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  A Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society


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Elk Forest MHA & Welch Point MHA
Description Elk Forest MHA and Welch Point MHA are two hunting areas on the north bank of the C&D Canal;  both lie west of Chesapeake City.  Both areas are owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and managed for hunting by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  Elk Forest, at 242 acres, offers foot access to woodland and a couple of small freshwater ponds and is a great place to see flycatchers and other songbirds.  Welch Point, with 77 acres, is located at the tip of land where the C&D Canal emerges to join the Elk River, and offers access to woodland and to the shore of the Elk River, with waterfowl and other water birds in appropriate seasons.
How to get there From Elkton, take Rt. 213 south and turn right onto Elk Forest Road, just north of the Canal at Chesapeake City.  From Chesapeake City, take Rt. 213 north and turn left onto Elk Forest Road.

Elk Forest MHA is approximately 1.8 miles west on Elk Forest Road, and will be on the left (sourth side of the road), a little way past the intersection of McKeown Road on the right. The parking area is marked with a brown sign.

To reach Welch Point MHA, continue west for anoher 2.2 miles on Elk Forest Road; the road ends in the parking area of the MHA.
Map references
What to do after arrival At Elk Forest, park your car and proceed on foot past the gated entrance on the obvious gravel road.  Follow the road through the woodland.  A culvert takes the road across a small stream; this is a good place to check for birds.  Another good spot is at the pond visible to the right in about ½ mile.  You can continue on the gravel road all the way to the levees on the north bank of the C&D Canal.  At the Canal, if you turn left (east) you can explore a series of trails that take you through a small evergreen woodlot.  This can be a good place to check for owls and wintering landbirds. On the other hand, if you turn right (west) when you reach the Canal, you will enter an area of sandy dredge spoils and scrub vegetation, a good spot to check for sparrows.  See map at

Welch Point offers habitat similar to that at Elk Forest.  From the parking lot, a gravel road on the right leads down to the edge of the Elk River, where you can scope the water for waterfowl, loons and gulls in winter and terns and eagles in summer.  Another road on the opposite side of the parking lot will take you on a longer walk through deciduous woods, eventually emerging at the Elk.  See map at
Birds to look for
  • Year-round: waterfowl, gulls, finches, sparrows.
  • Fall: migrating hawks and other raptors and migrating songbirds, including warblers, flycatchers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, orioles, cuckoos, finches, swallows, and grosbeaks. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, sparrows, kinglets, geese, ducks, loons, and grebes start to arrive and may remain until spring. 
  • Winter: Gulls, sapsuckers, sparrows, kinglets, geese, ducks, loons, and grebes. 
  • Spring: Migration northward brings another wave of songbirds, essentially the same as fall. Some will stay to breed through the summer.
  • Summer: Breeding birds include Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Wood-Pewees and Eastern Kingbirds.
Hours/Fees/Amenities Access to Elk Forest and Welch Point MHAs is restricted to hunting permit holders for the hunting season from September 1 through February 15.  Check State hunting seasons. Outside the hunting season, both MHAs are open for hiking, fishing, bird watching, nature photography, etc. with non-hunting permit. No fee to enter; however, the free annual non-hunting use permit is strictly required and must be displayed on your parked car. To request a permit, contact the Gwynnbrook Wildlife and Heritage Service Office at 410-356-9272 allow 3 weeks for delivery of your permit by mail. 

There are no picnic tables, restrooms, or other amenities at the sites. open in daylight hours year-round, but be aware of State hunting seasons and enter only on Sundays when hunting is in progress.  The closest public restroom is at the C& D Canal Museum (Monday - Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.;  closed Sunday) or at the library in South Chesapeake City (limited hours). There is a picnic area just outside the Canal Museum along Rt. 286. 
What to bring Elk Forest MHA requires only binoculars. Waterproof shoes/boots may be needed after wet weather.  A scope would be helpful at Welch Point to scan the Elk River.
Difficulty of walking At Elk Forest, most of the walking is on a wide, gravel road with some gentle hills.  The levee area at the Canal has some steep areas. At Welch Point, the roads are wide and gravelled and provide a good walking surface, but there are some hills.
Personal safety Take precautions. These are isolated areas with little public use.  Most birders would feel more comfortable with a friend. Leave any valuables locked in your car and out of sight. The levees and hunting areas are isolated and attract some illegal activities.  Check the State hunting seasons and do not visit during  hunting season.
Nearby sites Bethel WMA, C&D Canal Lands,  Courthouse Point WMA, Earleville WMA
For more information

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 Contact Us last updated 11/1/07