In the Free State, there are but a few coastal places that remain as unspoiled and wild today as when they were first discovered by settlers.
The Parkers Creek/Governors Run watershed area, on the Chesapeake Bay’s Western Shore, is one of them, thanks to efforts by the American Chestnut Land Trust (ACLT) and its partners, the Nature Conservancy, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and private landowners.
This Prince Frederick area is safely nestled and preserved, along with thousands of other ecologically important and pristine acres, as part of the ACLT’s land-conservation program. Founded in 1986 to save one little parcel of land that housed the state's largest American chestnut tree, the Calvert County nonprofit has since acquired another 3,000 acres surrounding the Parkers Creek and Governors Run watersheds.
If you’ve not yet reveled in the unfettered beauty of this practically untouched wilderness, mark your calendars for an exciting guided canoe or hiking trip this summer.
On Saturday, August 4 (and again on Saturday, August 18), a moderately strenuous three-hour paddle of Parkers Creek will be led by ACLT volunteer guides.
The access point to the creek is through Warrior’s Rest Sanctuary, part of the preserve that’s usually off-limits to the public. (Access to the preserve, which is owned by the DNR and managed by the ACLT, is restricted because its shoreline cliffs are critical habitat for endangered insects, including the northeastern and puritan tiger beetles.)
More experienced kayakers should keep an eye on the ACLT’s event calendar for more strenuous paddles offered throughout the year.
Families who prefer keeping their feet dry can still learn about the bay and its indigenous plants and critters by exploring the big forest along the watershed—rather than in it—through guided hiking tours and other activities offered by ACLT staff and volunteers.
Advanced and beginner explorers will enjoy magnificent views along the 2.5-mile-long Parkers Creek, which winds through forests and fresh and saltwater marshes, across a barrier beach, and into the Chesapeake. Look for otters, muskrats, and beavers in the narrow river. Above, keep an eye out for loons, sandpipers, and red-winged blackbirds.
Hikes are guided, in part, notes Karen Edgecombe, the ACLT’s executive director, because those same ravines that discouraged development can make some of the north-side trails challenging. The trails end at Calvert Cliffs, an extraordinary bay landmark. On the beaches of these famous fossilized marine outcrops, prehistoric sharks' teeth and other aquatic fossils can still be found, so look carefully!
Although some of the surrounding acreage—like the cliffs’ shoreline—is off-limits, 15 miles of hiking trails are open to the public.
“ACLT showcases its trails and the ways in which families can explore and connect with nature and water,” says Edgecombe, who also hopes that the events help recruit volunteers, a much-needed resource for the small staff responsible for large acreage.
To learn more about the American Chestnut Land Trust, visit www.acltweb.org.