Kayak the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Added by Daniel Stricklin

This area is a prime location for scenic kayaking adventures. The refuge offers a vast array of wildlife that can be witnessed along all the water trails. Despite the feeling of remoteness and solitude you'll get when touring the trails, the refuge is located only 15 minutes outside of Cambridge, Maryland.

The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a perfect place to get away for a day. It offers more than 28,000 acres of marsh, forrest, and croplands which are teeming with wildlife. 

The refuge has a visitors center which is a good place to start the adventure and acquire knowledge of the area, the wildlife, and obtain a map of the local water trails and the two kayak, canoe, or SUP put-ins for the park. The visitor center is where the restrooms are located, however, there may be temporary restrooms located at the boat ramps.

The refuge offers three marked water trails to explore the area. The first is the Green Trail which is the best for beginners. Its a 8 mile round trip, that will take approximately 2.5-4 hours to complete. The put-in for this trail is a small boat launch located on Route 335. This trail is very scenic and goes through active waterfowl hunting areas during the fall and winter, call the refuge before you arrive to check the dates for hunting. 

The Orange Trail is a 7.6 miles round trip, that will take approximately 2.5-3.75 hours to complete. the put-in for this trail is the Shorters Wharf public boat ramp.

The Purple Trail is the most difficult. Its a 9 mile one way trip, that will take about 3-4.5 hours to complete. This trail transits through the widest open water at the refuge where heavy winds can make for a difficult transit. Be prepared equipment wise and physically if you intend to make this transit. The put-in for this trail is also at the Shorters Wharf public boat ramp. This trail is closed to paddlers October 1st through March 31st so as not to disturb the migratory waterfowl.

Lastly, the entire refuge is open to explore via water. There are many secluded islands and areas you can get to via a kayak, canoe, or SUP that offer surprising amounts of birds and other wildlife hanging out there.  

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Stand Up Paddle
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area


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🥇Top Contributor

about 1 month ago

Little known, highly rated

Just crossed this off the to-do list and I was blown away. I went for an entire day in July, and although it was pretty hot/the biting flies were out, we had a great time. There is plenty of wildlife to see, tons of little paths to kayak down/into, and lots to explore. Keep an eye on the weather, however, because you're highly exposed out in the refuge. Bring your bug spray, sunscreen, and plenty of water. And if you're looking for rentals, I can't recommend blackwateradventuresmd.com highly enough. Great staff, very flexible, and just all around wonderful people. Its family owned and operated, and all the kayaks are in amazing condition!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Wildlife Abounds, Stunning scenery, calm waters

You can rent kayaks and bikes to explore or take a guided tour of the refuge with www.blackwateradventuresmd.com The Blackwater National Wildife Refuge is a must see. Just a short drive from D.C, Baltimore, Philadelphia makes this a great day or weekend trip. Harriet Tubman was born right up the road so save time to visit the new Harriet Tubman Visitors Center and state park which is just 3 minutes from the Refuge. The town of Cambridge just 15 minutes north offers excellent restaurants, a well known brewery, and great shopping.

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