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. 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:
September: SQUIRRELS & CHIPMUNKS- Each season, we marvel at the ability of these animals to leap from tree to tree and scamper quickly away from dangerous cars. But how much do we really know about the life cycle of squirrels and chipmunks? Come and learn about these common rodents and the good deeds they perform around your home!

October: BATS! BATS! BATS! Bats have gotten a “bad rap” because of their connection to the holiday at the end of October. You can, however, say “THANKS” to them for keeping pesky mosquitoes from attacking you in droves! What else do bats do? Come discover for yourself the magic that these nighttime fliers perform!

November: WHOOOOO’S that flying around the neighborhood? It’s neither Superman, Spiderman, nor Batman. Give up? It’s the silent, night hunter of the skies…the beautiful owl! Come and learn what jobs these magnificent creatures perform each night while you sleep! Monarch Magi


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Monarch Magic

Daily (Tues. – Sat.) in September and October, from 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
All ages, no registration

The monarchs are on their way! Join us as we send these beautiful pollinators back south, on their migration route to wintering grounds in Mexico. Talk with our knowledgeable staff of volunteers about how you can help support these wonders of nature. Daily butterfly releases begin at noon; the number of monarchs available each day is limited. We encourage all visitors to come in and sign-up at the front desk to help release our monarchs. Don’t forget your camera! If interested in volunteering to help the butterflies, please call the front desk (301-497-5772); ask for Barrie

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Wildlife Images Bookstore

The Wildlife Images Bookstore is 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 Wednesday through Friday, 9 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. 

September 2023  -  Artist of the Month
Ron Orlando

In September, the paintings of prize[1]winning, internationally known wildlife artist, Ron Orlando, will grace Patuxent’s Hollingsworth Gallery. His numerous honors come from juried shows all over the country. Like (prior month’s artist) Annie Strack he’s been directed since childhood toward nature and art. His childhood fascination with any living thing in his New Jersey backyard translated early into a love of representing them. While still in high school, Orlando studied oil painting with a local artist, and eventually taught art for 35 years. He “retired” into the world of wildlife painting he describes as a “natural fit.” He writes that the wildlife artists he admired all worked in acrylic paint. He describes “mastering the medium” as a “steep learning curve.”

Orlando’s scenes range from the everyday of backyards to intimate views of predators in the wilds. He works to present a “moment in time” - to establish a connection that respects the uniqueness, dignity and beauty of wild creatures. Looking at his paintings, the viewer feels drawn into their lives. He’s found his subjects on hikes in the hills and swamps of his native New Jersey to travels the length and breadth of North America and to the Galapagos Islands.

This signature member of the Society of Animal Artists and The World Wide Nature Artists Group hopes that someone who views his work will value what he sees and lead to a greater appreciation for “our natural world and a greater responsibility for it.”

See Ron Orlando’s web site at


October 2023  -  Artists of the Month
Southern Comforters

Quilts and quilting techniques date back at least 5000 years. The layering of cloth and other materials served both as protection and insulation. Nearly every culture in the world has produced some form of quilt whether to use under your armor or over your bed. This two- or three-layered textile has used every material from animal skins to feed bags. Today, we picture beautiful designs on a decorative outer layer, batting – a middle layer, backing – the bottom layer, and binding – the outer edge holding the assembled layers together. In this country quilting “bees” have been popular when neighbors were far, and served as a social gathering that produced needed blankets.

Today, groups like the Southern Comforters (formed locally in 1982) promote appreciation of quilting’s “rich heritage” and to “present educational and social activities” for quilters. Guild meetings are twice a month on second and fourth Wednesdays, the first meeting is “in person” at Christian Community Presbyterian Church, and the second, via Zoom. In October, their exhibit will feature traditional and art quilts whose themes are wildlife and nature.

The “Comforters” will hold a reception on Saturday, October 21 from 2-4 pm. Members will be on hand to talk about their art and craft and share stories about the quilts they’re exhibiting. Refreshments will be served.

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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! Topics change every month or two.

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.


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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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