Often referred to as “The Everglades of the North,” the 28,894-acre refuge located along Maryland’s Eastern Shore is an important stopover site along the Atlantic Flyway. This major north-south migratory route for birds stretches more than 3,000 miles from Canada to Florida. To protect these migrating birds, the refuge was established in 1933, and is known to host over one million waterfowl every winter, including tens of thousands of ducks and geese! I visited in October 2020 and brought my bike in order to cruise along Wildlife Drive. It did not disappoint, though I wish I had remembered to bring a pair of nocs in order to see the birds better. The sky was overcast with dramatic blue-gray clouds hovering above. I watched the patient grace of a blue heron stalking its prey and just maybe a glimpse of the Delmarva fox squirrel.
A significant portion of the refuge is tidal marsh, a type of wetland dominated by grasses and reeds, which can often signal the health of a surrounding area. Marsh habitat is not only crucial for the many plants and animals that reside there, but for other important functions including but not limited to: protecting against storm surges, decreasing shoreline erosion, and filtering out pollutants.
A few notable facts and features:
- managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
- features 3 major habitats: forest, marsh, and shallow water
- fed by the Blackwater River, the area makes up one-third of Maryland’s tidal wetlands
- supports one of the largest nesting sites for bald eagles north of Florida
- hosts the largest population of the once federally endangered Delmarva fox squirrel
- hosts 250 species of birds, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 165 species of endangered plants