By Amanda Burke
Want to visit your local nature preserve, but don’t know where to start? The Nature Conservancy is kicking off a new series of audio tours to help guide your next trip! Download our map.
Our audio tour guides will enlighten listeners about local geology, rare species, river hydrology, and native plants and animals at selected nature preserves in Maryland/DC, Delaware and West Virginia.
Downloadable to your mobile device, these recorded chronicles will take you on six narrated journeys along trails in five different preserves. Explore wetlands at Cranesville Swamp and hike forests along Nassawango Creek. Hear how Sideling Hill Creek helps sustain the globally rare harperella and how a rare combination of natural forces carved the unique Potomac Gorge.
Nature.org spoke with Deborah Barber, land management director for Maryland/DC, about how these audio tours came about and what they offer.
Nature.org: What was the inspiration behind the audio tours?
Deborah Barber: I've worked with The Nature Conservancy for 20 years, and I really wanted to share the experience I’ve had learning from our wonderful naturalists. These experts have a real gift that allows them to transform a preserve into an educational destination for visitors.
Nature.org: How will they enhance a visitor’s experience?
Deborah Barber: Because they provide an audio experience, they don’t distract you from the fantastic visuals that nature already gives us. Our tour guides reveal how certain plants and animals interact in nature and provide greater insight into each preserve’s environment.
Nature.org: What else should visitors know?
Deborah Barber: The audio tours are like having your own naturalist whisper in your ear. But remember to download the recordings and maps before you visit! Some of our secluded preserves are spectacular, but don't provide a signal for streaming downloads to your mobile device.
Just outside D.C. is an unusual meeting place for plants and animals. Plan your visit The Potomac Gorge encompasses a landscape of great ecological significance and stunning beauty, with 15 globally rare species. Download map Our audio guides help you navigate Bear Island's renowned Billy Goat Trail, highlighting rare plants and native specimens such as the "Sigafoos tree." Download audio tour
If you want to see, smell and hear a swamp’s plant and animal life, take a hike through Cranesville. Plan your visit This Maryland and West Virginia preserve offers five trails and a 1,500-foot boardwalk that allows for easy exploration over the boggy sites. Download map Our audio tour reveals the swamp’s natural history and how it will likely respond to climate change. Download audio tour
Nassawango Creek Preserve features one of Maryland's most pristine waterways and once hosted an iron mine and furnace. Plan your visit The Leifer Trail audio tour illustrates the preserve’s human history. Download audio tour maps - Leifer Trail and Johnson Tract The Johnson Tract tour highlights natural history and management efforts such as prescribed fire, invasive species control and sustainable forestry. Download audio tours
Delaware's Ponders Tract Trail provides opportunities to view and appreciate birds, amphibians, and an array of dragonflies and butterflies. Plan your visit Download map Our audio guides reveal how a 240-acre loblolly pine plantation transformed into today’s 908-acre preserve harboring a native coastal forest of oak, hickory, tulip poplar, sassafras and red maple. Download audio tour
Sideling Hill Creek winds its way through the shale cliffs of western Maryland before finally spilling into the Potomac River. Plan your visit Download map Our audio tour covers topics such as how we are restoring natural stream buffers with native tree saplings and how we are combating invasive weeds that threaten rare plant communities. Download audio tour
A lifelong geology and ornithology enthusiast, Amanda enjoys volunteering her time to help conserve local wildlife habitats and nature. Fond of desert landscapes, her favorite state park to date is Valley of Fire in Nevada's eastern Mojave Desert. A native of Missouri and North Carolina, Amanda has worked in public affairs for the U.S. Government in Washington, D.C. since 2006.