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Allegany Forests Project

With the Allegany Forests Project, The Nature Conservancy is helping to preserve an area of remarkable scenic beauty across some 262,000 acres in Maryland and Pennsylvania. More than 80 rare species live here. The Allegany Forests are located in the heart of the Central Appalachian Mountains, a region identified by Conservancy scientists as globally important.

The Conservancy owns and manages 771 acres at Sideling Hill Creek Preserve and 85 acres at Selinger Marsh Preserve. In addition, we have helped the state of Maryland protect 1,522 acres as additions to Green Ridge State Forest and the Aaron Straus Wilderness Area.

Beauty in Every Season

The Allegany Forests Project area offers nature’s gems in every season.  Springtime brings the colorful blooms of redbuds and serviceberries, along with the start of birding season.

The extensive forests attract many birds, including the cerulean warbler, a species that only breeds in older forest stands like those in western Maryland. More than 40 fish species swim in Sideling Hill Creek, and rare freshwater mussels, including the green floater, thrive on stream bottoms.

Interspersed with the forests are shale barrens that host a unique group of plants, butterflies and moths. Lepidopterists come in search of the flitting orange-brown northern metalmark or rare Olympian marble butterfly.

At summer’s end, one of the world’s 10 remaining populations of a rare aquatic wildflower called Harperella blooms on cobble bars in Sideling Hill Creek and Fifteen Mile Creek.  Each fall, birders arrive to count the raptors passing through. And in the quiet of winter, hikers can walk all day without seeing another person or hearing a car.

Visitors can experience the fantastic outdoor recreation and natural beauty of a huge area that is more than 70 percent forested, whether taking a day-long float trip, a quick dip in Sideling Hill Creek at the Conservancy’s preserve, or hiking in the 50,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest. And they can see for themselves why The Nature Conservancy believes in the importance of working with partners to preserve not just one shale barren or creek or stand of trees, but a large mosaic of landscapes where many species can thrive for generations.

Current Conservation at Work
  • Nearly 400 miles of roads contribute harmful sediment pollution to streams. One of the Conservancy’s key partners, the Appalachian Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, is studying how land uses affect sediment pollution. Once we know which sources are the biggest contributors of sediment, we can better address the problem. The Conservancy is working with several partners on this issue through the Better Roads, Cleaner Streams Project.
  • The Nature Conservancy works directly with private landowners to protect the region’s rural character and natural heritage. We are teaching landowners about the role conservation easements can play in their long-term land stewardship plans and encouraging them to consider the Conservancy as a buyer if they decide to sell. With our partners, we conserved 340 acres of farm and forest land at Allegany Forests in 2007 through a purchased conservation easement (the first in this area) and the purchase of the largest forested inholding in Green Ridge State Forest.

For more information, contact Donnelle Keech at (301) 722-0313 or e-mail her at

There are two visitor areas within the Conservancy’s Sideling Hill Creek Preserve.

What to See: Plants

  • The world's healthiest population of the globally-rare aquatic wildflower, harperella.
  • Twelve rare, endemic (occurring only on the shale barrens and nowhere else) plants including the nationally-endangered evening primrose, shale ragwort, and Kate's mountain clover.

What to See: Animals

  • Olympian marble butterfly, green floater mussel, tiger beetle
  • Wild turkey, hawks, and bobcat.

Download an Audio Tour

Planning a visit to Sideling Hill Creek? Before your trip, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. It's like having a naturalist in your pocket!

During your audio tour, the Conservancy's Donnell Keech, Allegany Forests project director, takes hikers around the trail to see shale barrens, experience native forest types, and forge the stream - if you dare!

How to Get the Most from Your Visit

  • Bring plenty of drinking water, sun protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses), rain gear, and bug protection. Binoculars, field guides, and a camera may be useful.
  • Pets are not allowed on Conservancy preserves or field trips.
  • Smoking is not permitted.
  • Please do not remove any plants, animals, or rocks.
  • Wear socks and waterproof shoes. Wearing light colors will help you spot and remove ticks.

To the two visitor areas within the Conservancy’s Sideling Hill Creek Preserve:

  • From Washington's Capital Beltway (I-495), take I-270 North to I-70 West and follow as below:
  • From Baltimore (I-695), take I-70 West and follow as below:
  • Follow I-70 West from Frederick to Hancock. Take I-68 West towards Cumberland.  Exit I-68 at High Germany Road.

To reach the hiking trails at the Bryant Tract:
Turn right at the stop sign. Cross Sideling Hill Creek after just a couple hundred feet (bridge is inconspicuous).  Immediately after crossing the creek, take a sharp right (back-angle) down dirt lane to edge of hay field. Park within the fenced parking area. Please do not block access to dirt lane across the field.

To fish or swim in the creek at the Yonker Tract:
Turn left at the stop sign, and cross over the interstate. Turn left at the next stop sign, and then take the next right onto Swain Road.  Follow for approximately 2 miles, until it takes a bend and enters the woods.  Turn left onto Swain Hollow Road.  Follow for approximately 2 miles to a four-way intersection, turn left.  Parking lot is on the right; this road ends in a ford at Sideling Hill Creek.


Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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