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Carving out part of South Mountain’s rocky slope, the Mount Holly Marsh Preserve encapsulates what the surrounding landscape has to offer. Chestnut oak, pitch pine, and an under story of low-lying blueberry bushes and mountain laurel cover the ridge top. Mountain springs located along the lower slopes flow into an open sedge meadow and marsh rich with rare species, including glade spurge and golden club. Dominated by black ash, red maple and winterberry, the marsh also channels water flowing from the upland forest into Mountain Creek at the base of the mountain.
A short drive from the state capital, this mini-wilderness serves both as a sanctuary and living laboratory for many communities in central Pennsylvania. In fact, local community members organized the Holly Gap Committee to raise funds used to purchase land presently comprising the preserve. The majority of these funds came in the way of modest contributions from local residents.
Today, Cumberland County owns the Mount Holly Marsh Preserve while The Nature Conservancy manages 200 acres containing the most sensitive habitats and associated rare species. The Conservancy takes advantage of the preserve’s accessibility to the Harrisburg area to educate visitors about the preserve, and the diverse management techniques employed to maintain the landscape’s unique features.
ATV use on dirt roads. Invasion of non-native vegetation, including reed canary grass.
Implementing prescribed burns, monitoring species, controlling and removing invasive species.
Purchased by funds donated by the Mount Holly Committee. Donated to Cumberland County in 1992 and established as the county’s first dedicated open space.
Holly Gap Committee, Cumberland County Commissioners, Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs
Cumberland County, 1 mile south of the town of Mount Holly Springs
What You’ll See
A ridge top dominated by chestnut oak and pitch pine with an under story of blueberry, huckleberry and mountain laurel. A rich seepage swamp surrounded by red maple, black ash, spicebush, winterberry, poison sumac, and holly. Spotted, painted, wood, snapping and stinkpot turtles. Northern copperhead snakes. Water-dependent minks and muskrats. Birds including Canada geese, mallards, wood ducks, great blue herons, belted kingfishers, green-backed herons and American woodcock. Rare species, including glade spurge, golden club, horned pondweed and buckthorn.
Hike the wide path along Mountain Creek for a half-mile to view the wetland on one side and the upland forest on the other. Other trails in the area can be viewed on a map in the parking area. Fishing is permitted along Mountain Creek. Hunting is restricted to the more than 700 acres of upland wooded preserve where wild turkey and white-tailed deer thrive. Pick blueberries along the dry upland slopes.
For questions, or more information about the preserve, please contact The Nature Conservancy at:
2101 North Front Street
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17110
Phone: (717) 232-6001
Take Pennsylvania Turnpike to exit 226/16 for Carlisle. Follow signs to I-81 south, to exit 47A for Route 34 south. Go south on Route 34 through Mount Holly Springs, about 6 miles. You will pass Deer Lodge on the right. Soon after Deer Lodge, turn right onto the driveway at Mount Holly Marsh Preserve, which is marked by a sign. The dirt road will follow a stream for approximately 1/8 mile. The parking lot will be on the left.