I’ve mentioned before how, in the early days of Covid, I was apprehensive about posting write-ups of new places we visited. Even though I felt it was good to get out of the house and enjoy a change of scenery, I wasn’t always sure what to encourage through KFDC and thought it best to err on the side of caution and save those posts for later.
Some of them, it turns out, I’ve been saving for a really long time. It was last Mother’s Day that we visited Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area in Queenstown, MD, about an hour and 15 minute drive from DC. How did we end up there? Well, it’s somewhat of a tradition for our family to go for crabs on Mother’s Day because it’s one of my favorite things. We usually opt for an outdoor activity that takes advantage of what’s often great weather that time of year — hiking, paddling, beach time, or even pontoon boating — then enjoying a crab feast afterwards.
Like everything in 2020, last spring was a little different. Because of Covid, we couldn’t go to any of our favorite crab places, but heading out to the Eastern Shore for a hike was still in line with our annual celebration. Plus, we wanted to go someplace we could be pretty certain wouldn’t be crowded. So, Levi checked the map, did some online research, and on Mother’s Day morning we headed to Wye Island.
About 15 minutes beyond the Bay Bridge, Wye Island NRMA is lovely to explore. The land was almost turned into a housing development in the 1970s, but the state purchased it with Program Open Space funds to preserve the natural environment. It’s 2400+ acres are located in the tidal recesses of the Chesapeake Bay between the Wye River and the Wye East River. There are about 12 miles of trails that edge fields of tall grass and ponds, wind through the woods, and run along the Wye River. All of it is flat and easy for little ones to walk.
We started our hike on the Ferry Point Trail, which we caught near the parking lot, walked along through a field, then into the woods. It eventually led right to the beach. [Note: While it looks so tempting to jump in, swimming is not permitted.]
The area is known for birding — over 200 species have been reported there, and large waterfowl make it home during winter. We saw lots of small birds and a great blue heron in the distance. Keep an eye out for other wildlife, too — we got a close look at a skink on a tree by the water!
There is a variety of vegetation on Wye Island. Large open expanses meet verdant wooded areas studded with tall old growth trees, including a holly tree that is nearly 300 years old. Green marsh plants blanket and brighten the ground. The sandy shores are lined with long grass and woods, and tree branches jut out over the sand, making for great seating. Shells are scattered around the shore, which we used for a little beach art.
We returned a different way, which turned out to be the Schoolhouse Woods Trail. From there we walked down the road we drove in on, about a quarter mile, back to our car. (View a trail map of Wye Island to help plan your hike.)
There is a restroom right off the small parking lot as well as a picnic table, but you can bring your lunch along the hike and enjoy an alfresco meal by the river. We found a great spot by the water along the nice stretch of sand, where we stopped for snacks and just to hang out and take in the wonderful nature around us.
Even though we couldn’t go for our traditional crabs after — though we made up for it by ordering in a seafood feast from Chasin’ Tails back at home — I highly recommend stopping for them to enjoy Maryland’s best treat.
Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area is located in Queenstown, MD. It’s open daily sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. Good to know: When you arrive on Wye Island, you’ll come to a very small parking lot first. Drive past that one a couple of minutes to a second lot that is more convenient to the trails.