On a gorgeous fall day, I headed up to Wye Island to explore the Natural Resources Management Area. It’s been many years since I last set foot on Wye Island, and in that case I arrived by boat, so I was interested to explore the area by car.
Wye Island itself is 2800 acres, 2450 of which are managed by the Maryland Park Service. There are two youth group campsites and a lodge that are available to reserve. In fact, the day I visited, the lodge grounds were being used for a wedding that was happening later that day.
When I used to visit Wye Island, it was aboard the Skipjack Sigsbee, back when I worked for the Living Classrooms Foundation in Baltimore. We had a school that would send their entire 8th grade to do a weekend experiential learning program. We’d pick them up Friday morning in Annapolis and spend the weekend camping on the island. Sunday morning, we’d pack up and head back to Annapolis.
At various times during the weekend, we would have the opportunity to explore the island a bit on foot, which meant I never made it very far beyond the youth camping area. During these trips is where I first learned about osage orange trees, which can be found in abundance here.
Now, one thing I neglected to consider when I made the decision to head to Wye Island, was that the NRMA is managed for hunting and I was going to visit during prime hunting season. If you go in the fall, be aware that September through December is hunting season and you should be wearing safety orange if you are on trails in areas where hunting is allowed (which is almost all of the trails). If you want to avoid hunting altogether, then you should plan to visit on a Sunday, when hunting is not allowed. Another option is to only do the part of the Granary Creek trail (marked in yellow on the map below) that is near the lodge and is in the area where weapons are not allowed. Click here for a map that shows the hunting and non-hunting areas.
Because I came by car, I decided to start at the furthest point and do the Ferry Point trail. This meant driving quite a ways down the gravel road to the very end of the island. This also gave me the opportunity to see what trails were in use by walkers and which were in use by hunters. The Ferry Point trail was the busiest parking area in the entire park, with four or five cars. When I arrived, there was a family eating lunch on a picnic table at the trailhead.
This was a great little trail that felt a little eerie and perfect for a pre-Halloween stroll. The entire path was lined by overhanging trees that created almost a tunnel effect, with agricultural fields just barely visible beyond the trees on both sides. It was a very flat dirt trail, with no elevation change, though there were some spots where you had to keep an eye out for roots.
Towards the end of the trail, a side trail, Jack-in-the-Pulpit trail, branches off and loops back in right next to the small beach that serves as a kayak and canoe launch. This side trail is narrower and more uneven and has a few spots where the overhanging trees really kick up the creepiness a notch.
The beach at the end of the trail was pretty and a few folks showed up with fishing rods while I was there. While the Ferry Point trail isn’t particularly long, I wouldn’t be launching a kayak from there unless it had wheels because it’s a little more than a ½ mile to the beach.
After I finished the Ferry Point trail, I decided to head to the lodge and walk the trail in that area. This is the only part of the park where weapons are not allowed, so no hunting was taking place in that area. This path, which runs along Granary Creek, skirted the edges of a soybean field for part of the path. Further along, you can walk right up to the edge of the creek and then follow the trail through the forest. Once I hit the main road, I turned around and walked the same trail back to the parking area. However, you could cross the road and continue the trail, but you’ll want to have your safety orange on once you cross the road as you’re back in hunting territory.
In terms of amenities in this park, they are pretty minimal. There were some pit toilets, including at the head of the Ferry Point trail. There were also a couple of picnic tables here and there but that was pretty much it. Right on the main road, before you turn to get to the lodge, there was a picnic area that had a ramp as part of the kayak and canoe launch in Granary Creek. If you don’t want to tote your kayak a half mile up a trail, this would be the best spot to park and put in.
I didn’t see too much in the way of wildlife (a downy woodpecker was the most interesting critter I saw) but there are supposedly Delmarva Fox Squirrels that call this area home. And while there were some good examples of native plants, such as osage orange, pokeweed, and white oak, there was also a surprising (to me) amount of non-native and invasive plants, including english ivy, porcelain berry, and amur honeysuckle.
One thing I wish I had time for, was a stroll down the Holly Tree Trail, where you can find a Holly Tree that is anywhere from 290 to 400 years old. I’ll probably head back at some point, maybe during a different season, to walk that trail and see how different the area looks in the spring or summer. However, there were some gorgeous fall colors visible when I went, so the Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area is definitely worth a visit this time of year, so be sure to get out and explore!
– Dr. Kristen