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Elena Gilroy, Mallows Bay Operations Manager, Charles County Recreation, Parks and Tourism, gives an introduction of what you can experience while exploring the Beaver Trail within Mallows Bay Park in Nanjemoy, Maryland. Credit: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation/NOAA.

Beaver Trail

Length: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate/difficult

Along this trail, hikers will walk along the slopes of the Beaver Pond, where evidence of beaver activity can be seen. Under the shade of tall beech trees, unique plants grow. Hotspots highlight these plants, such as native orchids and mosses. Past the Beaver Pond, the trail changes into a secondary succession forest – a landscape dominated by young, skinny trees that hints at the former use of the land for farming.

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Beaver Trail

Mallows Bay County Park

Explore the Beaver Trail Highlights

image of Beaver Trail Entrance
Beaver Trail Entrance

Welcome to the Beaver Trail! Once you're in the virtual trail:  Click or tap on the screen to navigate along the trail, which is highlighted by the text along the bottom of your screen.  Click or tap on the orange hotspots to learn more information about the highlighted area.  Use the mini-map in the upper left hand corner of your screen to navigate or skip ahead. And most importantly, have fun! read more

image of Common Persimmon
Common Persimmon

In addition to the pawpaw, another native tree with edible fruit at Mallows Bay is the common persimmon. The fruit is yellow to orange in color and ripens in the fall. Many animals eat this fruit, including deer, raccoons, and different kinds of birds. Persimmon trees are also home to moth caterpillars like the luna moth. Although they have been seen at Mallows Bay, luna moths are rarely seen as they have a short adult life, lasting only one week. read more

image of Beech Tree
Beech Tree

Right off the trail stands a large American beech tree. Its leaves turn golden in the fall and stay on the tree all winter, which is a process called marcescence. Here you might even find some edible beechnuts on the forest floor—they're brown, triangular nuts with spiny husks. read more

image of Crane-fly Orchid
Crane-fly Orchid

Under the shade of a large beech tree, you may find small, woodland orchids called crane-fly orchids. In the early spring, green leaves with purple undersides can be found on the forest floor. The leaves fall off as the stem grows to about a foot tall, and then the flowers bloom in small, yellowish-brown clusters. Moths in the Noctuidae family pollinate these flowers. read more

image of Beaver Pond
Beaver Pond

In the pond, you can see an active beaver dam. Piles of sticks and mud slow the flow of water from upstream and form a shallow pool of water. You can also see evidence of beavers by looking for tree stumps that have been gnawed to a sharp point. In this area, there may also be snapping turtles swimming through the water, or painted turtles, red-eared sliders, or northern red-bellied cooters sunning themselves on logs. read more

image of Fan clubmoss
Fan clubmoss

Fan clubmoss, also known as ground cedar or crowsfoot, is a plant that lives on the forest floor. It is an evergreen, which means it stays green all year round, even in the winter. They tend to be found in wooded areas where oak trees and conifers are also found. They were once threatened by their popularity as Christmas greenery, but have recovered. read more

image of Secondary Succession Forest
Secondary Succession Forest

As you walk along this trail, you will notice that most of the trees are young with very few mature trees. The lack of mature trees hints that the land was used for farming. Now that the land is no longer used for farming, it is slowly turning back into a forest. Sweet gum is one of the first trees to grow in a forest after a disturbance and is known as a secondary succession tree. You can see its... read more

Elevation Profile