Upcoming guided birding tours at Blackwater NWR!
- Sunday, December 10 with Ron Ketter
- Saturday, December 16 with Terry Allen (Date change alert: this tour was previously scheduled for Dec. 17)
All tours meet at the refuge Visitor Center at 8:00am. Please see our Events Page for more details.
A majority of the Wildlife Drive, along with all of the other publicly accessible outdoor areas of the refuge, will be closed on the following date for deer management hunts:
January 5, 2024
The Pool 5 loop on the west end of the Wildlife Drive will remain open free-of-charge. Visitors can enter the Drive about ¼ mile west of the Visitor Center and exit at Route 335. Visitors should note that this portion of the Wildlife Drive, in addition to the Visitor Center, will be the ONLY areas of the refuge open to the public on this day. Please plan accordingly. For a full listing of trails that will be periodically closed for hunts, please see this document.
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.
Directions and Hours
Please see this page for directions to the Blackwater NWR Visitor Center and refuge operating hours.
An entrance pass is required for the refuge's Wildlife Drive:
- An entrance pass admits the passholder and fellow occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle. See table below.
- Passes are obtained at the self-service kiosk at the entrance to Wildlife Drive. Please fill out the provided envelope, place your entrance fee inside (cash or check), tear off your pass stub, and place the envelope in the silver lock box.
- All public areas outside of the Wildlife Drive, including the Visitor Center, are free-of-charge.
- Holders of Federal Recreational Lands Passes ("American the Beautiful" passes) and valid Duck Stamps are admitted for free. If one person in the vehicle possesses a Federal pass, the entire vehicle is admitted for free.
- Federal passes and Duck Stamps are available for purchase at our Visitor Center, CASH OR CHECK ONLY. See table below.
Your fee dollars help us provide a memorable visitor experience. They fund refuge literature and signage, road and trail maintenance, and seasonal interns. This money also goes towards interpretative programs and activities, as well as visitor facility improvements. We greatly appreciate your support.
A separate permit is required for hunting on the refuge. For details, please visit our Hunting Page.
Federal passes may also be obtained online at the USGS Store. Note that there is an additional service charge and it may take a few weeks for your pass to arrive in the mail.
|Daily Pass, vehicle|
Valid for full day of purchase
|Daily Pass, each pedestrian or cyclist|
Valid for full day of purchase
|Daily Pass, Commercial Vehicles|
20 passengers or less
|Daily Pass, Commercial Vehicles|
21 passengers or more
|Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Annual Pass|
Valid for one year from purchase for entry only to Blackwater NWR
|Federal Duck Stamp|
Valid for one year, July 1 to June 30, at all National Wildlife Refuges
|Interagency Annual Pass|
Valid one year from purchase at all federal recreation fee areas
|Lifetime Senior Pass|
Lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or residents 62 yrs. or older valid at all federal recreation fee areas
|Annual Senior Pass|
Valid one year from purchase for U.S. citizens or residents 62 yrs. or older for all federal recreation fee areas
|Annual Military Pass|
Valid one year from purchase for Active Duty U.S. Military and dependents for all federal recreation fee areas
Lifetime Military Pass
Lifetime pass for U.S. Military Veterans and Gold Star family members for all federal recreation fee areas
Lifetime pass for permanently disabled or blind U.S. citizens or residents valid at all federal recreation fee areas
|"Every Kid Outdoors" 4th Grade Pass|
Valid at all recreation fee areas Sept. 1 to Aug. 31 for U.S. 4th graders or 10 year old homeschool students. (Must submit voucher to receive pass)
|Junior Duck Stamp (not valid for entrance)|
Supports art and environmental education programs for students
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.
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 are open daily, dawn to dusk. 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 and Tubman Road Trail may be closed periodically for deer management.
Tips for those using the trails: From April to October, poison ivy is common along the trails. Although the young leaf buds and white berries are valuable food for birds, rabbits, and deer, the plant’s oils can cause a red, itchy rash in humans. Remember the saying, “leaves of three, let it be.” Biting insects are present from mid-April through late September. Protective clothing and insect repellent are recommended. Also, the three unpaved trails can get soggy in wet weather, so visitors should wear appropriate footwear if it has been raining.
Please remember that pets are not permitted on trails, even if on a leash. Pets must remain in vehicles while on the Wildlife Drive.
Refuge brochures and maps.
Other Facilities in the Complex
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Chesapeake Marshlands NWR Complex.
Rules and Policies
Help us protect habitat and keep both you and our wildlife safe by following all rules and policies during your visit. Keep in mind that unless explicitly posted as a nature trail, public road, parking lot, or building, all areas of the refuge are closed to public entry. If you can't find information about your desired activity, please contact us!
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.
The refuge is located approximately 12 miles south of the town of Cambridge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. From Route 50 in Cambridge take Route 16 West (Church Creek Road) until you reach the flashing light (about 5 miles), then turn left onto Egypt Road. Follow Egypt road for approximately 7 miles and it will dead end at Key Wallace Drive. Turn left for the Wildlife Drive (0.2 miles), or turn right for the visitor center (1.25 miles).
GPS ADVISORY: if you are using GPS navigation to find the refuge, you will need to enter our physical address (see above). This will bring you to the Blackwater NWR Visitor Center. DO NOT USE "BLACKWATER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE"!
ALERT: A majority of Wildlife Drive and some trails will periodically be closed for deer management hunts. Please see this document for a list of closure dates.