Critical Area Driving Tour is closed to vehicle traffic. Hiking and biking the trail are allowed. Vehicles will not have access to the tour roadway. Visitors are encouraged to hike and bike the tour roadway instead.
Want to learn more about the Bay and the Patuxent River? We suggest hiking or bicycling the four-mile route that makes up the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Tour. The roadway is open daily for hiking and bicycling.
Established in 1986, the tour connects Jug Bay Natural Area with Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary and features educational displays, observation towers and a 1,000-foot long wooden bridge across the marsh. Visitors can pick up a self-guided tour brochure from the Patuxent River Visitors Center. Horses are not allowed on the bridge.
A cooperative project between M-NCPPC and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, this project was a result of the Chesapeake Bay Initiative. The Chesapeake Bay Protection Program, passed in 1984, required each local jurisdiction bordering the Bay and its tributaries to develop a program to protect natural resources, shorelines and water quality. The Critical Area Criteria called for restrictions on shoreline development, designation for buffer area around tidal waters, and the development of comprehensive, local guidelines to ensure long-term protection of the natural assets of the Bay.