Jug Bay Natural Area

alert-triangle-white A notice to our patrons

  • Visitors Center is open 9am-3pm daily
  • Many visitor center services are available online
  • The Red Trail is closed
  • The Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary section of the Critical Area Driving Tour (CADT) is closed to all visitors until March 2023. Pedestrians and bikers can continue to use the Jug Bay Natural Area side of the CADT, but motor vehicles are not permitted.

About Jug Bay Natural Area

Jug Bay Natural Area is the headquarters for the Patuxent River Park. The Patuxent River is the most important freshwater tidal estuary in the Chesapeake Bay region. M-NCPPC works cooperatively with federal, state, and local agencies, and conservation organizations to ensure the Patuxent River remains one of Maryland’s premier river greenways. Jug Bay Natural Area is a component of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maryland, a nationwide network of diverse coastal estuaries that serve as laboratories for scientific research, education, and monitoring.

The park is also a site on the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, a partnership of parks, refuges, museums, historical communities, and trails where visitors can experience and learn about the Chesapeake Bay. Jug Bay has been designated an "Important Birding Area" by the National Audubon Society.

The park offers a wide range of amenities for the public. There are over 14 miles of scenic woodland trails for hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders. The park provides facilities for camping and picnics. There are two fishing areas at Jug Bay that offer good tidal fishing year-round. Jug Bay has two standard boat ramps, but no overnight tie-ups or fuel facilities. Waterfowl hunting is permitted in designated areas. A limited number of blind sites along the river are leased on a seasonal basis. Jug Bay is excellent to explore by canoe or kayak along the Patuxent Water Trail. The park offers guided trips, as well as daily canoe and kayak rentals. You will also find Prince George’s County’s first registered Nature Exploration Area within our Park!

The park is home to the Patuxent Rural Life Museums. This collection of late-19th century and early 20th century buildings tells the story of life in southern Maryland. Visitors can also enjoy the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Tour, a four-mile roadway that connects the park with Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary.

Naturalist-led education programs are available on a seasonal basis. River ecology tours aboard a pontoon boat feature the river’s wetlands, wildlife, and history. Boardwalks provide easy access to the Black Walnut Creek Nature Study Area to explore the bio-diverse communities of the river. In addition, programs and events for a variety of ages are available.

A reservation is required for most activities. Call to verify if your activity requires a reservation.

2023 annual and daily boat trailer permits available in person at the Visitor Center and online (2023 Boat Trailer Annual Permit). 

Location/Directions

Located in Croom, Maryland, southeast of Upper Marlboro. No public transportation is available.

From the Capital Beltway (I-495), take Exit 11A, (Pennsylvania Avenue), Route 4 east for 8 miles. Take Route 301 south for 1.7 miles. Turn left on Croom Station Road and continue for 1.6 miles. Turn left on Croom Road (Route 382) and proceed for 1.5 miles. Turn left on Croom Airport Road and continue for 2 miles. At the entrance, either continue straight to the Group Camp Area or turn left and proceed 1.7 miles to the park office.

From Routes 50/301, take Route 301 south for 15 miles. Turn left onto Croom Station Road and continue for 1.6 miles. Turn left onto Croom Road (Route 382) and continue for 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Croom Airport Road and continue for 2 miles. At the entrance, either continue straight to Group Camp Area or turn left and proceed 1.7 miles to the park office.