Seneca Creek State Park
11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Seneca Creek State Park encompasses 6,300 acres spanning 14 miles in the Seneca Creek valley, arcing through western Montgomery County from I-270 all the way to the Potomac River. The park has several distinct sections within this large expanse. There is an extensive trail system within the two larger sections, Clopper Lake and Schaefer’s Farm, as well as longer-distance trails linking the various sections of the park (see trail map at link at left). For trail descriptions, see https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/Seneca/Trails.aspx.
The section of the park described here is the most frequently visited and birded part, centered around Clopper Lake, the second largest body of water in Montgomery County. The terrain rolls quite a bit and some trails are fairly steep. The habitat consists of mostly deciduous woods, with one large white pine stand at the Pine Picnic Area (see day use area map at the trail map link at left), along with open meadows and mowed areas.
A trail along the north side of the lake affords good views of waterfowl. The blue-blazed Lakeshore Trail runs entirely around the lake, a walk of 3.7 miles. Numerous picnic areas around the park offer nice woodland birding during migration. The Kingfisher Overlook at the northwest corner of the lake is elevated and allows good views of birds near the dam and in a little cove that is otherwise difficult to bird without spooking waterfowl. The park office and Visitor Center, on the right near the park entrance from Clopper Road, features a bird feeder station that should be checked in winter.
Over 140 species have been reported on eBird from the Clopper Lake area within Seneca Creek State Park. The lake is best known for waterfowl in winter, 22 species in all, especially diving ducks like Ring-necked and Bufflehead; winter also features Red-breasted Nuthatch (not every year) and Golden-crowned Kinglet in the pine stand. Loons are regular in winter and early spring, as are Pied-billed and Horned Grebes. Passerines including flycatchers, thrushes, warblers and vireos come through during migration.
Rarities that have occurred in the past include Pacific Loon and Clay-colored Sparrow.
Some, but not all, facilities in Seneca Creek State Park are wheelchair-accessible. See https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/Seneca/Accessibilty.aspx. There is good barrier-free viewing of Clopper Lake from Kingfisher Overlook and from several of the picnic areas. It is possible to bird from or near the car along the paved roads through the park. ◾ The Friends of Seneca Creek State Park support the programs at the park; see http://www.foscsp.com/ for information. ◾ The south portion of Seneca Creek State Park near the Potomac River, and other lands within Montgomery County, are part of the Lower C&O Canal Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾ Seneca Creek State Park features boat and kayak rental; a launch for those with their own boat or kayak; biking trails (bring your own bike); horseback riding trails (bring your own horse); hunting in some sections (see https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/Seneca/Hunting.aspx); ball field; disc golf; fishing; and other activities. ◾ There are several historic buildings located within the park; see https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/Seneca/History-Seneca.aspx. ◾ Nature education programs are offered throughout the year; see https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Documents/SCSP_programs.pdf. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Montgomery Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. ◾ The Montgomery Bird Club has published A Birder’s Guide to Montgomery County, Maryland; this comprehensive, detailed printed book covers 17 major birding sites plus 18 “little treasures” in the county. To order, see https://mdbirds.org/join/merchandise/a-birders-guide-to-montgomery-county/.
Designated parking areas are located throughout the park; see trail map.
From Washington, D.C, Virginia and points south: Take I-270 north toward Frederick, Maryland. Take Exit 10 for MD Route 117/Clopper Road/West Diamond Avenue. Turn right at the light at the bottom of the ramp to go west on Clopper Road. The park entrance will be approximately 2.2 miles ahead on the left (south side of Clopper Road).
From points north: Take I-270 south towards Washington, DC. Take Exit 11 for MD Route 124/Quince Orchard Road. Turn right at the light at the bottom of the ramp to go south on MD Route 124. In 0.4 miles, turn right to go west on MD Route 117/Clopper Road. The park entrance will be approximately 1.5 miles ahead on the left (south side of Clopper Road).
Montgomery County: Black Hill Regional Park, Blue Mash Nature Trail, C&O Canal – Pennyfield, Violette’s & Riley’s Locks, Little Bennett Regional Park, Lois Y. Green Conservation Park, McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area (Hughes Hollow), Rock Creek Regional Park – Lake Needwood, Rock Creek Regional Park – Meadowside Nature Center & Lake Frank, Wheaton Regional Park – Brookside Gardens, Brookside Nature Center, Pine Lake Area
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseSuburban Neighborhood Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass Field Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Birding By CarBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsFishingHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHorseback RidingHuntingNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Audubon Important Bird AreasState Parks