The Nature Conservancy has long recognized the importance of America’s public lands. Americans have a deep-rooted tradition of turning to our landscape to sustain and enrich our lives. Even during times of national crisis, America’s greatest leaders have committed to conservation as a means of uplifting our people and healing our nation.
- President Lincoln authorized the protection of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as California state parks in June 1864 — just days before Confederate forces advanced through Maryland to within five miles of D.C.
- During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps helped save our land and a generation of young men, including 30,000 who joined “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” in Maryland.
Today, the Conservancy supports policy initiatives such as America’s Great Outdoors and urges a permanent commitment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
While the following sites represent only a fraction of our projects in Maryland, we hope these highlights will inspire you to explore and protect our great outdoors.
After all, this land is your land.
The Conservancy established its first Maryland preserve in 1957 at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, now open as a Calvert County park. Mammoths once roamed this primeval swamp where today’s visitors come to enjoy spring wildflowers and to marvel at ancient bald cypress trees. Calvert’s Natural Resources Division operates a nature center and boardwalk and offers a range of educational programs.
The National Park Service and the Conservancy jointly manage Bear Island in the ecologically rich Potomac Gorge. The popular Billy Goat Trail offers a rugged hiking experience, along with beautiful river and gorge views. The island and trail are easily accessible from the Great Falls Inn Visitor Center at C&O Canal National Historical Park.
The Conservancy is part of a broad partnership that has helped protect valuable wetlands at 25,000-acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, one of America’s premier waterfowl areas. The refuge’s main visitor attraction is the Wildlife Drive, which can be driven, biked or hiked. Four land and three paddling trails offer additional birding and wildlife-watching opportunities, as well as hunting, fishing and crabbing.
Adjacent to Blackwater in Dorchester County is the Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area which the Conservancy helped expand by acquiring Savanna Lake. Fishing Bay is Maryland’s largest wildlife management area, with 29,000 acres featuring large expanses of tidal marshes dotted with wooded islands. Boat ramps and paddle trails offer access for a variety of traditional outdoor recreation pursuits.
The state’s 2007 acquisition of Wilderness Ranch from the Conservancy secured a key link in a 9,500-acre chain of conservation lands. Wilderness Ranch connected the Conservancy’s Cranesville Swamp Preserve to the mountain forests, valleys and streams of Garrett State Forest, which offers camping, fishing and hunting, plus trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and snowmobiling.
The Conservancy and Baltimore County worked with the state to establish North Point State Park in 1987. This 1,300-acre park on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay once served as a private retreat for Bethlehem Steel executives, but today belongs to all Marylanders, offering visitors a wading beach, fishing pier, hiking trails and scenic overlooks.
During the 1990s, the Conservancy, the American Chestnut Land Trust and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources worked together to protect some 3,000 acres in the Parkers Creek watershed, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. Explore the area’s most prominent landmark with a visit to Calvert Cliffs State Park, where you can hike, bike, fish and even search the beach for fossils.
The Conservancy acquired the Wolf Swamp and Bear Pen areas of Savage River State Forest in Garrett County. Maryland’s largest state forest features 12,000 acres designated as “Wildlands,” and its nearly 55,000 total acres protect an important watershed, while offering activities ranging from backpacking to cross-country skiiing to mountain biking.