Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is the only wildlife sanctuary operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It is the wintering ground for several thousand Canada geese, the largest concentration on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
The sanctuary was named after Edgar Merkle (1900-1984), an active conservationist who devoted much of his life to protecting and providing for wildlife. Starting with a handful of breeding pairs, a great deal of perseverance, and a habitat improvement plan in mind, Mr. Merkle eventually encouraged thousands of geese to visit the 400-acre Merkle farm to feed and rest. In 1970, the Merkles sold their land, including some donated parcles, to the state. With the acquisition of adjoining tracts, the wildlife refuge now encompasses 1,670 acres.
The geese arrive in mid-October and stay until late February or early March. About 100 geese stay year round. During the peak of the season, more than 2,000 geese may be present.
A new map of the trails at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary can be downloaded for free from this website. Please make sure to read the printing instructions and information for how to download the file to cell phones. The map is in a PDF format that requires Adobe Reader. To get the free Adobe Reader go to Adobe.com.
There are four hiking trails at Merkle that explore the upland forests and marshes of the Patuxent. Our trails are open to hikers only. Bikes and horses may visit nearby Rosaryville State Park. All trail distances are round-trip, measured from the Visitor Center (except Lookout Creek Trail).
The 4.3 mile Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Driving Tour (CADT) is open for self-guided driving tours on Sundays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. year round. The tour starts at Patuxent River Park and continues into Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, crossing the Mattaponi Creek. To access the Critical Area Driving Tour: take Croom Airport Road, off Croom Road to Patuxent River Park.
The 2-mile portion of the CADT located within Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is open for hiking, biking, driving and horse back riding daily February 1st – September 30th.
The CADT is closed for hiking, biking, driving and horse back riding October 1st through January 31st, except Sundays, every year to provide a peaceful resting ground for migratory Canada Geese and other waterfowl.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has formally dedicated the Frank Oslislo Visitor Center at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary in honor of the 32-year employee, who was instrumental in developing Management Plans that, to this day, guide the management for many DNR properties. Oslislo, who passed away in October of 2008 from cancer, was the face of DNR before the Board of Public Works (BPW) and the Maryland General Assembly for many years. Read more about Frank Oslislo's dedication to preserving Maryland's natural resources.
Inside you will find:
The Frank Oslislo Visitor Center is currently open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beginning November 1st through May 1st, it will be open weekends only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Nature hikes are provided weekly by Maryland Conservation Corps members and Maryland Park Service Rangers. See the DNR Calendar of Events for program details.
Merkle has five fishing ponds open to the public. They are stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, and various other species. Along with fishing, visitors can also enjoy wildlife observation and photography as these ponds provide prime habitat for a variety of wildlife.
Merkle ponds open April 1st of every year and close October 1st of every year. Please obey park hours.
If you plan to fish, please sign-in at our sign-in box located outside of the visitor center. Please obey the special fishing guidelines specified on the sign-in sheet and make sure you have your fishing licenses. All vehicles should be parked at the visitor center. Special parking arrangements can be made for those with disabilities who have an Access Maryland pass.
Since Merkle is a wildlife sanctuary, fishing is regulated to help us manage the fish populations in the pond. Be aware that only two fishing lines may be in a pond at a time. If you have two lines, you are the only one allowed to fish. If someone else has a line in, you may only fish with one fishing line.
Upper Marlboro is home to one of the most diverse bird populations in Maryland. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!
There are several picnic tables located around the sanctuary. Please note we are a trash free park and that all trash you bring to park you take home with you. Grills and open fires are not permitted at the sanctuary.
580 Taylor Ave, Annapolis MD 21401