities include a fishing pier, photo blind, 3/4-mile boardwalk, picnic area, and nature trail through the adjoining woods. There are no restrooms.
The trail plus the boardwalk makes a complete circuit of the pond, passing through wet woods and along the Federal Springs Branch behind the pond. An observation platform on the back edge of the pond provides a good view of a marshy area favored by Wilson’s Snipe. Usually the water in the pond remains at least partly open, even in freezing weather, thanks to influx from tributary streams. Some of the pond is covered by emergent vegetation, while other sections are exposed mud and some is deeper water. The pond hosts a good winter selection of waterfowl and shorebirds in migration. Proximity to the county landfill attracts gulls in large numbers. The wooded areas are good for warblers and other passerines.
The aforementioned Federal Springs Branch runs along the north edge of the park surrounding the pond; the Federal Springs Branch flows into the Western Branch, a major tributary of the Patuxent River, which is not far away. Note that this part of Upper Marlboro is essentially a basin and during wet weather, is subject to flash flooding. Check before visiting after major storms, and while there, be alert to possible rising waters. The water can rise rapidly, submerging cars and cutting off exit routes from town.
With its location in the Patuxent River watershed, Schoolhouse Pond is a good jumping off point for birding the river. See the overview map of Jug Bay area parks at the link at left for a look at other places to visit.
The Schoolhouse Pond species list on eBird stands at 236+. The length of the species list is due almost entirely to the daily walks conducted by Fred Shaffer, former President of the Patuxent Bird Club, now retired from a job in the county building across the street. Fred has compiled a seasonal checklist of birds at Schoolhouse Pond.
Waterfowl sighted at the pond include most of the dabbling ducks that occur in the county. Blue-winged Teal may be present almost any time of year. Wintering gulls sometimes include rarities such as Franklin’s, Black-headed, and Little Gulls.
Wilson’s Snipe and American Coot are regular in season. Virginia Rails may be heard in spring and Sora in the fall. Shorebirds use the pond’s mudflats during migration. The trail behind the pond offers good passerine birding during spring and fall migration, and even in winter there may be surprises.
Breeding birds include Black-crowned Night-Heron and Barred Owl.
The viewing area at the front of Schoolhouse Pond as well as the boardwalk at either side of the pond is wheelchair-accessible, but the natural-surface trail in the woods on the far side of the pond is usually muddy and would not be navigable by a wheelchair. Parts of the viewing area in front of the pond consists of decks and concrete areas with steps, but at least part of the area is ramped.
Pets are allowed on leash; you must pick up after your pet.
There is on-street metered parking along Governor Oden Bowie Drive on the south side of the pond. On-street parking is free on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. On weekdays 6 AM through 6 PM, the on-street parking meter fee is $2.50 per hour; free after 6 PM. The meters take credit cards and coins. The parking meters are strictly monitored.
There are picnic tables scattered along the front viewing area at Schoolhouse Pond. ◾ Fishing is permitted from the pier or boardwalk, or from the shoreline. A freshwater fishing license is needed. ◾ 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 US Route 301 near Upper Marlboro: Turn onto westbound MD Route 725/Marlboro Pike toward the heart of historic Upper Marlboro. Go 0.8 miles on Route 725, staying straight at the light at the intersection of MD Route 202, and then turning right at the next light to go west on Governor Oden Bowie Drive. You will pass a historic home (Darnall’s Chance) on the right. Schoolhouse Pond is immediately after Darnall’s Chance, and is also on the right. Look for parking at a meter on the street. Parking is usually plentiful in the early mornings or evenings, and on weekends, but the spaces may be full during weekday working hours. Don’t forget to feed the parking meter if visiting any day but Sunday, when parking is free.
From the Washington, DC Beltway (I-495): Take Exit 11 for MD Route 4/Pennsylvania Avenue south/east toward Upper Marlboro. In 7.3 miles, take the exit for MD Route 717/Water Street, heading north into town. In o.3 miles, turn right to go east on MD Route 725/Main Street. Go 1/4 miles east on Main Street, then turn left onto Governor Oden Bowie Drive. A historic home (Darnall’s Chance) will be on the corner, on the right as you turn onto Governor Oden Bowie Drive. Schoolhouse Pond is immediately after Darnall’s Chance, and is also on the right. Look for parking at a meter on the street. Parking is usually plentiful in the early mornings or evenings, and on weekends, but the spaces may be full during weekday working hours. Don’t forget to feed the parking meter if visiting any day but Sunday, when parking is free.
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 ◾ Piscataway (National) Park: National Colonial Farm, Boardwalk, Wharf Road/Farmington Landing & Marshall Hall ◾ Rocky Gorge Reservoir – Supplee Lane Recreation Area & Duckett Dam ◾ Rosaryville State Park
Features:BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)BoardwalkFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Community and Urban ParksPonds, Lakes, and Reservoirs