Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge lies on the Eastern Shore of Maryland among
the beautiful tidal marshes of Dorchester County. The Refuge is fed by the
Blackwater River and the Little Blackwater River, both of which flow through
three local swamps: the Gum, the Kentuck, and the Moneystump. Due to its
location, Blackwater Refuge is an important stop along the Atlantic Flyway
(a migratory bird route that stretches from Canada to Florida).
Blackwater Refuge is an estuarine marshland ecosystem and is known for its
brackish tidal marshes and majestic loblolly pine trees (the loblolly is a
southern pine that is accustomed to coastal conditions and reaches its northern
limit just north of Blackwater). The drier marsh meadows at Blackwater are
dominated by saltmeadow cordgrass and saltmarsh cordgrass, while the wetter marshes
are frequented by Olney three-square. Olney three-square is
the most dominant marsh plant at the Refuge and is a favorite of geese, muskrats,
and, unfortunately, the destructive nutria.
In addition to marshland, Blackwater Refuge also holds smaller areas of
mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, managed
freshwater impoundments, and managed cropland. The freshwater impoundments
and cropland are carefully maintained by Refuge management and help
increase the diversity of food and wildlife at the Refuge.
Living in the marshlands and forests of Blackwater are many forms of unique
and interesting wildlife. In addition to over 250 species of birds, Blackwater
also boasts 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, tens of thousands of geese
and ducks during the peak migration periods, and many resident mammals including
whitetail deer, sika deer (an Asian elk), foxes, otters, and raccoons. In
addition, Blackwater Refuge is frequented by three recovering species:
the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel, the threatened American bald
eagle, and the recently delisted migrant peregrine falcon. The bald eagle population is a source of great pride at Blackwater
Refuge and has grown into the largest concentration of breeding bald eagles in the eastern
United States, north of Florida.