Plan Your Visit

Sunset at Blackwater - USFWS.

With over 20,000 acres open for public recreation, you can experience the refuge year round in a variety of ways!  From 5 miles of hiking to 17 miles of paddling, we have a variety of experiences.  Nearly 15,000 acres are open for deer hunting from September through January.  If you prefer to travel by car, we have 3.6 mile wildlife drive popular with photographers and birders alike.  

  • Visitor Center

    Visitor Center HoursMon - Fri 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Sat and Sun 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

    NOTICE: Beginning September 3, 2019, Visitor Center hours will be 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily.

    Visitor Center closed: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. 

    In addition to being a prime viewing spot for bald eagles as they soar over the center and forage in the nearby marsh, the Center has exhibits specific to the refuge, an upstairs observation area and library, an authentic eagle's nest, and TV monitors for watching live video from the osprey and eagle cams and the "Eagle’s Nest" bookstore and gift shop.  Outside the Center, visitors can enjoy our Butterfly and Beneficial Insect Garden with walking paths, and utilize one of our picnic tables for a meal.

    Visitor facilities may be closed during and after severe weather events.  To check refuge status after storms, call 410-228-2677 ext. 7620 or visit Blackwater's Facebook page.

    Notice for commercial tour operators.

  • Wildlife Drive

    Wildlife Drive Open: Dawn to dusk every day.

    The Wildlife Drive takes visitors along the Blackwater River and offers excellent views of the Refuge. Visitors can drive, bike, or walk the approximately 4 mile paved road, and turnouts are available at different points to safely stop and observe the scenery. Brief stopping outside of the turnouts is permitted only when there are no other vehicles on the Drive. Walking and biking on the Drive is permitted in both directions; however, visitors must remain on the paved road and should abide by standard road etiquette. The Drive may be closed during and after severe weather for safety reasons.

    Download the Wildlife Drive brochure (pdf)

    Wildlife Drive map (pdf)

  • Land Trails

    Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge currently has four land trails: the Marsh Edge Trail, the Woods Trail, the Key Wallace Trail, and the Tubman Road Trail.

    Trails Open: Daily, dawn to dusk.  The Marsh Edge Trail is typically closed January through early August to limit disturbance to nesting eagles and herons.  Other trails may be closed periodically for refuge hunts.  Trail closures will be listed on the refuge alert page.

    Tips for those using the trails: Anyone who visits during warm weather is advised to bring insect repellent. Also, the three unpaved trails can get soggy in wet weather, so visitors should wear appropriate footwear if it's been raining. The Marsh Edge Trail is closed from mid-winter through mid-summer to limit disturbance to nesting eagles and herons.  During the fall hunting season, the Key Wallace Trail may be closed periodically for safety reasons.

    Please remember that pets are not permitted on trails, even if on a leash.  Pets must remain in vehicles while on the Wildlife Drive.  If needed, pets may be walked in the area around the Visitor Center.  

    Learn more about the land trails.

  • Water Trails

    There are 3 paddling trails: Purple Trail, Orange Trail, and Green Trail.

    Trails Open: Daily, dawn to dusk.  The Purple Trail is closed seasonally October 1 - April 1 to limit disturbance to wintering waterfowl. 

    The Orange and Purple Trails generally have the highest overall salinity and the lowest diversity of plant species. Big cordgrass and saltmarsh cordgrass thrive here. In late July and August, marsh hibiscus is covered in white and pink blooms.

    On the Green Trail, the marsh ranges from slightly brackish to fresh water. During summer, fragrant waterlily covers much of the water and narrow-leaved cattail grows at the water's edge.

    Learn more about the water trails.

  • Cycling

    Blackwater NWR offers several bike routes for the novice to experienced cyclist. Visitors can choose to complete an approximate 4-mile or 7-mile loop route along the paved Wildlife Drive. Blackwater NWR also has maps for 20-mile and 25-mile routes that follow county roads through the varied habitats of the Refuge and surrounding area.

    Download the cycling map (pdf)

    Cycling Map with mileage overlay (pdf)