Piscataway Sanctuary (Prince George’s County)
Piscataway MOS Sanctuary, 82 wooded acres located in southwestern Prince George’s County, is MOS’s most recent acquisition, having been donated by a developer in 2008 with a conservation easement. The property is bounded on the north by the residential development The Preserve at Piscataway; on the south by Gardner Road Park (102 acres owned by the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission and managed as a hunting area by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MNCPPC)); and on the east and west by private lands. Another MNCPPC property, Danville Estates Park, is located nearby to the east.
Piscataway Sanctuary lies in the watershed of Piscataway Creek, a major tributary of the Potomac River. The land is mostly wooded, with beech, oak, tulip poplar, and sweet gum predominating. A good understory of dogwood, sassafras, and other small trees is present, with shrubs including spicebush and viburnums. Ferns and spring ephemeral wildflowers form a groundcover. A full assessment of the habitat and vegetation has yet to be conducted.
The main access to Piscataway Sanctuary is from the north, at the end of Hardy Tavern Road in the adjoining residential development. One can park a car on the cul-de-sac just outside the gate or in the gravel MOS parking lot near the covered pavilion. Take the obvious double-track grassy trail down the hill from the parking area, and at the bottom of the hill, turn right (west) to follow a broad wood-chipped trail through a stream valley. The trail follows the path of a sewer line that was constructed for the residential community, and eventually the sides of the trail will revert to woodland as succession takes place. The trail can be wet at times and there are several small streams to cross, so waterproof footwear is advised. The trail ends at a larger stream that cannot easily be crossed on foot; turn around here and retrace your steps to return to your car.
A second access point to Piscataway Sanctuary is through the MNCPPC-owned Gardner Road Park to the south. A parking area is located at the north end of Gardiner Road; leave your car here and walk north into the wood following the obvious double-track old road, which eventually narrows to a single track. The initial half-mile will be on Gardner Road Park property, and then the trail continues into Piscataway Sanctuary, with an MOS sign on a tree to the left of the trail. The mostly flat trail takes you through open moist deciduous woodland, with several small stands of pine and small streams to both east and west. The trail heads northwest and then north and nears, but does not currently connect with, the Sanctuary’s stream valley trail described above. The Gardner Road Trail peters out just before the slope that leads down to the stream valley. Turn around here and retrace your steps to the Gardner Road parking area.
The woods of Piscataway Sanctuary offer year-round habitat for small woodland birds such as chickadees and titmice. Pileated Woodpeckers are found here, along with Red-bellied and Downy. Warm season birds include Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, and Ovenbird. Pine Warblers are present in the small patches of pines in the adjoining Gardner Road Park. Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, and Killdeer use the stormwater ponds in the neighboring residential community, including a large and well-vegetated pond near the west end of the sanctuary’s stream valley trail, just south of Granery Lane and Lusby Ridge Road. We are still discovering the birdlife that uses Piscataway, and we invite your contributions to eBird using the hotspot at http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L5941724.