14 Refuges: Patuxent Research Refuge

Recently I had the pleasure of exploring Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s North Tract in Laurel, MD and was blown away by all the refuge had to offer within an hour’s drive from downtown Washington D.C. Driving down Bald Eagle road with the windows down, it’s hard to believe that a place like this still exists within the DC-Baltimore metro area, offering a ton of recreational opportunities for visitors.

The day I visited, staff and volunteers were hard at work on an event for naturalists of all ages and backgrounds. They had scavenger hunts, wildlife photo walks, fishing, and even bird-of-prey demonstrations. On any given day, even without special events, refuge visitors can engage in bird watching, photography, hunting, fishing, hiking/walking, and even cross-country skiing, during the winter months. You can even bring your dog, as long as they are leashed, well-behaved, and stay on the trails.

Patuxent also has other public resources, including their National Wildlife Visitor Center, environmental education classrooms, and a wildlife conservation interpretive tram for visitors who prefer a guided tour.

Gazing out at the beautiful marshes, I noticed what great waterfowl habitat the refuge had.  Nest boxes were strategically placed throughout the bodies of water for any waterfowl passing by that needed a cozy home. I saw graceful great blue herons wading in the water in the hopes of snatching a mid-afternoon snack. The refuge’s native flowers supplied an ample amount of food to a wide variety of pollinators. I love observing communities of organisms, or ecosystems, through my camera’s lens so I was so thrilled to capture some interesting pictures of sneaky amphibians, colorful flowers, and what looked like a heron’s nest.

Living in a city within the heavily urbanized mid-Atlantic corridor, with its clogged highways and near constant construction, makes it even more important to preserve places like Patuxent Research Refuge and Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, another local urban refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. Having a refuge just outside our nation’s Capital is a vital link to nature, and essential to our health and well-being. The marshes provide a peaceful and protected home for wildlife, and gives us cleaner water and air, by reducing pollution and curbing the heat island effect.

Master of disguise, a juvenile Northern Cricket frog hides from my camera
Master of disguise, a juvenile Northern Cricket frog hides from my camera.

There’s something new to experience with each season at the refuge. Once the leaves start changing and waterfowl rest during their migration, the area goes quiet, making it easier to see other refuge inhabitants as tree branches lose their cover and some animals prepare for winter.  I know autumn will give me plenty of opportunities to stretch my creative wings, and I hope that you are able to do the same in a national wildlife refuge close to you.  

Upcoming Events: Monarch Butterfly Festival, September 22, 2018.

Eden Taylor is the Communications Associate at the National Wildlife Refuge Association and an emerging leader in wildlife conservation.

NWRA’s Urban Refuge Program – Protecting our Conservation Future strives to reach beyond refuge boundaries to engage with and connect people of all ages to nature and our Refuge System.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2018/08/14-refuges-patuxent-research-refuge/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>