People looking for some outdoor fun in Queen Anne County, need to look no farther than the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC) in Grasonville. Although the center — a 510-acre preserve and wetlands center — is open year-round, the activity escalates in the spring and summer when people head outdoors. There is a lot for a family — and their pets — to do at this public facility.
This year CBEC added new kayaks to its fleet for public use — free to members. There is also fishing, birding, geocaching or just hiking one of many paths on the facility’s 510 acres.
Kayaks are usually available from the end of April through the end of October, when the water temperature is around 60 degrees or warmer. There is no charge for members; non-members can rent a kayak for just $15.
There is no time limit on these vessels, so bring a lunch and enjoy the day. Simply sign in at the visitor’s center, select your seat, paddle and personal flotation device, then enjoy a short hike to the launch area near Marshy Creek where you will choose either a single or tandem kayak. Users are required to remove and replace the kayaks themselves and CBEC will collect a driver’s license to ensure all kayakers are safely off the water and the equipment is returned.
Kayaks are also used for educational programs at CBEC, so reservations are encouraged, especially on holiday weekends. For a schedule of guided kayak tours offered to beginners and intermediate kayakers, visit the CBEC website at www.bayrestoration.org.
Fishing is permitted for the general public and also incorporated into CBEC’s educational classes. Maryland’s Fishing Regulations must be followed (season, license, size, limits, etc.) while fishing at CBEC. Rockfish, white perch, spot and croaker are among the most commonly caught species. The fishing is great from the shore or water but most general public fishing happens at the artificial reef in the Prospect Bay area.
The diversity of habitats existing here makes birding worthwhile all year. As spring arrives, you’ll witness the migrant waterfowl leaving. They’ve been here all winter and have come from as far as New England and the Canadian tundra. Mid-March to early April is the best time to see this departure of tundra swans, canvasbacks, redheads, widgeon, pintails and more.
Approximately 23 different species of waterfowl winter at the Marshy Creek region of CBEC. After these wintering birds have left, the neotropicals will begin their return. Neotropical birds are those that spend their summer breeding phase in North America, then return to Central or South America for the winter. There are more than 200 species that are considered neotropical and include warblers, hummingbirds and shorebirds. Look for them around late April and early May.
Over land you’ll notice the usual woodlot birds; Yellow-rumped warblers and brown-headed nuthatches are just some examples. Over marshes you’ll see northern harriers and eagles among many others passing through. As you can tell, the variety of birds’ changes depending on the season, so bring your scopes, binocular and camera and hit the trails. You’ll also find binoculars available to borrow at the Visitor’s Center. Check out the CBEC website for year-round birding events.
If you are new to the term, www.geocaching.com defines it as “the real-world treasure hunt that’s happening right now, all around you” — and its happening at CBEC. It’s fun, it’s physical, and it’s for everybody. There are 20 geocaching sites on the property and you’ll find them by using a hand-held GPS device. The coordinates and more details about this hobby are on CBEC’s website. In each cache, you’ll find a treasure and you need to leave one too. The best way to find out what geocaching is to try it.
The natural beauty at CBEC lends itself to be photographed. The diversity of habitats offers many opportunities for that perfect shot: woodlots, meadows, marshes, water areas, and transition zones. This assortment of terrain includes a multitude of wildlife, especially birds.
There are two bird blinds that allow you to get up close to your objective or you can simply hike or kayak the property. CBEC alerts to the public via their website of unusual wildlife that visitors might be able to spot. Periodically, CBEC education staff incorporates photography into their educational classes for school groups and professional photographers will volunteer to teach this art to CBEC members and visitors.
Hiking might be why you visit — or just how you get from one adventure to the next at CBEC. There are 4.5 miles of clearly marked trails and you’ll find maps at the Visitor’s Center. There are short trails for those looking for a quick hike; the longest trail is a mile.
Whether you prefer the beach, the marsh or the woods, you’ll find the trail here. Along these trails you’ll be able to relax on the benches or observe nature from the observation decks spread out at various spots across the property. Bathrooms are available near the Visitor’s Center and leashed dogs are welcome. Just sign in so the CBEC staff and volunteers know you’re there. Admission is free to members and $5 for non-members.
For more information, see CBEC’s website at www.bayrestoration.org.