At a Glance
Hours: April-October, 5 am to sunset; November-March, 7 am to sunset. Certain activities are permitted outside of regular park hours (e.g. fishing, boat launch, hunting). Check with the park before your visit if you plan to enter before or after hours.
Cost: Day Use Fees: April-October, Weekends and Holidays: $3/person in-state resident, $5/person out-of-state resident. All other times: $3/vehicle in-state resident, $5/vehicle out-of-state resident. Annual or Senior State Park Pass accepted. Additional fees for boat launch, marina, camping, pavilion rental.
Tips: Bring a scope for waterfowl viewing in winter. ◾ Avoid weekends in warm weather when the park can be crowded. ◾ Call ahead to inquire about any possible special events. ◾ See trail map at link below for restroom locations.
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring. Can be crowded and noisy in summer.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Indian Head CW, Indian Head CE, Indian Head SW
Smallwood State Park
2750 Sweden Point Road, Marbury, MD 20658
The 628-acre Smallwood State Park, managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is located on the Mattawoman Creek in northern Charles County. (Do not confuse Smallwood State Park with Fort Smallwood Park, a county park in Anne Arundel County.) Smallwood State Park offers a trail system that leads through deciduous woods and past stands of pine. There are both tidal and non-tidal wetlands within the park, and there is an excellent view of Mattawoman Creek, quite broad at this point, from a number of vantage points. A field near the park entrance is managed for pollinators, and there are also scattered lawn areas. The varied habitats within the park provide for a good diversity of bird species, and the road and trail system enables all the park areas to be thoroughly explored.
Smallwood State Park takes its name from General William Smallwood, a native of Charles County whose family property is now the state park. He was the highest ranked Marylander who served in the American Revolutionary War. He later became the State’s fourth governor and oversaw Maryland’s ratification of the federal Constitution. His home, known as Smallwood’s Retreat, was built around 1760 as the heart of his tobacco plantation. The house has been restored and is open to visitors seasonally.
The trail map for Smallwood State Park (link at left) is geolocator-enabled, which means that you can load it into a GPS app on your Smartphone (such as the free Avenza app), and you will be able to see where you are within the park, and track your movements along the trails, using the map within the app.
Smallwood State Park has two trails that are especially good for birding. The General’s Walk Trail is a loop that runs between headquarters, Smallwood’s Retreat (the historic home), and the campground. This trail features a variety of ecosystems, including hardwood forests and tidal wetlands. This loop is nearly two miles long and includes several exit points if you wish to shorten your hike. While some portions of this trail are easy, the entire hike should be considered moderate due to several uphill and downhill portions.
The Birdwatchers/Bluebird Trail is a short trail that can be done as a loop from the Mattawoman Creek Art Center, located on Mattawoman Creek within the park. This loop is about 3/4 of a mile, and is a flat easy hike. The trail leads through a wooded area and skirts the edge of a large meadow.
In addition to walking the trails, be sure to check the Mattawoman Creek, viewable from the Sweden Point Marina area, the fishing pier, and near the Arts Center. There is also a tidal marsh near the fishing pier, and a pedestrian bridge over the mouth of the marsh makes for good viewing.
Over 170 species have been reported at the eBird hotspot for Smallwood State Park. Waterfowl are a specialty of the park in winter, with 19 species reported. Canada Goose, Mallard, and Wood Duck breed here and may be found year-round. Pied-billed and Horned Grebes may be present in winter and spring, and Red-necked Grebes join them in spring. The usual three gulls (Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed) are present fall through spring, joined in late summer and early fall by Laughing Gulls. Terns include Caspian, Common, Forster’s and Royal. Ospreys (spring through early fall) and Bald Eagles (year-round) are abundant.
All of the locally breeding woodpeckers are present year-round, including Red-headed, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers join them in winter. This is a good spot to look for migrant thrushes in spring. Wood Thrush are present in spring and summer, and Hermit in winter. Other songbirds found seasonally include the usual swallows, flycatchers, vireos, sparrows, and warblers (19 species reported).
