At a Glance

Hours: 6 am to 10 pm

Cost: Free.

Tips: A scope is useful. ◾ Early morning and late afternoon/evening are usually the best times, but water birds can be present at any time of the day. ◾  The lake can be crowded on weekends and holidays, especially in warm weather.

Best Seasons: Year-round.

Local MOS Chapter: Howard County Bird Club

Wilde Lake

Hyla Brook Road, Columbia, MD 21044
(410) 715-3000

Wilde Lake, located in the town of Columbia in Howard County, is a 22-acre man-made lake built in the mid-1960s. The lake and small adjoining park (about 39 acres total) are owned by the Columbia Association, the local community association that sponsors a wide array of recreational, cultural, and community services. The lake varies in depth from 13 feet behind the dam to a few feet at the west end. Though relatively small, the lake and surrounding area have hosted a number of notable birds over the years, and is an oasis in a highly developed area. As such, Wilde Lake is highly popular with local birders.

The area surrounding the lake consists mostly of mowed open space, scattered deciduous trees, and a few patches of undergrowth. Floating vegetated islands have been placed at the northwest edge, popular with the local ducks. At times when water levels are low, exposed mud attracts shorebirds. A stream flows into the lake at the northwest end, under a bridge and through deciduous woods. The 1.5-mile trail around the lake has side trails that connect to other parts of the Columbia Association path system, so it is possible to make the lake the focus of a lengthier walk through the neighborhoods (see trail map at link at left).

Birdlife:

Over 175 species of birds have been reported on eBird from Wilde Lake. Double-crested Cormorants are generally present spring into summer. Black-crowned Night-Herons can be found here in spring, and Baltimore Orioles nest in the spring. Several species of swallow are present throughout the summer, hunting over the waters of the lake. Shorebirds can be found sporadically, generally from April through September (dependent on water levels).

Large flocks of Bonaparte’s Gulls are an almost annual event, making short visits of generally 15-30 minutes during late March and early April. One or two Great Black-backed Gulls can visit in winter or spring. Waterfowl are present throughout the winter.

There is a wide selection of small passerines, including nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, kinglets (winter) and so on.

Parking:

Two paved lots along the north edge of the lake, off Hyla Brook Road. See trail map at link at left.

Special Features:

Some of the path around the lake is wheelchair-accessible. The level path on the north side is in view of the water along its entire length. Park in the paved lot near the dam for close access to the paved path. The gravel lot requires walking across grass and down a slope in order to reach the path. The dam end contains steep slopes. ◾ Several dozen trees on the west side labeled with identifying information constitute the Wilde Lake Arboretum. ◾ Fishing is permitted at the lake. ◾ A seasonal list of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, and herps is available at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/wilde-lake/wilde-lake-species-lists/, courtesy of the Howard County Bird Club. ◾ The Howard County Bird Club, a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, holds bird walks at Centennial Lake and Park; such walks are free and open to the public. See the Howard County Bird Club’s calendar for more information. ◾ The Howard County Bird Club has a detailed online guide, “Birding Howard County,” on their website at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/. Edited by Joanne Solem, the online guide replaces an older printed guide, now out-of-print. The website is up-to-date and extremely detailed. Check it out!

Directions:

From I-95 or I-295 or I-97, take MD Route 32 westbound toward Columbia. From MD Route 32, take Exit 16A for US Route 29 north. Go 3.4 miles north on US Route 29, and then take Exit 20B for MD Route 175 westbound toward Columbia Town Center. MD Route 175 becomes Little Patuxent Parkway. Continue about 1.0 mile to West Running Brook Road and turn right (west); then take an almost immediate left to go west on Hyla Brook Road. Continue 0.1 mile to a paved parking lot on the left near the dock, or continue another 0.1 mile to a gravel parking area on the left near a red-roofed barn, at 10027 Hyla Brook Road.

Nearby Sites:

Centennial Lake; David Force NRA; Lake Elkhorn; Middle Patuxent Environmental Area; Mount Pleasant Farm (Howard County Conservancy); Patapsco Valley SP – Daniels Area; Patapsco Valley SP – Henryton; Rockburn Branch Park; Schooley Mill Park.

Habitats:

HedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ParkLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseSuburban Neighborhood Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Pond, Lake, or Reservoir

Features:

BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Free - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsLake, Pond, Bay, River, OceanParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families

Type:

Community and Urban ParksHiker-Biker Trails (Paved)Ponds, Lakes, and Reservoirs