The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a final hunting plan for Patuxent Research Refuge (NWR) in Maryland
A draft plan was issued earlier this spring, and during the 97-day public comment period, 4 comment letters were received from the public. We are grateful to the people who provided meaningful comments on the draft, which helped in developing the final plan.
Some comments reflected an opposition to hunting and fishing in general and in particular on refuge lands. We understand and respect this viewpoint. The legislation which guides how national wildlife refuges across the country are managed not only requires us to consider allowing wildlife observation, hunting, fishing, photography, environmental education, and interpretation, but further directs us to promote these activities when compatible with refuge purposes. Not one of these recreational uses have a priority over another – they are simply different ways people choose to enjoy the refuges and to engage themselves, their families, and their friends in the outdoors.
A summary of all substantive comments, and our responses, can be found in Appendix E (Finding of No Significant Impact). No significant changes have been made between the draft and final versions of the Hunting. As part of next year’s proposed rule, Patuxent Research Refuge will propose a non-lead requirement, which will take effect on September 1, 2026. The EA analyzes the impacts of lead ammunition and tackle; based on the breadth of comments received on the plan to require non-lead ammunition and tackle by 2026, the Service intends to complete additional analysis and provide another opportunity to comment during next year’s annual rulemaking.
We may begin to implement the Hunting Plan for Patuxent Research Refuge upon publication of the final 2022-2023 Station-Specific Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations in the Federal Register. The final plan can be viewed here
Whether walking trails or fishing the lake, the sounds and sights of Patuxent’s woods lend serenity to the soul. Please note that there are two areas of the refuge open to the visitation. Each area has different operating hours and recreational opportunities. Please note that no food or drink is available on the refuge.
South Tract, also known as the Dan Ashe Division, hosts five miles of walking trails, two scenic lakes and the National Wildlife Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and offers interpretive displays, educational films and public programs. The Visitor Center also houses a small bookstore and nature shop, set up by the Friends of Patuxent. South Tract’s grounds are open from sunrise to sunset and are closed for federal holidays. Fishing on Cash Lake and hunting are available seasonally with a permit/license. See brochure and map for details.
North Tract offers 15 miles of trails for walking, biking and horseback riding. With fewer visitors than South Tract, it offers a quiet atmosphere for those seeking respite from the busy world. North Tract’s grounds and Visitor Information Station are open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Due to active nearby gun ranges and the risk of unexploded ordnance, visitor must stay on roads and trails. The refuge closes for federal holidays and occasionally for scheduled hunts. See brochure and map for details.
On the refuge over 20 miles of trail may be explored. Some trails are open to biking and horses. Others are only available to pedestrians on foot.Please see below for maps.
Rules and Policies
Rules and Policies
- Stay on marked trails- for your safety and the safety of the refuge’s wildlife. Be mindful that many trails are restricted to walking only. See our trail maps. (The North Tract property contains active firing ranges and unexploded ordnance. It is critical to safety that all visitors stay on roads and trails.)
- Pets- Leash all pets. While your pet may be very behaved, please keep their leash to 10’ or shorter and in hand at all times. Remember to pick up their waste.
- Fishing- is permitted in designated areas only. Please observe Maryland State regulations.
- Swimming- nor wading is permitted on the refuge. Streams and other wet environments are protected homes for wildlife.
- Boating- is not permitted on the refuge. (Anglers may use boats under 14’ on Cash Lake.)
- Collecting wildlife, plants, or artifacts- is prohibited. Releasing of wildlife or plants to the refuge is prohibited due to the risk of disease transmission.
- Fires- are not permitted on the refuge.
- Drones- Please do not fly drones on the refuge due to their disturbance to wildlife and visitors.
- Consumption of alcohol- is not permitted on the refuge.
- Gas motorized vehicles- must be street legal and may not travel on trails.
South Tract & Visitor Center Entrance
10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop
Laurel, MD 20708
From Washington, D.C.: Take Baltimore/Washington Parkway (Route 295) North, Exit 22 to Powder Mill Road-Beltsville exit. Turn right (east) onto Powder Mill Road and go 2.0 miles. Turn right into Visitor Center entrance (Scarlet Tanager Loop). Go 1.4 miles to Visitor Center Parking area.
From Baltimore, MD: Take Baltimore/Washington Parkway (Route 295) south to Powder Mill Road-Beltsville Exit. Turn left onto Powder Mill Road (East). Go 2.0 miles and turn right into Visitor Center entrance (Scarlet Tanager Loop). Go 1.4 miles to Visitor Center Parking area.
North Tract Entrance
230 Bald Eagle Drive
Laurel, MD 20724
From Washington, D.C.: Take the Baltimore-Washington Parkway/Route 295 North. Exit onto MD-Route 198 East, toward Fort Meade. Travel on 198 E/Fort Meade Road for almost 2 miles. Then turn right at the Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract sign, onto Bald Eagle Drive (just before the ball fields). Travel 1 mile to the North Tract Visitor Information Station. Visitors must sign in at the Visitor Information Station.
From Baltimore: Take the Baltimore-Washington Parkway/Route 295 South. Exit onto MD-Route 198 East, toward Fort Meade. Keep left at the fork; follow signs for MD-198 E/Fort Meade. Turn left onto Route 198 East; travel about 2 miles. Turn right at the Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract sign (just before the ball fields) onto Bald Eagle Drive. Travel 1 mile to the North Tract Visitor Information Station. Visitors must sign in at the Visitor Information Station.