Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary

Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary

Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary 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. The geese arrive in mid-October and stay until late February or early March. About 100 geese stay year around. During the peak of the season, more than 5,000 geese may be present. Corn, millet and other crops favored by geese are grown for them, adding to the marsh and aquatic plants that flourish in the ponds along the Patuxent River, an important Chesapeake tributary.

The sanctuary also offers habitats for a variety of birds and mammals. On a visit to Merkle, one may see red fox, a groundhog, or a white-tailed deer. In the summer, ospreys nest close to the Visitor Center and the hummingbirds, finches and purple martins are abundant. In the neighboring ponds, visitors are likely to see herons and other water birds. On the trails one can see bluebirds and many different songbirds.

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Image Credit: Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary


The Frank Oslislo Visitor Center is currently open weekends only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Starting May 1 the visitor center will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until October 31.

The Wildlife Sanctuary and hiking trails are open 7 a.m . to sunset daily all year, except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day .

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)


$2 per vehicle.


Hiking: 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.

Critical Area Driving Tour: 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. throughout the year. The tour starts at Patuxent River Park. Take Croom Airport Road, off Croom Road (north of Merkle). The CADT travels across the Mattaponi Creek onto Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary.

Frank Oslislo Visitors Center:  Inside you will find exhibits about the life history and management of the Canada Goose along with seasonal displays that encompass a variety of different environmental and wildlife topics, many of them kid friendly. Check back annually to see our new displays. Children will also love our live animal exhibit in our discovery room, with turtles, snakes, and toads. A kids coloring table, book nook, and animal tracks sand box are also popular features for kids. For those of you who love bird watching, there is a large bird feeder viewing area, stocked with binoculars and scopes that provide many hours of enjoyment.

Fishing: Merkle has five fishing ponds open to the public. Stocked are large mouth bass, blue gill, and various other species. They are prime habitat for wildlife, are great for wildlife observation and photography along with fishing.

Birding: Upper Marlboro is home to one of the most diverse bird populations in Maryland. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!

Picnicking: 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.


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.


Last updated: July 06, 2022
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