For those who are mobility-impaired, good birding is possible from the car, either on the road system within the park or at the parking areas and marina.
Pets are permitted and must bed kept on a leash. You must pick up after you pet and take the waste with you when you leave: Maryland State Parks are trash-free.
Smallwood State Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service.
The Sweden Point Discovery Center in the park provides indoor and outdoor activities for children. ◾ Part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail goes through the park. ◾ The Mattawoman Creek Water Trail uses the marina in the park as one of its access points. The Water Trail goes into prime wetland habitat in the Mattawoman Natural Environmental Area. The Water Trail is depicted on the interactive map of the Maryland Public Water Access Atlas. ◾ The historic home, Smallwood’s Retreat, is open to visitors seasonally. ◾ The park has a full-service marina, boat launching ramps, fishing pier, picnic area, camping area, pavilions, and playground. A concession store at the marina is open seasonally. ◾ The Mattawoman Creek Art Center is located in the park. ◾ The Friends of Smallwood State Park help to support the park with local fund-raising and volunteer activities. ◾ There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society in Charles County, but many birders participate in MOS through the Anne Arundel Bird Club or the Patuxent Bird Club; both of these MOS chapters offer field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. ◾ In addition, the Southern MD Audubon Society serves birders in Charles, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Prince George’s Counties.
Osprey Cam: Thanks to a generous donation from the Southern Maryland Audubon Society, MD DNR is providing a live-stream feed of an Osprey nest at the park. Osprey are generally most active on this nest site between mid March and early July, however, it is not uncommon to have other birds such as Bald Eagles stop to rest on the platform at other times of the year.
Paved or gravel lots; see trail map at link at left.
From points north on the Western Shore: Take US Route 301 south to La Plata; then turn west onto MD Route 225/Hawthorn Road. Go 8.9 miles on Route 225. Then turn left to go south on MD Route 224/Chicamuxen Road. Stay on Chicamuxen Road for 3.8 miles and then turn right to go north into the park entrance on Smallwood Park Road. Consult trail map for parking areas.
From the east (Anne Arundel or Calvert County): Use MD Route 2/4 to approach Prince Frederick. From Prince Frederick, take MD Route 231/Hallowing Point Road westbound for 12 miles. At Hughesville, bear right at the Hughesville Bypass to take MD Route 5/Leonardtown Road north for 5.1 miles. Then turn left to go southwest on MD Route 488/La Plata Road. Stay on La Plata Road for 6.0 miles. As you approach La Plata, turn right at the T-intersection with MD Route 6/Charles Street, going west for 5.2 miles. Turn right to go northwest on Poorhouse Road for 7.4 miles. Then turn left to go west on Sweetman Road for 1.2 miles. At the intersection with MD Route 224/Chickamuxen Road, turn right to go north a short distance, and then make an almost immediate left into the park entrance road, Smallwood Park Road. Consult trail map for parking areas.
From the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 50 or US Route 301 to take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Annapolis area. Stay on US Route 50/301 to Exit 13 at Bowie. At exit 13, head south onto MD Route 301 to La Plata. Then turn west onto MD Route 225/Hawthorn Road. Go 8.9 miles on Route 225. Then turn left to go south on MD Route 224/Chicamuxen Road. Stay on Chicamuxen road for 3.8 miles and then turn right to go north into the park entrance on Smallwood Park Road. Consult trail map for parking areas.
Charles County: Allen’s Fresh Natural Area / Zekiah Swamp Natural Environmental Area ◾ Chapman State Park & Chapman Residual Wildlife Management Area ◾ Indian Creek Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Indian Head Rail Trail ◾ Mattawoman Natural Environmental Area ◾ Maxwell Hall Park ◾ Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Features:BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)BoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsCampingFishingHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsSnack Bar, Camp Store, Food ConcessionsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Chesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkHistorical SitesState ParksThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails