National Wildlife Visitor Center - Lots to see and enjoy including...

Kids Discovery Center
Monarch Magic
Wildlife Images Bookstore
Hollingsworth Art Gallery
Family Fun
Visitor Center Bird Blind
Pollinator Gardens

The Visitor Center, located on South Tract, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – closed on federal holidays.  


Kids Discovery Center
Lots of exciting learning activities and crafts await you at the KIDS’ DISCOVERY CENTER!  New themes are presented monthly to engage kids (ages 3-10) and adults in nature-related fun.

Daily, Tuesday through Saturday: Sessions start at 9:00 am, 10:00 am, 11:00 am, and 12 noon. Duration: 35 minutes, each.

Ages 3-10; adult accompaniment required. Group special arrangements possible. Registration strongly recommended. Call the Kids’ Discovery Center (KDC) Registration line at 301-497-5760 to reserve a 35-minute time slot for you and your child. (To work with KDC volunteers to help develop curriculum activities for children, please call the front desk (301-497-5772); ask for Barrie.)

Children ages 3-10* explore and learn about nature and the environment through engaging, age-appropriate activities, crafts and games, with parent/guardian support. Older siblings are welcome to join with parents and work with younger siblings to help them understand and complete the activities.

*NOTE: The Kid’s Discovery Center is neither baby-proofed nor appropriate for children younger than 3, due to small items featured in the exhibits and activities. Parents are required to work with their child at each of the parent-led activities.

Program Themes:
are one of nature’s timid creatures… hiding under leaves, logs, and rocks, and keeping out of sight. But, did you realize that behind that “smiling face” is a ravenous carnivore that is often poisonous to the touch? Join us at the Kid’s Discovery Center to learn more interesting facts about Maryland’s salamander populations!

are some of Maryland’s most beautiful waterbirds, and can easily be seen here at the Refuge. Plan an amazing family outing to the Kid’s Discovery Center to learn more about these huge birds and their amazing fishing techniques, while discovering which animals have them on their menu!

could be one of man’s BEST friends! WHY???? Besides the fact that they kill and eat more mosquitoes in one day than a squirt of “bug spray,” they are also one of our most reliable indicators of the health of our natural ecosystems! These amazing insects are beautiful, too. Come and join us at the KDC and discover why we should never be afraid of these carnivores, and instead, encourage their population growth!

SEPTEMBER- DUCKS & GEESE                                                                                                                                                                                                how much do you REALLY know about the two most common waterbirds that we see in Maryland? Come to the KDC at Patuxent this month and discover what all the "QUACK" is about! You'll "HONK" with delight at all the activities to choose from!"

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Monarch Magic
The monarch butterflies departed our area in the fall and made their way to Mexico for the winter. We look forward to their return north, generation by generation, this spring and summer. Meanwhile, you can come to the National Wildlife Visitor Center to visit our Monarch Magic Station, learn more about these incredible and beautiful migratory insects, and enjoy a full-color educational video about them. (The video runs continuously during Visitor Center public hours.)
Thank you for helping us release 948 monarchs in 2023.

Monarch Magic Opportunity: 
Explore volunteering with the Monarch Butterfly Team! Call 301-497-5772 to ask about & sign-up for the next “Monarch Butterfly Team Overview Presentation.” These presentations are for adults, and ages 16-17 with adult registration on file, to learn about what volunteer Monarch Magic docents and Butterfly-Care Providers do 

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Wildlife Images Bookstore

The Wildlife Images Bookstoreis operated by the Friends of Patuxent.  Proceeds from sales made at Wildlife Images are devoted to supporting the environmental education at the Patuxent Research Refuge and research missions at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  The Bookstore is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 AM  to 4 PM; Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM;  closed on federal holidays.  

Wildlife Images has an extraordinary selection of:

  • Wildlife books
  • Wildlife art items, created by some of the world's best wildlife artists
  • Wildlife-theme tee-shirts, Children & Adult sizes, and caps
  • Songbird box kits
  • Posters
  • Educational, and one of a kind items
  • Many other exciting wildlife-related items suitable for everyone who loves the outdoors and cares about the wildlife of the world.

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Hollingsworth Art Gallery

Each month the Hollingsworth Art Gallery exhibits wildlife-themed art by local and by nationally-known artists. 

July 2024
Artist of the Month - Barbara Dahlberg

Together with the Southern Comforters and as a solo exhibitor, Barbara Dahlberg's work has graced - and warmed - Hollingsworth before. This July she returns with a new exhibit of her art quilts that feature nature and wildlife. 

Dahlberg was born and raised in New Jersey and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Kean University and a graduate certificate from the Association of Montessori International. She spent some of her adult years in northern Pennsylvania where she learned to quilt. An early retirement from teaching opened the door to an avocation at which she's become a master. Over the past 25 years Dahlberg has exhibited in numerous art and quilt shows and participated in and taught many workshops and classes.

Nature themes for her quilts have included "endangered species" and "the great outdoors." She describes her work as "endlessly inspired by the beauty all around us." She lists nature's colors, textures, patterns, and contrasts as her sources. Dahlberg's quilts have been exhibited locally and nationally and garnered numerous awards. One can view many of these on her website (, but we'll have that much preferable in person experience here in July at her reception July 6th, 2-4PM.

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Family Fun

The Family Fun section offers self-paced hands-on activities and crafts for all ages. Test your knowledge with the Quiz Board or the Match Game. Make-and-take a fun craft project. Learn about nature, the plants and animals at Patuxent Refuge, and what you can do to help wildlife and the environment. There is something for everyone! 

This is a drop in program: come when you wish and leave when you're ready.   Look for the Family Fun section in the hallway to the right as you face the reception desk.

Summer 2024 (June, July, August):  Color in Nature- There so many pretty colors in nature! But why? Are they just to make the world more beautiful, or do the colors serve a purpose? Learn about color in nature through hands-on activities, games and crafts for all ages.
Staffed dates June 28-29, July 19-20, August 9-10     at  10:00 AM-1:00 PM  

Fall 2024 (September, October, November): Migration - Fall is migration season for many of the birds at Patuxent Refuge. Where do they come from, and where do they go? What challenges do they face along the way? Come learn about bird migration through hands-on games, activities and crafts for all ages.

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Visitor Center Bird Blind

Wish there was a convenient way to view birds at South Tract without intruding into their lives?

Try our bird blind located near the Visitor Center trail door. The slanted viewing port design allows people of all heights to view without revealing their presence. .The blind overlooks an open field with ground modification to mimic a forest floor. A variety of bird feeders have been added to attract a variety of species.  Being located on a paved trail allows individuals with limited mobility to use the blind.

Birds seen in the blind’s first month include downy woodpecker, goldfinch, house finch, red-bellied woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, northern mocking bird, chipping sparrow, doves, red-winged blackbird and humming bird.

Funds for construction were provided by the Friends of Patuxent.

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Pollinator Gardens

The Patuxent Research Refuge has large pollinator gardens of native plants at the South Tract Visitor Center and at the North Tract Visitor Contact Station. Other small pockets of pollinator plantings are near the Fishing Pier at the north end of Cash Lake and at the Wildlife Viewing Area near Merganser Pond at North Tract. Volunteers help design and maintain these gardens, which provide food and shelter to butterflies, native bees and other insects that pollinate native plants and thus support the local wildlife populations. The gardens are beautiful and bring joy to their many visitors, and are especially appreciated by children and photographers.

Since the seeds choose where they like to grow, the gardens are an ever-changing landscape. As one of the gardeners noted, part of the fun of native plant gardening is enjoying the evolving display that changes with both the seasons and the successional stages of plant species as the landscape matures.

The gardens give visitors a chance to see pollinators in action in their natural habitat. They create an awareness of the beauty of native plants in home landscaping, and demonstrate the vital role they play in attracting beneficial insects as well as birds and other wildlife. The gardens are essentially an outdoor classroom, promoting good environmental stewardship by showing visitors what they can do in their own gardens.  

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