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Cranesville Swamp

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Take a self-guided audio tour of the preserve. View All

Get Directions

The Nature Conservancy first began to protect Cranesville Swamp in 1960. Since then, the preserve has grown to encompass nearly 2,000 acres through land purchases and donations. We're grateful for your generous support for our efforts. Will you help us continue this work?

Why You Should Visit

A window into ice ages past, Cranesville Swamp is located in a "frost pocket," an area where the surrounding hills capture moisture and cold air that conspire to create a landscape more reminiscent of habitat found much further north in Canada.  Given Cranesville Swamp’s lush forest and wetland, it’s not surprising that it is home to an exceptional variety of animals. In total, more than 50 rare plants and animals live at Cranesville.

An information booth identifies several trails, one of which includes a quarter-mile boardwalk over the swamp. Admission is free.

Before your trip to Cranesville, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. Naturalists Rodney Bartgis and Kevin Dodge discuss bog plants, birds, bears, and how the area will respond to climate change.


Four hour drive from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., just past Deep Creek Lake.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

In 1965, Cranesville Swamp was one of the first National Natural Landmarks designated by the National Park Service.  The mountain peatlands created by this rare mix of altitude, temperature, and precipitation are home to a spectacular range of plants, birds, and mammals.

What the Conservancy Is Doing Here

  • The primary threat to the unique setting of Cranesville Swamp is a warming of the local climate, causing a loss of habitat and species. The Conservancy is working to prevent a loss of species by restoring forests, managing wildlife and promoting compatible land management in the valley.
  • 1,774 acres purchased by the Conservancy since 1960.
  • Since 2002, the Conservancy has planted 13,000 red spruce and 1,550 white pines over 250 acres.
  • Volunteer Weed Watchers monitor the preserve for new weeds.
Related Stories
Winter in a Frost Pocket - Passport to Nature: On a cold day at one of Maryland’s coldest preserves, signs of life abound.

The preserve is open year-round during daylight hours.
Before you visit, please download the Cranesville Swamp Brochure and the Cranesville Swamp Trail Guide for further information (pdf).


Visiting the Preserve
Cranesville Swamp Preserve is open year-round during daylight hours for nature walks and birding in designated areas. 

If you want to see, hear and smell the swamp’s plant and animal life — take a hike! There are five trails to choose from, all less than 2 miles long. There are some wet and boggy areas, so please bring proper footwear.

One of the highlights of the preserve is the 1,500-foot boardwalk, which allows for easy exploration over the wettest parts of the bog. Take your time and get a closeup look at the sphagnum moss, sundew and tamarack.

Download an Audio Tour

Planning a visit to Cranesville Swamp? Before your trip, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. Naturalists Rodney Bartgis and Kevin Dodge discuss bog plants, birds, bears, and how the area will respond to climate change.

Downloadable Files (mp3 format) 

  1. Introduction to Cranesville Swamp
  2. History of Cranesville Swamp
  3. Cranesville Habitat and Man's Role
  4. Heaths
  5. Hydrology of Cranesville Swamp
  6. Red Pines
  7. Fungi
  8. Powerline View
  9. Beaver Pond, Green Frog, and Warblers
  10. Star Violet
  11. Origin of Water in Cranesville
  12. Cinnamon Fern
  13. Climate Change
  14. Tamarack
  15. Red Spruce
  16. Logging the Wetland
  17. Evaporation and Transpiration
  18. Maples and Mountain Oak Grass
  19. Similarities and Differences between Wetlands
  20. Bristly Sarsaparilla
  21. Roads
What to See: Plants and Animals
  • The southernmost tamarack (or larch) forest in the United States.
  • Red spruce and eastern hemlock.
  • There are 19 distinct plant communities that include Sphagnum moss, cranberries, insectivorous round-leaved sundews, and other plants typical of a Canadian climate.
  • Northern water shrew.
  • State-rare breeding birds found here are the golden-crowned kinglet, alder flycatcher, Nashville warbler, and saw-whet owl.

From Baltimore/DC (approximately 3.5 hours)

  • From either I-270 or I-70, head to western Maryland
  • In Hancock, take I-68 west to exit 14/Keysers Ridge and follow Route 219 south for 19 miles
  • From Route 219, turn right (west) on Mayhew Inn Road, and after 1.4 miles turn left on Bray School Road
  • In 1.6 miles at a T intersection, turn right on Oakland/Sang Run Road (Route 15)
  • After 1 mile, turn left on Swallow Falls Road and follow for 2.6 miles to a sign for Youghiogheny Mountain Resort
  • At the sign, take a hard right on Cranesville Road
  • After approximately 4 miles, turn left onto Muddy Creek Road and immediately park on the gravel at the corner of the intersection.  Our informational kiosk with brochures, trail guides, and other information can be found here
  • To get to the trail head for the swamp, visitors must take a left back onto Cranesville Rd. and take the next left onto Lake Ford Rd
  • Take a sharp right curve in the road and stay to the right at the fork
  • Stay to the right at the next fork in the road, and Cranesville Swamp is 0.2 mile down the gravel road. Park in the lot

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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