This Underrated Maryland Park Is Referred To As The 'Everglades Of The North'

The first images that come to mind when you think of Maryland are likely quite metropolitan, from the bustling city of Baltimore to the strip of high-rise resorts and theme parks in Ocean City. However, Maryland also has plenty of quaint small towns and natural spaces where you can explore unique ecosystems. You can truly go from one underrated east coast destination to another in the state often referred to as "America in Miniature."

Take the Chesapeake Bay estuary, which cuts through the eastern part of the state. It's home to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge — one of the highlights of this area that somehow flies under the radar. With marshlands, wetlands, and thousands of acres of trees, it is easy to see why this place is called the "Everglades of the North." Additionally, just as the Everglades is a popular spot for viewing Florida's wildlife, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge showcases the best of Maryland's local flora and fauna, too, and can be explored in a variety of ways.

Kayak or canoe along waterways teeming with wildlife

The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge's varied ecosystems allows for plenty of outdoor activities. The region includes the Blackwater River, the Little Blackwater River, and several marshy ponds harboring both fresh and saltwater-dwelling fish and crabs. Common species include crappie, bass, perch, and catfish. With a state fishing license, you can fish from a boat, the causeway across the Little Blackwater River, or the Route 335 highway bridge. Motorized boating is allowed, but the many small creeks of this refuge only fit non-motorized boats like canoes and kayaks.

Nonmotorized boaters can enjoy paddling along the Green, Orange, or Purple Trails. The Green Trail has the widest variety of plant life, but all three trails are lined with swamp hibiscus and waterlily flowers throughout the summer months, making it a beautiful place for a paddling excursion. These water trails are open year-round, save for the Purple Trail which closes from October through March to protect native bird habitats.

Spot birds like bald eagles and waterfowl at this refuge

While canoeing and kayaking are fun ways to explore the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, there are also trails to meander along on foot. Marsh Edge, Woods, Key Wallace, and Tubman Road Trails all get you close to the refuge's nature and wildlife, but only Marsh Edge is paved. There is also a way to drive through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and enjoy the sights from your vehicle. Wildlife Drive cuts through the refuge for just over 3.5 miles of pristine wilderness.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge has long been a wonderful destination for birdwatching because it is home to great blue herons, ospreys, ducks, geese, swans, and more, so make sure you bring your binoculars! What sets this refuge apart is that it has one of the largest populations of bald eagles on the east coast. Unfortunately, rising salinity and sea levels from climate change are causing this refuge to shrink, affecting the living space for these beautiful birds. Organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are working to measure changes and add restorative plants so that the "Everglades of the North" can continue to thrive.