Visiting the Patuxent Research Refuge

As the Conservation Policy Stanback Intern for the Refuge Association, I’ve had the opportunity to advocate for our America’s treasured refuges on social media, our website, and Capitol Hill. However, I wanted to experience one first-hand to fully appreciate our organization’s work. Living in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C., I searched the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s website to find the closest refuge.

I discovered that the Patuxent Research Refuge, one of the largest forested areas in the mid-Atlantic and the nation’s premier facility for wildlife research, is less than a 45-minute drive away. Astonished by the wide array of species which live on the refuge, along with the diverse recreational and educational opportunities, I decided to take a visit.

Patuxent Research Refuge Sign
Patuxent Research Refuge Sign


Upon arriving at the National Wildlife Visitor Center, I watched a short film about the refuge’s history—discussing its establishment in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt—wildlife research, and successful species recovery efforts. For example, scientists at Patuxent documented the effects of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) on bald eagles and ospreys during the 1950s and 1960s. This researched contributed to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the subsequent DDT ban, allowing for the species’ recovery.


Elliott in Patuxent Research Refuge Forest
Elliott in Patuxent Research Refuge Forest


I learned about the refuge’s captive breeding program for whooping cranes, successfully increasing their population from 16 birds originally to over 434 in the wild. Throughout the visitor center, I learned about more threatened habitats and the species which reside in them. My favorite exhibit was about global environmental issues, which included shocking statistics and images about land development and water pollution.

To feel connected to the natural environment, I decided to go on a hike. I walked 2.5 miles on the refuge’s south tract, traversing three of the six trails on the tract. Once I was in the forest, I felt peaceful and relaxed. Nature demonstrated its incredible ability to bring about a sense of comfort in anyone who immerses themselves in it.

During the hike, I saw a crisp blue lake, thousands of lily pads, and untouched wetlands. Staring out at the beautiful ecosystem, I couldn’t help myself from thinking about how I wish more areas could be preserved like the one ahead of me. The environment possessed such natural beauty that no developed community could ever embody.

Patuxent Research Refuge Water & Trees
Patuxent Research Refuge Lake View


Places like this can truly inspire a passion for conservation. As the Co-President of Duke University’s Environmental Alliance, I am always searching for opportunities to explore the outdoors and protect wildlife. I hope other students—whether they are studying at University of Maryland or Bowie State University, taking a grade school field trip, or are doing a summer internship in Washington D.C.—can come spend an afternoon at Patuxent Research Refuge. I am excited to visit more refuges in the near future: around Washington D.C., during an upcoming western United States vacation, and in North Carolina next school year.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2017/08/visiting-the-patuxent-research-refuge/

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