Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway

Called the “Everglades of the North” and one of the “Last Great Places,” Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge features a mixed landscape of forest, marsh and shallow water habitats. Containing one-third of the state’s tidal wetlands, Blackwater hosts a striking biodiversity. It was established in 1933 as a waterfowl sanctuary, but is also home to the largest breeding population of American Bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida. During the fall and winter, the family can watch for a stunning variety of birds like redwing blackbirds, ducks and Canada geese, Tundra swans, Bald eagles and sometimes Golden eagles. Don’t miss out on the walking trails, water trails and the auto tour route to fully immerse yourself in this area’s atmosphere. You can also visit Blackwater’s observation platform where public spotting scopes provide a perfect view of eagles hunting nearby. If you can do a daylong trip, we highly recommend staying for the fiery sunset that lights up the sky and reflects across the refuge waters.

If you’re looking for a good hunt, Blackwater welcomes archery, muzzleloader and shotgun hunts for white-tailed and sika deer. You’ll also find special hunting opportunities for every sportsman, no matter their age or ability.

To get to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, take the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway. The road follows a path that features African-American history that will inspire you and your family and spur conversations about freedom and liberty. Experience the exact landscape Harriet Tubman traversed 165 years ago to carry enslaved people to freedom while risking her life and those of her groups. You can stop by the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center to learn more about Tubman's early years and the profound impact that she had on both Maryland and American history.

A few notable stops along the byway, like Bucktown, are great for biking. Additional trip ideas and recreational activities are located on our Great Chesapeake Bay Loop pages, among those are various charters, historic lighthouses, bay water tours and seafood restaurants.