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 Cecil Bird Club
  A Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society


  Promoting birding in northeastern Maryland
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Cecil Birding Hotspots
C&D Canal Levees
Description The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal provides a shipping channel between the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, and stretches from Delaware City at the east end to Welch Point on the Elk River at the west end.  The levees are the terraced banks of the canal, formed by piling up the dredge spoils during the initial digging and successive enlargements of the canal.  Along much of the levees, roads at different levels of the terraces allow public access, and some tracts are designated as national or state wildlife areas. The dredge spoils are barren and gravelly, and support a scrub-shrub and grassland habitat, with conifers in some areas.  Natural freshwater pools form in some places.
How to get there In the Cecil County portion of the canal, there are three main access points for vehicles:
  • from North Chesapeake City, take Rt. 285 east into town.  Bear right onto Lock St. and follow the street downhill to the T-intersection at the canal.  Turn left (east) onto a paved road at the edge of the canal;  this connects to a system of roads that allows you to drive to St. George's in Delaware.  The paving ends when the road reaches the state line.
  • from south Chesapeake City, take Rt. 286 east to Bethel WMA at the intersection of Bethel Cemetary Rd.  Turn left (north) onto Bethel Cemetary Rd. and continue straight ahead to the entrance to the canal levees.  A left (west) at the levees will take you to a productive area on the back side of Bethel WMA and the Canal Museum; a right turn (east) will take you to the Delaware line in just a couple hundred feet.  On weekdays before 4 p.m., it is possible to enter the Canal Museum grounds from the levees and to exit through their gate onto Rt. 286 (gate locked at other times).
  • from south Chesapeake City, use 3rd St. to reach the west side of town.  Go straight on 3rd and then right to the foot of Walnut, down a steep hill to enter the levees.  Make a left (west) at the levee road (the road to the right is blocked off).  This entrance may close without warning.

For foot access to hunting lands in the C&D Canal area, see the areas listed below under "Nearby Sites."

Map reference
  • De Lorme MD State Atlas Book:  map page 78; grid C2.
  • ADC Cecil County Map Book:  map page 18; grids E10, J9, and D10 (access points). 
  • Google map - click here
What to do after arrival Drive the levee roads, stopping at likely patches of trees, shrubs, and grass to look for birds. Pull well off the road to allow other vehicles to pass. Generally, the road at the lowest levee level (next to the canal) is always driveable for ordinary passenger vehicles, but the dirt roads on upper levels of the levee may require a four-wheel-drive, high clearance vehicle, especially after wet weather.
Birds to look for
  • Year-round:  raptors, gulls, finches, sparrows.
  • Spring, summer, and fall:  shorebirds, waders, swallows, flycatchers, grosbeaks.
Hours/Fees/Amenities No fee;  open to vehicles during daylight hours every day of the year. The closest public restroom is at the Canal Museum (Monday - Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.;  closed Sunday) or at the library in South Chesapeake City (limited hours). There is a picnic area just outside the Canal Museum along Rt. 286.
What to bring Most of the levee birding can be done with binoculars. Waterproof shoes/boots may be needed after wet weather, if you plan to walk through grass to try for sparrows.
Difficulty of walking Varies. You can bird from the car;  if you choose to walk or chase sparrows, some scrambling up and down gravelly hills may be in order.
Personal safety Take precautions and bird with a friend. Leave any valuables locked in your car and out of sight.  Stay close to your car. The levees are isolated and attract some illegal activities. Some areas are open to hunting, so check the State hunting seasons.
Nearby sites Bethel WMA, Courthouse Point WMA, Earleville WMA, Elk Forest WMA,/Welch Point WMA.
For more information
  • The C&D Canal and adjacent lands are owned primarily by the Army Corps of Engineers, which has an office in Chesapeake City (410-885-5622). 
  • The hunting areas are maintained by the MD Department of Natural Resources.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2007 Cecil Bird Club;  All rights reserved.  May be printed for personal use but may not be reproduced in any form for mass or commercial distribution without permission of the Executive Committee of the Cecil Bird Club.

 Contact Us last updated 11/1/07