Outdoor Activities In La Plata, Maryland
PHOTO CREDIT: Michael W. Bunch
Charles County may rank among the fastest-growing areas in the state, but this region – the third most forested county in Maryland – retains a pristine natural beauty that makes for some fabulous outdoor adventures.
Range of Activities
Whether you’re into biking or birding, fishing or fossil hunting, the county offers a range of activities to fit the varying interests and fitness levels of families, retirees, casual tourists or extreme adventurers.
“Surrounded by the Potomac, Patuxent and Wicomico rivers, Charles County is a mecca for boating and fishing,” says Tom Roland, chief of the Parks & Grounds Division of Charles County Public Facilities. “In fact, the Potomac River is recognized as a world-class large-mouth bass fishery. Our waters also offer exceptional blue catfish and striper fishing.”
The rivers also offer paddling opportunities for canoeists and kayakers of all skill levels, from flatwater excursions to guided tours along intricate waterways.
And that’s just for starters.
The abundance of undeveloped land in the county creates a haven for birds – and bird watchers.
“Charles County supports one of the largest bald eagle populations in the region,” Roland says, along with 321 other species.
Some especially fascinating bird activities can be witnessed here, depending on the time of year. During the week of Valentine’s Day, for example, the Nanjemoy Creek Great Blue Heron Sanctuary, operated by The Nature Conservancy, sees the dramatic reappearance of nearly 2,500 great blue herons in their traditional nesting site.
Some favorite Charles County spots for bird watchers include the Chicamuxen Wildlife Management Area, Cobb Island, Friendship Landing, Gilbert Run Park, Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area, Popes Creek and Purse State Park.
Purse State Park – a wooded area on the Potomac River used for hunting, bird watching and fishing – is also known as a great place to find fossils. Fossilized shark teeth, bones and shell fragments are often discovered at low tide in the rocks and sand along the water’s edge.
“Purse State Park is extremely popular with both amateur and serious fossil hunters,” says Joanne Roland, Charles County’s former tourism director. “Fossils in the area are up to 59 million years old and include shark teeth and vertebrae, ray plates, crocodile teeth, gastropod molds and turtle shells. The state park attracts visitors from all over the country.”
County parks alone attract more than 550,000 visitors each year, Tom Roland says. “Gilbert Run Park is one of our most popular parks,” he says.
“Located in Dentsville, this park provides fresh-water fishing opportunities in its 60-acre lake, hiking trails, large- and small-group pavilions, playgrounds and boat rentals.”
Another favorite is Laurel Springs Regional Park in the La Plata area. This park features 17 sports fields, the largest special-needs playground in the region, a wooded jogging trail and several picnic facilities.
Charles County recently acquired a 13-mile-long abandoned railroad corridor from the federal government, with plans to begin development of a hiker-biker trail that would meander through undeveloped and state-protected lands – ultimately extending almost halfway across the county, Tom Roland says. “Also in the plans is the new Pisgah Park in the western portion of the county,” he says.
“In addition to much-needed athletic fields, this park will feature our first-ever BMX course and a mountain-bike trail.”
For on-road cyclists, Charles County offers some of the most scenic bike routes in Maryland, featuring wide shoulders, light traffic and historic sites along the way.
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