Check out an aerial photo of Nanjemoy Creek in Charles County and you’ll see why it has been called “the green thumb” of the Potomac River — about 80 percent of the land in the Nanjemoy watershed remains forested.
Relatively few roads carve through these woods, though human activities like residential development and incompatible forestry threaten this emerald-green oasis. The Nature Conservancy has embraced the challenge: Retain the character of one of the state’s most pristine watersheds, where just eight percent of the land is currently protected.
The Conservancy has identified a project area of more than 48,000 acres offering the rare opportunity to save and restore this enormous block of contiguous forest. This remarkable situation exists, in part, because the landscape has not been fragmented as it has in other places — only about 150 private landowners own 25,106 acres (76 percent) of the unprotected land here.
Since establishing Nanjemoy Creek Preserve in 1978, The Nature Conservancy has worked to assemble the forest puzzle, helping conserve more than 3,510 acres to date (3,204 of which is the Conservancy's preserve).
What You'll See
The preserve was established to protect a large breeding colony of great blue herons that once nested here. The herons have since moved on, but the preserve abounds with life. Local farmer and naturalist Calvert R. Posey, site manager for many years, kept a detailed field journal listing 48 tree species, 86 wildflowers (including rare Virginia wild ginger), and numerous creatures — snakes, skinks and salamanders, to name a few. Posey noted that his lists on this richly endowed place were by no means complete.
The preserve is just one special feature of the Nanjemoy Project Area, a recreational dream. Visitors can spend a day cycling, kayaking, fishing, or just enjoying a tranquil picnic.
The Conservancy’s ultimate goal is to protect a forested ecosystem large enough to function as nature intended it, and also large enough to encompass most, if not all, common and rare species. Raccoons, bobcats, skunks, and squirrels inhabit the woods; otters swim the creek; and the rare dwarf wedge mussel (found in only 20 sites worldwide) thrives in the sandy-mud bottom of stream banks. The deep forests here also attract many species of migratory songbirds.
Current Conservation at Work
- Recent land acquisitions include a tract that was a missing slice from the core of the Conservancy’s conservation “pie,” adjacent to Conservancy land as well as protected state and federal land. Sixteen interior-forest bird species find haven here, including five that are particularly sensitive to their surroundings. Wetlands provide breeding habitat for reptiles and amphibians. This property is upstream from one of the two most viable populations of the dwarf wedge mussel in Maryland; protecting this section of forest will help maintain water quality for this vulnerable species.
- Another recent land acquisition of 275 acres is contiguous with 1,282 acres of protected state and federal lands, as well as 2,300 acres of Conservancy lands.
- To protect our native forests, we have been controlling invasive Ailanthus trees that have been spreading throughout the preserve.
Download an Audio Tour
Visit the Charles County (MD) Parks page to plan your visit and then download the audio tour map and driving directions (PDF). The letters marked on the map correspond to the audio files in the tour. Next, download the audio files to your mobile device.
Cell service may be unreliable at many of our preserves. We recommend you download the recordings and maps before you visit. Need a little help saving the files? Check out our step-by-step guide!
Meet Your Guide
Deborah Barber is Director of Land Management for The Nature Conservancy’s Maryland/D.C. chapter. She enjoys exploring nature both on her own and with others, especially her children, who often spot interesting things that adults miss. She enjoys cooking, traveling, gardening, and learning about geology.
DOWNLOAD AUDIO FILES (MP3)
F1: Chiles homesite
F2: Cal Posey Trail
G: Mallows Bay
NANJEMOY TOUR DRIVING DIRECTIONS (download PDF)
To Point A:
- From Port Tobacco Rd (MD-6), go south until you arrive to Baptist Church Road and take a left.
- After 2.2 mi, take a left onto Ironsides Rd (MD-425).
- After .4 mi, take a right Friendship Landing Rd. Follow for 1.3 mi and arrive to the waterfront at Friendship Landing (for audio A1 and A2).
- You will pass the Friendship Farm trailhead on the way to the waterfront (for audio A3).
To Point B:
- Return to MD-425 by heading north on Friendship Landing Rd for 1.3 mi.
- Turn left onto MD-425 for 2.2 mi until you reach MD-6.
- Take a left and follow MD-6 for 1 mile until you reach Hancock Run Rd.
- Take a right and pull off immediately on the right shoulder where the road is broader.
To Point C:
- From Hancock Run Rd, return to MD-6 and take a right.
- Drive around 400 meters until you reach the intersection of MD-6 and Nanjemoy Creek.
- There is no place to stop along this road, so listen to the audio track while passing the creek.
To Point D:
- Continue on MD-6 W for .1 mi, and take your first right onto Maryland Point Rd.
- Continue 1.9 mi and take a right onto Smith Point Rd. After 3 mi, turn right onto Riverside Rd (MD-224).
- Follow for .5 mi until you come across a bridge overlooking a large wetland.
- Pull off to the side before or after the wetland and listen to the audio track.
To Point E:
- Continue on MD-224 N for .6 mi until you reach the Purse State Park lot. Park and walk along the Beach Trail until you reach the waterfront.
To Point F:
- Continue heading north MD-224 N for .7 mi and take a left into the parking lot at Chiles Homestead.
To Point G:
- Take a left back onto MD-224 N and continue for 1.2 mi until you arrive at the Mallows Bay Park sigh. Take a left and arrive at the bay after .8 mi.
For more information about Nanjemoy, contact Gabe Cahalan at (301) 897-8570 or email@example.com.