Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Edgewater, MD
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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Brief Description:

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) is the world's leading research center for environmental studies of the coastal zone. Our accomplishments range from running some of the longest continuous ecological studies in the world, to creating new technology that expands the horizons of science.

A diverse staff of 18 senior scientists and an interdisciplinary team of more than 180 researchers, technicians, and students conduct long-term descriptive and experimental research addressing such issues as global change, the effects of nutrients and chemicals passing through our landscapes, maintenance of productive fisheries, changes to our environment from biological invaders, and protection of fragile wetlands and woodlands.

SERC has 3,000+ acres of wildlife conservation area along 14 miles of pristine shoreline. There are two trails open to everyone, each approximately 1.5 miles long. We also offer Saturday programs for the public ranging from walks and talks to canoe tours of Muddy Creek and the Rhode River.

Location / Directions:

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is located about 30 miles East of Washington, D.C., on the Rhode River, a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay.

From Washington, DC:

  • Take U.S. Route 50 east toward Annapolis
  • Exit south at Md. Route 424 (Davidsonville Road)
  • Turn left (east) at stoplight onto Md. 214 (Central Ave.)
  • Follow directions from Central Avenue in Edgewater below.

From Baltimore, Maryland:

  • Take Interstate 97 south toward Annapolis
  • Exit east onto Md. Route 665 (Aris T. Allen Blvd.)
  • Exit south onto Md. Route 2
  • Go over the South River bridge and through Edgewater
  • Turn left (east) at stoplight onto Md. 214 (Central Ave.)
  • Follow directions from Central Avenue in Edgewater below.

From Southern Maryland:

  • Take Md. Route 2/4 north to Sunderland
  • Continue on Md. Route 4 north to Wayson's Corner
  • Exit onto Md. Route 408 east, which becomes Md. Route 2 north
  • Turn right (east) at stoplight onto Md. 214 (Central Ave.)
  • Follow directions from Central Avenue in Edgewater below.

From Central Avenue in Edgewater, Maryland:

  • Follow Central Ave. (Md. 214) east to stoplight at Md. 468 (Muddy Creek Road). Turn right (south).
  • Proceed about 1 mile, then turn left (east) at the SERC sign on the corner of Contees Wharf Road
  • Proceed 0.8 mile on gravel road to SERC sign, turn right onto paved road
  • After you pass the gate, do one of the following:

For the Administration Building:

  • continue past the gate and past the first turn on your right. The administration building is the white two-story frame building on your right just before the stop sign.

For the Schmidt Center:

  • continue past the gate and turn right at the first intersection. The Schmidt center is a brick building on the right, just past the row of parking spots.

For the Philip D. Reed Education Center and dock area:

  • take an immediate left after the gate and proceed 1/3 mile down Dock Road. The Education Center facility and parking will be on the right.


If you are visiting SERC from afar, Baltimore Washington Internatinal Airport is the closest airport at about 35 miles from SERC. National Airport is also not far from SERC at about 35 miles.

Address: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
647 Contees Wharf Road
Edgewater, MD 21037
Visitor Phone: (443) 482-2200
Business Phone: (443) 482-2400

Hiking: Two trails, each approx. 1.5 miles long: Java History Trail - describing the history and land use on the SERC property from the early days of the Piscataway Native Americans through plantation farming to the research conducted here today. Discovery Trail - winds along Muddy Creek and mature hardwood forests.

Canoeing and Kayaking: Kayak and canoe launching at our boat ramp (no motorized boats)


  • Bird watching opportunities
  • Educational and fun activities for children and families Saturdays and during the week for the public, organized groups, and schools.
  • Special events such as the SERC Open House, the Second weekend in May
  • Evening Lecture Series by researchers and biologists from all over the East Coast

Birding and Wildlife Viewing Educational Programs Hiking Canoeing / Kayaking

Operating Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Fees: None
Visitor Facilities:
  • Restrooms and water fountains available at the Reed Education Center, along with check-in registration, brochures, and maps.
  • Kayak and Canoe launch on our boat ramp
  • Two trails, each approx. 1.5 miles long: Java History Trail--with signs and information about SERC from the early days of the Piscataway Native Americans, plantation farming, and a research institution. Discovery Trail-winds along Muddy Creek and mature hardwood forests.
  • Schmidt meeting center where we hold lectures, conferences, and meetings
Size: 2,800 acres
Accessibility: Restrooms and visitor's center are handicapped accessible. Trails are not handicapped accessible - they are not paved

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network - Comments or Questions: Call: 1-800-YOUR-BAY