Places We Protect

Oxbow Nature Preserve


Staff led outing to Maryland's Little Patuxent Oxbow Preserve during the 2018 City Nature Challenge.
Little Patuxent Oxbow Staff led outing to Maryland's Little Patuxent Oxbow Preserve during the 2018 City Nature Challenge. © Bridget Moynihan / TNC

Explore one of the largest naturally occurring bodies of freshwater in Maryland.



COVID-19 Update (June 3, 2020)

TNC’s public preserves in Maryland remain open. We ask all visitors to observe our preserve access guidelines and follow current health and safety precautions, including guidance from the Maryland Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others (social distancing).

Parking may be limited at many of our preserves. If parking areas are full, please plan to return to the preserve another day.

Thank you for helping us in our efforts to protect our visitors’ health and well-being.

The Maryland/DC Chapter helped the State of Maryland acquire this important area which contains approximately 70 acres of wetland in the floodplain of the Little Patuxent River. 

The key feature of this preserve is the Little Patuxent Oxbow, an impoundment of the Little Patuxent River that was created over hundreds of years by beaver activity. Another important element is Laurel Oxbow Lake, which is the largest naturally occurring body of freshwater in Maryland; other lakes are the result of damming creeks.

Management activities include maintaining and improving trails, controlling invasives, and preserving forest growth. 




Dogs are not allowed at this preserve.


Preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk.


250 acres

Explore our work in this region

What to Look For

Naturalists have found more than 100 native vascular plant species at Oxbow Nature Preserve, including rare species such as the Water-shield (Brasenia schreberi) and dodder (Cuscuta polygonorum). The preserve is also home to the popular wildflowers blue-flag iris and cardinal flower.

Visitors to Oxbow might hear the high piping whistle of the northern spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). This type of frog can be found in brushy second growth near ponds or wetlands. More than half of this site is covered with shallow water even during the dry summer months, resulting in a specific type of aquatic ecosystem.

Oxbow is a birders delight, with more than 150 species identified here, including the bald eagle, little blue heron, egrets, ducks, greese along with coopers and red-shouldered hawks. 

The evergreen mountain laurel blooms the last two weeks in May, while blueberry bushes yield their ripe fruits in the summer. Pitch pines and Virginia pines can also be found at Oxbow. One noticable feature of this preserve is the prevalence of snags, or dead trees, that provide habitat for a variety of species.. Most of these trees have been girdled by beavers, struck by lightning, or killed by disease. 

A group of people observing nature
Oxbow Nature Preserve
This unique 70-acre wetland is home to what is considered the largest naturally occurring body of freshwater in the state.

Oxbow Nature Preserve Explore one of the largest naturally occurring bodies of freshwater in Maryland.

Download an Audio Tour

Planning a visit to Oxbow Preserve? Before your trip, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. It's like having a naturalist in your pocket!

The Oxbow audio tour is also available through Tip Tour, a free mobile app that shows there's a story behind everything.

  • Step 1: Download the Oxbow Preserve audio tour map. This map will help identify which audio tracks to play based on your location on the trail, so make sure to take a copy with you on your trip.

  • Step 2: Download and save the mp3 audio files to your handheld device. Play the corresponding track when you reach a waypoint along the trail. Listen to them all or pick & choose based on your interests! 

Tour Stops / Audio Files (mp3)

  1. Main Entrance
  2. Parking Advice
  3. Starting Trail
  4. TNC Sign
  5. American Chestnut
  6. Lake View
  7. Southeast Corner of the Lake
  8. Flooding and Hydrology
  9. Trail Advice
  10. Wildlife
  11. Notch Log and Plants
  12. Beaver Activities
  13. Southeast Observation Point
  14. Snags and Birds
  15. Beaver Lodges
  16. Western Side View of Lake
  17. Sliding Area
  18. Fishing Hole
  19. South Corner of the Lake
  20. Choices of the Trails
  21. Woodland Species
  22. New Entrance
  23. Intersection of the Trail
  24. The Platform
  25. Northeast Corner of the Lake