Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region
2145 Key Wallace Dr
Cambridge, MD 21613
(410) 228-2677


Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is one of over 550 wildlife refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the federal government's Department of the Interior.

The mission of the Refuge System is "to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans."

DOI, FWS and NWRS logos Department of the Interior Website U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Website National Wildlife Refuge System Website

Blackwater Refuge is part of the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which is also comprised of Eastern Neck NWR, Martin NWR, Susquehanna NWR, Nanticoke Unit, and the Barren Island, Watts Island, Bishops Head, Garrett Island and Spring Island Divisions.

Note: For the protection of wildlife, Blackwater, Eastern Neck, and a small section of beach at Garrett Island are open to the public.

Read below for more information on these areas:

In 2003, the National Wildlife Refuge System celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. The Friends of Blackwater created a slide show to mark this important occasion. Visit the Centennial Slide Show on the Friends website to learn more about the birth of the Refuge System.

Fire Program

Fire management is one of the tools refuge managers use to ensure that abundant and healthy vegetation exist for wildlife. To learn more about our fire program, check out our fire pages.

Climate Adaptation

The Blackwater Climate Adaptation Project is a partnership between The Conservation Fund, Audubon Maryland/DC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) supported by a grant from the Town Creek Foundation. Our objective is to ensure the long term persistence of high tidal marsh habitat in Dorchester County, MD together with its full assemblage of associated bird species and other wildlife. Rapid sea level rise threatens the survival of this ecosystem during the current century. This Assessment is the first step toward developing a sea level rise adaptation strategy and corresponding actions to conserve the tidal marshes of Blackwater and the surrounding lands in Dorchester County, Maryland for the long term. Learn more about the Blackwater Climate Adaptation Project (1.8MB PDF).

Also, you can watch a video that features Blackwater NWR Supervisory Biologist Matt Whitbeck discussing how Blackwater NWR is attempting to adapt to climate change, such as 1) facilitating the migration of marsh across the landscape, 2) increasing the quality of the shallow, open water habitat, 3) wisely managing the existing marsh, and 4) fulling restoring the marsh when possible: Watch YouTube video.

Goals at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

As part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge acts under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve, protect, and manage wildlife and habitat for future generations. The goals of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge are:

  • Tundra swans. Credit: Mary Konchar

    To provide stable or increasing populations of endangered species and protection of their habitats to promote species recovery.

  • To provide necessary habitat to support healthy populations of waterfowl numbers sufficient to meet the objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management plan, the Management Plan for Canada Geese in Maryland, and the Chesapeake Bay Waterfowl Policy and Management Plan.

  • To provide necessary habitat to maintain and restore healthy populations of migratory birds other than waterfowl.

  • To maintain a healthy and diverse ecosystem with a full range of natural processes, natural community types, and the full spectrum of native plants and animals to pass on to future generations of Americans.

  • To provide healthy and sustainable populations of inter-jurisdictional and anadromous fish.

  • To assure that the best examples of unique wildlands (i.e., RAMSAR sites, Natural Heritage Areas, and Important Bird Areas) are identified, managed, and protected to assure their unique natural character.

  • To manage healthy and sustainable populations of resident fish and wildlife at levels that do not negatively impact Refuge habitat, trust resources, or the public.

  • To foster public understanding and appreciation of the value of, and need for, fish and wildlife management through wildlife interpretation and environmental education.

  • To provide compatible wildlife and wild lands recreation focusing on hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, and photography.

  • To foster cooperative actions and partnerships with local communities, agencies, and organizations to promote and further Refuge goals.

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Last updated: April 16, 2012