Deer in Spring Landscape

Heater's Island WMA

Accessible by boat only, Heater's Island lies in the Potomac River in southern Frederick County. Forested and inhabited only by wildlife, the island was home for a Piscataway tribe as early as the 7th century. After a smallpox outbreak forced the villagers to leave in 1705, the island was acquired by the Nelson family, descended from 17th century Swedish immigrants.

A family of wood ducks traveling along the Potomac River

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What To See

Wild turkeys thrive on the island and many species of waterfowl migrate up the Potomac River in the fall. These include mallards, wood ducks, black ducks, mergansers, gadwall and Canada Geese. Forest songbirds nest in the spring and summer. Other species found here include white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and cottontail rabbits.

What To Do

A popular spot for waterfowlers, Heater's Island WMA also offers limited white-tailed deer and turkey hunting. Anglers find plenty of bass, bluegill, sunfish, carp, eel and catfish.

Area Regulations

  • Use of Heaters Island WMA is generally permitted seven days a week throughout the year
  • Hunting is allowed in accordance with open seasons and shooting hours
  • No special permits or drawings are required to hunt this area, except appropriate licenses and stamps.
  • Trapping by permit only.
  • Non-hunting Users Guide

  • Non-hunting visitors are welcome.
  • Be aware of open hunting seasons and visit accordingly
  • Season dates available in newspapers, on the Internet, and at some area stores
  • Colorful and melodious forest songbirds nest here in the spring and summer, with many others migrating through.
  • Anglers will find plenty of bass, bluegill, sunfish, carp, eel and catfish.
  • Site Management Goals

  • Heaters Island has been reverting back to forest since its acquisition in 1972. 
  • The area is now in a young forest stage and provides habitat for many small game, bird and mammal species.
  • Directions

    Heater's Island WMA lies in the Potomac River near southern Frederick county and the Virginia borderAccess to Heaters Island WMA is by boat only. To reach the nearest boat ramp at Point of Rocks, take Route 15 south from Frederick. At Point of Rocks, turn left onto Route 28 and follow the signs to the boat ramp. Heater's Island is located down the river from the ramp and is the first island below the Route 15 bridge. For additional information, contact the Indian Springs Wildlife Office at (301) 842-2702.


    This area is a part of Marylandís Department of Natural Resources public land system and is managed by the Wildlife and Heritage Service. The primary mission of the WMA system is to conserve and enhance wildlife populations and their respective habitats as well as to provide public recreational use of the Stateís wildlife resources.

    Eighty-five percent of the funding for Maryland's state wildlife programs comes from hunting license fees and a federal excise tax on sport hunting devices and ammunition. The federal aid funds are derived from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (or Pittman-Robertson) Fund, which sportsmen and women have been contributing to since 1937. Each state receives a share of the funds, which is administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; these funds are used for wildlife conservation and hunter education programs, including the management of the WMA system.

    Other sources of funds for land acquisition include Program Open Space Funding for Maryland's State and local parks and conservation areas, provided through The Department of Natural Resources' Program Open Space. Established in 1969, Program Open Space symbolizes Maryland's long-term commitment to conserving natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.