Birding Howard County, Maryland

Savage Mill Trail Detailed Information

History, scenery, and natural history combine to create one of the most enjoyable sites for walking in Howard County.

GPS: N39 08 03.3 W76 49 30.4

Habitat: The wide main trail runs through deciduous woods on a slope elevated above rocky river rapids constituting a section of the Fall Line on the Little Patuxent River. A small trail that angles uphill goes through mixed woods containing a few mature pines. At the west edge of these woods, there is a small section of scrub with younger pines and dense undergrowth.

Layout: The wide, level, crushed rock path runs along the abandoned right-of-way of a B&O Railroad spur that once served a granite quarry in Guilford. The trail starts on Foundry Street in Savage (park on the street) and extends west to a deadend. The Little Patuxent River is visible along most of the trail. Near the west end of the trail, the Little Patuxent and Middle Patuxent rivers join continuing as the Little Patuxent River. It is possible to access the riverbank via five different sets of wooden steps at intervals along the trail. A little more than halfway along the main path a narrow unmarked trail angles up the south hillside. It continues uphill for several hundred yards through mature mixed woods coming out behind a fenced community. Forest Hill Elementary School is to the left. After exploring this area on a few narrow paths, it is necessary to retrace your steps to the lower main trail. From that point, continue west to an opening with a bench. A large tree across the trail marks the end of the maintained section, although it is possible to pick your way carefully around the tree and continue on a narrow trail for a short distance.

Best Time to Visit: Because this trail is near the southern border of the county, tree bloom and leaf emergence is among the earliest. It is sometimes visited by migrant birds a few days earlier than more northern or western areas. The last half of April and the first week of May are among the best times here. October when the leaves are changing color is another good time to visit.

Birding: This trail is most attractive to those individuals with multiple interests—or those who just want a scenic walk. Birding is best in early spring when other parts of the county lag the leaf development of this southern area. Wood Duck, Belted Kingfisher, and Louisiana Waterthrush are breeders in the vicinity; Chimney Swifts nest in some of the historic buildings in Savage. Small numbers of most regular migrants are visitors, but one can never be sure what will turn up. Species such as Least Flycatcher, Golden-winged Warbler, and Brewster's Warbler have been welcome surprises. Prairie Warblers used to be regular nesters in the scrub at the end of the uphill trail; they are still occasionally seen during migration. In the fall, visitors at dusk may witness hundreds of chinmey swifts swirling and dropping into the tall Savage Mill chimney. There is a fine stand of pawpaw trees near the entrance providing larval food for Zebra Swallowtail butterflies, and bladdernut, an understory tree with intriguing inflated seedpods, can be seen along the trail. The river is a popular gathering spot for young people and families in warm weather.

Highlights: During periods of high water, the boiling rapids merit a special trip. The iron Bollman Truss Bridge at the entrance, dating to 1869 and believed to be the last of its kind in the world, is a National Historic Landmark. The Savage Mill, across the river from the trail entrance, was once a cotton mill. It is now a commercial site, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A diversity of spring wildflowers can be found along the trail. This section of the river is also excellent for several riverine dragonflies, including a state-rare species. Because it is annually stocked with trout, the river attracts fly fishermen.

Handicapped Access: The wide level path allows good views of the river and adjacent wooded areas. It drains rapidly after rains.

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