In addition to the Osprey Cam, the Eagle Cam, annual Open Houses, a Youth Fishing Derby, and the Butterfly Garden, the Friends
of Blackwater have also recently undertaken the following projects:
In June 2007, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge completed the construction of an environmental
education building with the additional assistance of a grant acquired by the Friends of Blackwater from the MHAA.
The Friends of Blackwater and the Blackwater Refuge liaison, Visitor
Services Manager Maggie Briggs, formed an education committee and worked with the Dorchester County Public Schools to develop an environmental
education program that enables
teachers to do the programs while making use of volunteers, partners, and the small staff at the Refuge.
The first environmental program, aided with a Nature of Learning grant from NFWF and assistance from the Baltimore Aquarium, occurred in 2007 when a volunteer and 4th-grade teacherís workshop was held August 2, 2007. During October 9-17, six elementary schools brought their students
(300 students total)
to the Refuge for the environmental education programs, which included a food chain activity, a walk along the
Marsh Edge Trial for a marsh-sit, a Refuge film and tour of the
Visitor Center exhibits and observatory, and a guided bus tour through the
Wildlife Drive. Then on March 27, 2008, a volunteer and 6th-grade teacher's workshop was held, and during April 14-17,
the entire 6th grade in Dorchester County's two middle schools (approximately 280 students total) came to
the Refuge for their own environmental education programs, which included a tree planting event, a Refuge film and tour
of the Visitor Center exhibits and observatory, a guided bus tour through the Wildlife Drive, and a GPS activity
where students learned to locate three invasive species and two native species of shrubs
whose locations were previously entered into the GPS units.
Based on the feedback from students and teachers alike, the environmental education programs and the new education building
were a big hit, and more programs are being planned for the future.
The Friends of Blackwater acquired funding through grants and donations to help renovate the Blackwater Refuge Visitor Center --
renovations that included an observatory and natural history library on a new second floor in the building.
The second floor now contains a set of TV monitors for the Osprey Cam and Eagle Cam, as well as bird exhibits and a bird-watcher's
observatory where visitors can use spotting scopes to view the Osprey Cam platform, the Blackwater River, and the marsh. This
observatory is called the "Wild Birds Unlimited Pathways to Nature Observatory" and was made possible by a grant from the Pathways
to Nature conservation fund, which is a partnership between Wild Birds Unlimited stores and
the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The second floor also contains a Birding and Natural History Library where visitors can browse books about the local wildlife. Richard C. Kleen, a long-time
volunteer at Blackwater who traveled to many states and countries to add to his U.S. life list and his
world life list, donated the first 450 books to the library.
Access to the second floor is via a staircase, as well as a small wheelchair-friendly elevator.
The Friends of Blackwater assisted in the creation of two new hiking/birding trails at Blackwater Refuge -- the Key Wallace Hiking Trail and
Demonstration Forest, and the Tubman Trail. These trails were also supported by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.
The Key Wallace Trail is appoximately 2.7 miles long and provides visitors with a chance to observe forest management
techniques, as well as wildlife and birds.
The Tubman Road Trail, which was named after a road near the trail, is in the same region where Harriet Tubman was born. Tubman became a "conductor" of the Underground Railroad, which helped many slaves escape to freedom during the Civil War era.
The Tubman Road Trail is a 1.7-mile-long trail that uses new paths and existing access roads as it takes visitors through mixed pine and
hardwood forests, sloughs and marshes, and reforested fields. The trail also includes an area that is still recovering from a tornado
that blew through several years ago.
In addition to helping construct the trails, the Friends of Blackwaterr, with help from the abovementioned grant, also paid for the creation of two hiking trail brochures, which
can be found at the trail heads and also on our Land Trails page.
The Friends of Blackwater, with aid from a Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network grant, created three canoe/kayak trails that opened on June 28, 2003 at the Refuge:
- Purple Trail - 9 miles one way
- Purple Spur Trail - 2.8 miles round trip
- Green Trail - 8 miles round trip
- Orange Trail - 7.6 miles round trip
You can learn more about the trails on our Paddling
page. You can also
purchase our wonderful Paddling Trails map in our online store
. We strongly
suggest purchasing a map before entering any of our trails. The maps also make a terrific guide
to the Refuge in general.
The Friends of Blackwater worked in conjunction with the
National Aquarium in Baltimore on a major marsh restoration project at Barren Island in the
(Barren Island is located twelve miles south of the Choptank River and is
part of the Chesapeake Marshlands NWR Complex; the island is adjacent to Blackwater Refuge).
The efforts of this partnership (which included the Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA,
the FWS, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Maryland Conservation Corps) have resulted in
the planting of over 302,000 native marsh grasses with
the help of 927 volunteers totaling 7,700 volunteer hours.
Aquarium staff and the Friends of Blackwater have returned to the site semi-annually to monitor
the success of this restoration project. Topographic, vegetative, and fish utilization data have
been collected. Initial monitoring indicates that the project has been successful as wave
energy is being absorbed and sediment is in fact being accreted. A very natural marsh
community which includes small invertebrates that live in the sediments, larger invertebrates
including crabs and shrimp, and fish and birds can be found in the more mature parts of the
site that were planted in 2001. The more recently planted areas appear to be progressing well
toward a similar community.
Before and After: These images were taken
on Barren Island in July of 2005 and 2006
respectively, and show the lush growth that occured just one year after
Before and After: These images
were taken on Barren Island in December 2000 and July 2006 respectively, and show the dramatic transformation from a
"moonscape" of bare dredged material to a lush marsh.