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Water Trails > Blackwater Nat'l Wildlife Refuge Paddling Trails

Blackwater Nat'l Wildlife Refuge Paddling Trails (MD)

Location: Dorchester County, Maryland
Length: 3 trails b/w 3-9 miles long
Waterways: Blackwater River & Blackwater Marsh

In this dramatic landscape of 27,000 acres, the Blackwater River winds its way through expanses of open water and marsh, osprey and terns slice the vast sky as they dive, and bald eagles are the sentinels atop the tallest pines. In a canoe or kayak, you can explore tidal marshes and brackish ponds for a closer look at the Refuge's resident and visiting wildlife.

From October through November, as many as 50,000 geese, ducks, and tundra swans stop at Blackwater Refuge during their migration along the Atlantic Flyway. To feed them, the Refuge staff plant grain fields and seasonally flood impoundments. Up to 20 species of ducks and 250 species of other birds may also be seen here, along with 165 species of threatened or endangered plants. The endangered Delmarva fox squirrel and other species make their home in the large stands of loblolly pine and hardwoods.

The Blackwater River is a major feature of the Refuge and the surrounding area. It begins where Parsons and Corsey Creeks meet in northwestern Dorchester County, Maryland, then flows southeast to Fishing Bay, which opens into the Chesapeake Bay. The Blackwater got its name because tannic acid from decaying leaves on the forest floor darkens the water which drains from thousands of acres into the river whenever it rains.

Among the Blackwater's tributaries, the largest is the Little Blackwater. It flows 12 twisting miles from its headwaters in Cambridge, Maryland to join the Blackwater, which runs 17 more miles to Fishing Bay. The freshwater flow from this and other tributaries, such as Coles Creek, produces different ranges of salinity that determine the type of wetland plants you will see along the trails.

How To Reach Paddling Access Points:

From Baltimore or Washington -
Take Rt. 50 East to Cambridge, Maryland.
Turn right on Rt. 16 West.
At Church Creek, turn left onto Rt. 335.
Purple and Green Trail access at the Blackwater River/Rt. 335 Bridge.

For Purple and Orange Trail access, continue on 335, then turn left on Key Wallace Drive.
Go past Blackwater Refuge Visitor Center and Headquarters.
Turn right on Maple Dam Road to reach paddling trail access at Shorters Wharf/Blackwater River Bridge.

From Norfolk -
Take U.S. Rt. 13 North to Salisbury.
Take Rt. 50 West to Rt. 16 West.
Turn left onto Rt. 16 West and follow directions described above.

Contact Info:

Friends of the Blackwater / Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
2145 Key Wallace Drive
Cambridge, Maryland 21613

phone: 410-228-2677
website: Watertrail Index

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