Patuxent Research Refuge - National Wildlife Visitor Center
Laurel, MD
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

[ Print this page ]
Brief Description: The Patuxent Research Refuge is the nation's only National Wildlife Refuge established to support wildlife research. With land surrounding the Patuxent and Little Patuxent Rivers between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md., the refuge encompasses 12,750 acres along these Chesapeake Bay tributaries. Patuxent's mission is to conserve and protect wildlife and habitat through research and wildlife management techniques. Research at the refuge was instrumental in the return of osprey's to the Bay.

Patuxent Research Refuge supports a wide diversity of wildlife in forest, meadow, and wetland habitats. During the fall and spring migrations, many waterfowl species stop to rest and feed. More than 200 species of birds occur on the refuge. A pair of bald eagles has nested at the refuge since 1989.

The refuge is also the site of the National Wildlife Visitor Center, with exhibits on various aspects of wildlife conservation both in the Chesapeake and nation-wide.

Location / Directions: Patuxent Research Refuge is located off Powder Mill Road between MD Route 197 and the Baltimore/Washington Parkway in Laurel, Md.

From the Baltimore/Washington Parkway, take the Laurel/Bowie exit, and take Route 197 South toward Bowie for 2 miles. Make a right onto Powder Mill Road. Travel 0.75 miles, and turn left at Entrance Road.

Driving Directions
Address: Patuxent Research Refuge - National Wildlife Visitor Center
10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop
Laurel, MD 20708
Visitor Phone: (301) 497-5763
Activities: Patuxent Research Refuge is divided into three areas:
  • North Tract, which offers hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, trails, and many interpretive programs

  • Central Tract, where the offices and study sites of research biologists are located

  • South Tract
  • , where the refuge’s National Wildlife Visitor Center and its trails are located.

The National Wildlife Visitor Center and North Tract are the only areas open to visitors.

The visitor center features interactive exhibits that focus on global environmental issues, migratory bird studies, habitats, endangered species, and the tools and techniques used by scientists. The visitor center also offers hiking trails, tram tours, a seasonal fishing program, wildlife management demonstration areas, and an outdoor education site for school classes.

Cash Lake—located off of MD Route 197—is open for fishing, and the refuge conducts a seasonal fishing program from mid-June to mid-October. This site has a fully accessible pier and dock. (Note: You must have a valid fishing license. Contact the visitor center for more details.)

Patuxent prohibits traditional park-like activities such as swimming, boating, tubing, rafting, picnicking, and sunbathing.

Patuxent prohibits traveling off roads and off trails, and in closed areas is prohibited. The refuge also forbids firearms (except for permitted hunting) and alcoholic beverages. Visitors may not disturb, introduce, or remove plants and animals (except for permitted hunting and fishing).

Biking Educational Programs Fishing Tours / Walking Tours Hunting

Operating Hours: The visitor center is open daily from 9:00am – 4:30pm.

Tram tours of the refuge run every day during the summer and on weekends from mid-March to mid-November from 11:30am – 3:00pm.

Fees: There is no fee for the visitor center. Tickets for the refuge’s tram tours cost $3 for adults, $2 for seniors (55 and over) and $1 for children (12 and under).
Visitor Facilities: The Patuxent Research Refuge’s visitor center features a large auditorium and meeting rooms, as well as a bookstore. Although the National Wildlife Visitor Center is temporarily closed for repairs, outdoor programs will continue and grounds will remain open ‘till 4:30 daily except federal holidays. Please make sure you provide accurate contact information when you register.
Size: 12,750 acres
Accessibility: The visitor center is handicapped accessible, and there is a paved trail. Sign language interpreters are available if requested at least two weeks in advance of your visit.

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