Merkle Wildlife Management Area

Merkle WMA’s 1,670 acres, under the management of MD Department of Natural Resources, adjoins Jug Bay Park just to the north. They are connected by a “Driving Tour” starting at the end of Croom Airport Road at Jug Bay, crossing Mattoponi Creek and its extensive marsh along a specially engineered trestle roadway which allows free flow of the underlying water. This road is open to hikers and cyclists during all open hours; vehicles are restricted to Sundays 10 AM to 3 PM. Along the way one can stop at an observation platform which gives wide views of the Patuxent River. The road continues through fields dedicated to crops. A small portion is kept in grass, but so frequently mowed as to preclude Grasshopper Sparrows and meadowlarks most years. The entrance road makes a wide loop in front of the Visitors Center, the interior of which is mowed less thoroughly. Several trails wander through.

Birdlife: 

During migration, there can be a good diversity of species along the driving tour and entrance road, and rarities do occur. If not mowed, the “loop” is a good spot for migrating Bobolinks. After harvest, the fields may harbor plovers, sparrows, and Horned Larks.  At the end of the Mounds Trail there has been a small colony of Red-headed Woodpeckers. Other nesting birds include Bald Eagle, Osprey, Screech Owl, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak. In migration shorebirds often visit the edge of a small pond behind the Visitors Center. 

Tips: 
Don’t miss the observation tower; walk along the bridge.
Best Seasons: 
Fall, late Winter, Spring
Hours: 
7 AM to 4 PM, all year. Visitors Center open Sat and Sun 9-4.
Contact: 
301-888-1377 (week-ends only); 410 – 888-1410 week-days, but not necessarily answered
Region: 
Southern
Google Map: 
Merkle Wildlife Management Area
Site Address: 
11704 Fenno Rd, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Cost: 
Free
Parking: 
On site, at Visitors Center
Directions: 
From Rt 301 at Rt 4, go S on Rt 301 for 1.7 mi. to Croom Station Rd. After 1.6 mi. turn left on Croom Rd and proceed 3 mi. to St Thomas Church Rd on left. After ~ 2 miles, the road bends right and becomes Fenno Rd. (Where it crosses Mattoponi Creek over two bridges, birding can be good, though pulling over is difficult.) A half-mile further is the park entrance.
Nearby Sites: 
Jug Bay
Special Features: 
Observation tower, bridge over Mattoponi marsh, boardwalk out to river.
Cluster: 
Prince George's County