At a Glance
- March-October: 8 am-sunset
- November-February: 10 am-sunset.
- April-October, weekends and holidays: $3/person in-state; $5/person out-of-state; state park annual or senior passes may be used.
- April-October, weekdays: free.
- November – March: daily, free.
Tips: Restrooms are located throughout the park, although some may be closed in winter. See trail map at link below for locations. ■ At Clopper Lake, a scope is helpful for waterfowl, loons and grebes. ■ The park is crowded on weekends during the warm months; try to visit on weekdays. ■ Public hunting is allowed in some sections of the park; be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly.
Best Seasons: Winter for waterfowl; spring and fall for passerine migrants.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks (includes entire expanse of the park): Germantown SW, Germantown SE, Gaithersburg SW, Seneca NW, Seneca NE, Seneca CW
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 Clopper Lake, the most frequently visited and birded part of the park. At 90 acres, Clopper Lake is the second largest body of water in Montgomery County. The terrain rolls quite a bit and some trails are fairly steep. The habitat consists mostly of 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 160 species have been reported on eBird from Seneca Creek State Park. There are several eBird hotspots covering the Clopper Lake area of the park:
- Seneca Creek SP–Clopper Lake – 160+ species
- Seneca Creek SP–Visitor Center Area – 109+ species
- Great Seneca Park – 90+ species (this covers a section of the county-owned Great Seneca Stream Valley Park that is adjacent to the southwest corner of the Clopper Lake area)
- Seneca Creek SP–Riffle Ford Rd. – 130+ species
In addition, there are a couple of eBird hotspots for other parts of Seneca Creek State Park:
- Seneca Ridge Trail–Black Rock Mill – 80+ species (this hotspot covers a trail in the Schaefer’s Farm section of the park, to the west of the Clopper Lake section)
- Seneca Creek State Park – 160+ species (this hotspot is centered on a section of the park several mils southwest of Clopper Lake, just north of the Potomac River and near McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area and the C&O Canal; the hotspot is near the park’s Seneca Bluffs Trail and the Seneca Greenway Trail)
Clopper Lake is best known for waterfowl in winter, 22 species in all, especially diving ducks like Ring-necked and Bufflehead; winter may also feature 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 trails are not wheelchair accessible.
Pets are allowed on leash; pick up after your pet and take the pet waste with you when you leave.
The south portion of Seneca Creek State Park near the Potomac River and other lands in 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); ball field; disc golf; fishing; and other activities.
- Hunting is allowed in designated sections of the park; see https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/Seneca/Hunting.aspx;
- 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 Friends of Seneca Creek State Park support the programs at the park and would appreciate volunteers for their programs as well as donations.
Local MOS Chapter:
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 (2008); this comprehensive, detailed book covers 17 major birding sites plus 18 “little treasures” in the county. The book is now out of print but is available as a free downloadable PDF, courtesy of the Montgomery Bird Club.
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 ■ Triadelphia Reservoir (Brighton Dam) ■ 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
Features:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Birding By CarBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsFishingFree - No Entry Fee on Some Days or Parts of YearHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHorseback RidingHuntingNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasState Parks