Elena Gilroy, Mallows Bay Operations Manager, Charles County Recreation, Parks and Tourism, gives an introduction of what you can experience while exploring the Ridge Trail within Mallows Bay Park in Nanjemoy, Maryland. Credit: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation/NOAA.
Length: 0.5 miles
Winding through an upland forest dominated by pine trees, visitors to the Ridge Trail can witness a stunning overlook of a vibrant wetland. Keep an eye out for busy beavers working on their dam or heading home into their lodge. In the spring this area is bursting with noisy amphibians, such as the spring peeper and lots of bright green skunk cabbage.
Welcome to the Ridge 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
This forest is mostly pine trees, and not much else grows underneath. However, fallen trees reveal tiny ecosystems to explore. They offer a home to many creatures, such as bees, wasps, spiders, beetles, and other insects. These insects help to pollinate plants and provide food for other animals. Fallen trees also provide a habitat for many kinds of fungi to grow, like turkey-tail, trembling crust, and beefsteak polypore. These fungi eat dead wood, breaking it down and returning the nutrients... read more
Mountain laurel is a native evergreen shrub with waxy green leaves that stay green all year. In the spring, it produces large pinkish-white flowers. Although mountain laurel is poisonous to humans, it is an important plant for wildlife. The leaves and flowers provide food for deer, rabbits, and birds during the winter. It also provides a good hiding place for animals, such as white-tailed deer, eastern screech owls, and many songbird species. read more
In the spring and summer, smelly eastern skunk cabbage grows around the creek at the bottom of the hill. It is one of the first freshwater wetland plants to bloom in early spring. Its strong smell attracts flies and beetles as pollinators but prevents hungry deer and other animals from munching on it. Skunk cabbage has a unique ability to produce heat, which allows it to grow and bloom even when the ground is frozen. The heat can reach up... read more
Snake holes are scattered amongst the mushrooms and moss growing in the rich soil of the trail. Mallows Bay is home to a few types of snakes, like the common watersnake, the rough green snake, and the venomous copperhead. These snakes like to hang out in tree hollows, under leaf litter, or in holes dug by rodents or other animals. read more
Where the forest thins, you can see a large wetland area that the creek pours into. This wetland is a place where land and water meet, and it is full of life. In early spring, you can see many amphibians, like the northern cricket frog, leopard frog, spring peeper, green frog, American toad, and Fowler’s toad. Their loud calls mean they are breeding. As winter snow melts and spring rains begin, they use the temporary pools of water left behind... read more
As you look out at the creek, look for the beaver lodge and dam in the water. The dam, made of grass, rocks, sticks, and mud, slows down the flow of water in a stream. Beavers build lodges in calm water to live in and keep safe from predators. These round houses are made of sticks and mud. The dams and ponds help control soil erosion and reduce flooding. They are also important habitats for other wetland animals, such as... read more
You might see birdhouses all over the park. They are for eastern bluebirds, a type of native songbird. Bluebirds like to nest in tree holes or woodpecker holes, but there is a lot of competition for these limited spaces. A well-placed birdhouse can help more bluebirds find a place to raise their families. read more
A row of eastern red cedars lines the road into the park. This tree is actually a species of juniper and not a true cedar. Small, blue juniper berries grow in late summer. The fruit is eaten by many animals, including the cedar waxwing, which is a bird that is named after the tree. read more