Please check our main Recreation & Parks webpage for all updates. 

Please call our inclement weather lines about the status of camps, programs, events, facilities, and parks:

park_MPEA_River at Shadow Lane

Middle Patuxent Environmental Area

Address: 5795 Trotter Road, Columbia, MD 21044

Phone: 410-313-4726

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset, or as posted 

Directions: Google MapsPDF

Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks manages the 1021-acre Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA) in cooperation with the Middle Patuxent Environmental Foundation. This natural area is home to a diversity of wildlife, including an impressive list of about 150 species of birds, over 40 species of mammals, and numerous amphibians, reptiles, fishes, butterflies, plants and other wildlife. The primary components of the MPEA’s mission are natural resource conservation, environmental education, research, and passive recreation. The area is managed using ecosystem management concepts to restore and protect the diversity of communities found in this region. Five and one-half miles of hiking trails, with two interpretive nature trail brochures, give visitors an opportunity to enjoy and learn about the area. 

Ongoing natural resource management projects in the MPEA include meadow habitat restoration, natural resource inventories (bird surveys, vegetation surveys, etc), forest management, deer population management, stream water quality monitoring, and the volunteer program. The objective of the MPEA volunteer program is to involve members of the community in many aspects of the MPEA’s management. Volunteers can become involved in the development and maintenance of our trail system, help fight the invasive exotics that threaten our native species, study the diverse flora and fauna communities, participate in habitat management projects, and/or help develop educational programs.

To find out more about MPEA programs and management activities, contact MPEA Natural Resources Manager, Cheryl Farfaras at 410-313-4726 or email

Want to volunteer? See under "Get Involved" in the menu below.

Park Information

Rules and Regulations

To Report a Park Concern

To report damage or park concerns, leave a message on the Department's hot-line, 410-313-DIRT (3478). For emergencies dial 911.

Park Rules

The purpose of these regulations is to provide a safe and peaceful use of County parks and park land; for recreational and educational benefit and enjoyment; and for the protection and preservation of the property, facilities and natural resources of the County. Park land and recreation programs conducted on park land are open for use by all members of the public regardless of race, religion, creed, color, sex, national origin, or disability. Click on the links below for more information about our regulations.

Howard County Code

Title 19 - Recreation & Parks Regulations

Things to Remember  

  • Help to keep your parks beautiful -- please take your trash and recyclable items home. Take only pictures and leave only footprints. 
  • Dogs must be secured by a leash or lead and under control of a responsible person capable of immediate and effective restraint of the animal.

  • Dog droppings may attract disease-harboring pests, and even a friendly dog can scare the birds, wildlife and park visitors. Clean up after your dog and keep it leashed; it's the law. 
  • All of our parks are inhabited by a wide variety of wildlife such as deer, snakes, fish, rabbits, insects and birds. Please do not disturb them; remember, this is their home.

Howard County Bans Smoking in All County Parks

In a continued effort to be a model public health community and preserve its rank as Maryland’s Healthiest County, Howard County was the first jurisdiction in Maryland with a total ban on smoking and tobacco products of any kind in all the 57 County-owned parks and recreational areas. Enforcement will take the form of requesting voluntary compliance. However, if a smoker does not extinguish a smoking product, park staff will remind them of the new policy and could request exiting the property if they choose to continue smoking.

For more information about the ban, to read the Executive Order or to learn more about smoking cessation programs, click here.


Frequently Asked Questions

How is the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA) different from other parks, open space, or public land? 

The MPEA is not a park. It is over 1,000 acres of forever-protected natural habitat. 

Where can I access the MPEA? 

The MPEA has two main trailheads. The Trotter Road trailhead has parking access and a restroom facility open to the public. Street parking is available at the South Wind trailhead

How can I experience the MPEA? 

Passive recreation (foot travel only) is permitted in the MPEA. This includes hiking, bird watching, and even participating in one of our volunteer programs

What is not allowed? 

Prohibited activities include (but are not limited to) the use of motor vehicles or bicycles, horseback riding, camping, campfires, hunting, and removing or disturbing native plants or animals. The MPEA is home to many native, migratory, and even rare species. Please abstain from these and any activities that may disturb their natural habitat.  

Are dogs allowed? 

Leashed dogs are allowed within the MPEA. Please pick up after your dog and pack out what you pack in.   

Why is the inner parking area off Trotter road closed? 

This area is reserved as overflow parking for special events and programs conducted by Howard County Rec and Parks staff. 

Why isn’t the building at the end of the Trotter road parking lot open? 

This building is a maintenance shop with MPEA staff offices and is not open to the public. 

Can I fish in the MPEA? 

Yes. All Maryland DNR rules and regulations apply. Click here for more information

Park Map

Click here to view the park map.

Get Involved

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Opportunities at the MPEA - Read more about all the opportunities that exist for volunteering at the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area.

2020 Conservation Stewardship (CSP) Program Schedule - Each year, topics and volunteer opportunities change. This year's schedule includes many great programs in which you can get active, learn, contribute to habitat conservation in the MPEA and enjoy time with others in the community. Register in advance on the official Howard County volunteer portal.

2020 Weed Warrior Program – The MPEA seeks additional Weed Warriors to help maintain and improve the health of the environmental area. Prospective volunteers will undergo a training session in late April or early May, then independently remove designated non-native invasive plant species within the MPEA.

Environmental Stewardship

Many choices we make in our own homes can impact the environment. We each have the power to enact change. There are resources available so that each one of us can be environmentally responsible and take action to improve the health of our environment and the Chesapeake Bay, one backyard at a time. “From My Backyard to Our Bay” is one such excellent resource. It is a resident’s guide with tips on maintaining a healthy lawn, managing stormwater runoff, composting, recycling, reducing energy use and many more topics. Please check out the booklet “From My Backyard to Our Bay”. See what actions you are already doing and what more you can do to improve your environment and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Remember – the Bay is only as far away as the nearest storm drain.

Community Partners

Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks manages the 1021-acre Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA) in cooperation with the Middle Patuxent Environmental Foundation. For more detailed information please visit the Middle Patuxent Environmental Foundation website.

Explore the MPEA


Planning a visit? Browse the MPEA trail brochures, or take a look at our virtual tour booklet.

Full Printable Wildlife Loop Trail Brochure

Click to view expanded map


Full Printable South Wind Trail Brochure

Click to view expanded map


Virtual Tour

Click here for a virtual tour of the South Wind Trail



Interested in wildflowers? Use this guide to learn when you can find wildflowers in bloom at the MPEA!

A species list for the MPEA has been provided by the Howard County Bird Club. The bird club's contribution has been a valuable asset in the gathering of data and documenting the numerous species of flora and fauna found in our county.

Habitat Management

American Woodcock Habitat


Woodcocks in the MPEA


Invasive Species Management


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