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Tram Ride in Patuxent Refuge

When I first posted about Greenbelt’s neighbor, the Patuxent Research Refuge, I determined to come back sometime when the trams were running.  Which I did recently, and here’s my short report.

Lookout at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge

Just outside the Visitor’s Center, there’s some fine viewing.

Tram tour of Patuxent Wildlife Refuge
I grabbed an outside seat for better viewing but honestly, it was all good.


Wildlife seen from tram tour of Patuxent Wildlife Refuge

Our guide was a charmer named Jim who kept his last name to himself – due to possible career at Langley?  We’ll never know.  But thanks to decades as a tour guide for the Baltimore Zoo, he knows his stuff and lucky for us, he made the simplest things in nature pretty darn interesting.  One of the highlights was this view of turtles warming themselves in the sun.


Jim got all excited about spotting some Lycopodium popping up along the tram path.  I’d never heard of it before so consulted Wiki and learned that it’s a “clubmoss,” a/k/a ground pine or creeping cedar.  The examples we saw were about as large as the one in this photo from Wiki – and about as exciting – but Jim had everyone oohing and aahing.  Guy’s got talent.

In the photo on the right are some of the snags (standing dead trees) that we passed, which we learned are very important for wildlife.

Another highlight of the tour was beaver lodges – not dams which could cause flooding, but structures built of mud and branches in the middle of water bodies.

When our driver (Wayne Smith, who’s happily forthcoming about his whole name) stopped the tram, we gathered around to see a beaver up close and personal!  A beaver’s skull, that is, which Jim is holding in the photo below.  These 70-pound rodents have amazing incisors that never stop growing – right into their skulls.

Drivers of tram tours of Patuxent Wildilfe Refuge
Driver Wayne Smith, and Docent Jim


All in all, a good time was had by adults and kids, too.  Click here to learn about more cool events coming up at the Refuge.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

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