Bacon Ridge Natural Area
The 900+ acre Bacon Ridge Natural Area is a true natural gem with expansive marshes, mature forests, and at the center, its namesake creek Bacon Ridge Branch. Positioned in Crownsville and in the headwaters of the South River, Bacon Ridge Natural Area is owned by Anne Arundel County and managed by the County’s Department of Recreation and Parks.
The central 630 acres of the natural area is protected by a conservation easement coheld by Scenic Rivers and the Maryland Environmental Trust to preserve the natural features of the land.
The easement was acquired in 2010. The terms of the easement allow for the land to be open to the public as a park for passive recreation, primarily hiking and nature study. The delicate balance of preservation and public enjoyment is overseen by the Bacon Ridge Natural Area Stewardship Committee, which makes recommendations to the County on how the parkland is managed. The committee welcomes suggestions on how this public asset should be used.
Scenic Rivers is committed to promoting responsible access to the public portions of Bacon Ridge and to further protecting surrounding land by working with local landowners to secure conservation easements. We collaborate with the County and other partners to facilitate public access to the land. For example, we host the annual Walk for the Woods in the spring to celebrate families exploring the outdoors and the beauty of Bacon Ridge. In recent years, we have approved the County’s request to build several miles of hiking/biking trails to increase public access and enjoyment of Bacon Ridge.
The first publicly accessible trail at Bacon Ridge was built in the summer and fall of 2015, totaling 2.5 miles. The trail is located off of Hawkins Road, a few hundred yards past the overpass of Interstate 97. There is a small 10-12 space gravel parking lot for public use. The second phase of 4.5+ miles of trail was added in fall of 2016. A map of the trails is available at the trailhead. These natural surface trails are open to hikers, mountain bikers and dogs on leashes.
Ecological and Historical Significance of Bacon Ridge
The Bacon Ridge Natural Area is both ecologically and historically significant. Local folklore claims that the creek that runs through the heart of the natural area is named Bacon Ridge Branch because there was a hog farm in the center of the natural area over a century ago.
Portions of the Bacon Ridge Natural Area were once part of the Crownsville Hospital property. The Crownsville Hospital opened in 1911 to serve African American patients needing psychiatric care. Today there remains a hospital cemetery on the grounds of the natural area with over 1,800 patient’s graves, marked only by numbers.
Additionally, Bacon Ridge includes the remains of the Charles S. Waters Mill. The mill race and many foundations are still visible. The County’s Cultural Resources Division has documented 16 discrete archaeological sites with intact evidence of prehistoric or Native American campsites, 18th, 19th and 20th century structural foundations, and artifact scatters within Bacon Ridge.