Finzel Swamp is located in a frost pocket, creating a landscape more reminiscent of habitat found much further north in Canada.
Finzel Swamp Preserve Finzel Swamp is located in a frost pocket, creating a landscape more reminiscent of habitat found much further north in Canada. © Kent Mason

Places We Protect

Finzel Swamp Preserve

Maryland / DC

Finzel Swamp is a reminder of Maryland life 15,000 years ago.

A window into ice ages past, Finzel 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. 

Thanks to a partnership with aptly named Frostburg State University, the Conservancy is learning more about this unique natural treasure.

In 2012, a group of Frostburg students set up a weather monitoring station at the preserve. This station allows the student researchers to monitor weather conditions in relation to water levels and ultimately gather data on climate-change impacts to the area.

Why TNC Selected This Site

In addition to the shrub swamp, the preserve contains three other distinct plant communities, and is the headwaters to the Savage River.  The mountain peatlands created by this rare mix of altitude, temperature, and precipitation are home to a spectacular range of plants, birds, and mammals.

The Central Appalachians harbor the most diverse community of salamanders in the world, and pristine Finzel Swamp provides a perfect sanctuary: varied habitat, moisture, and clean water. 

What to See: Plants

  • One of the southernmost occurrences for tamarack (or larch), wild calla, and Canadian burnet in the United States.
  • Red spruce, small cranberry, cotton grass, and bog fern.

The population of American larch trees is one of only two remaining populations in Maryland.  American larch has been lost in four places in the state due to changes in climate as well as changes in natural water flow or hydrology. 

We have worked tirelessly to restore the natural hydrology of Finzel Swamp so that the American larch and other important species can thrive. 

What to See: Animals

  • Woodland jumping mouse, smoky shrew, and bobcat.
  • State-rare breeding birds found here are the Virginia rail, sedge wren, alder flycatcher, Nashville warbler, and saw-whet owl.
  • You may also be able to glimpse rose-breasted grosbeak, woodcock, cedar waxwing, scarlet tanager, wild turkey, and the whip-poor-will. 
Forested wetlands at Finzel Swamp Preserve
Finzel Swamp
This 'frost pocket' captures moisture and cold air to create a landscape where visitors can see animals such as saw-whet owls, bobcats and wild turkeys.

Finzel Swamp Preserve Finzel 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.

The Nature Conservancy’s preserves are set aside to protect natural plant and animal communities. We invite you to observe and enjoy these preserves, but remember that every visitor has an impact. Please follow these guidelines to protect yourself and nature.

  • Preserves are open to the public during daylight hours. 
  • Passive recreation such as walking, bird watching, and photography is welcomed.  

The following activities are not allowed:

  • Bringing dogs onto the preserve.  Dogs are not permitted at any Conservancy preserve.
  • Picking flowers, mushrooms, etc.
  • Removing rocks or other parts of the landscape.
  • Smoking.
  • Camping, fires or cookouts.
  • Driving motorized vehicles, including ATV’s, except on designated access roads.
  • Biking.
  • Fishing, trapping, or hunting, except as otherwise posted.
  • Horseback riding.
  • Feeding wildlife.
  • Releasing animals or introducing plants.
  • Disposing of trash or other waste, including biodegradable materials.

To minimize your impact, we ask that you please also observe the following:

  • Use trails.
  • Avoid walking in wet, boggy areas.
  • Inspect pant legs and shoes to remove seeds before entering and when leaving the preserve. Failure to do so could introduce unwanted weeds to new locations.
  • If you flush a ground nesting bird - stop and avoid walking near the nest area.
  • Observe all posted signs.
  • Please do not remove stakes, signs, flagging, tape or other objects - they might be part of a research project.
  • Please do not trespass on private property adjacent to the preserve.

For your own comfort and enjoyment, come prepared. Wear comfortable shoes for hiking, pack some rain gear and wear long pants with socks over them to protect yourself from ticks and poison ivy.

Bring along insect repellent and sunscreen for protection. Always remember to carry a water bottle for thirst quenching. And, of course, bring your binoculars, camera, field guide and a compass.


When you get home, plan to drop your clothing directly in the laundry and do a tick check before you shower. Deer ticks, the type that carry lyme disease, are about the size of a pinhead and tend to attach in hair, under ears, underarms, trunk of the body, groin, and backs of the knees.

Remove them by gently pulling with tweezers and wipe the skin near the bite with a mild disinfectant. If, within 7-10 days after exposure, you experience a rash (especially an expanding "bull's eye" rash), chills, fever, headache, stiff neck, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and/or aching joints and muscles, contact your doctor.

You can find more information on lyme disease at or by calling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at (404) 332-4555.


If you would like to conduct research on a Nature Conservancy preserve, please share your plans with us and receive permission before starting. Contact Deborah Barber, Director of Land Management, at 301-897-8570 or

If you observe any illegal activity on a preserve such as ATV use, do not confront the offenders yourself. However, do feel free to call local law enforcement.

Enjoy your visit and please report any problems with a preserve to the Maryland Chapter at 301-897-8570.

Geocaching is a fast-growing hobby that provides an exciting way to explore the outdoors. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS, and can then share their experiences online. 

It's a great way for kids to connect with nature and learn navigation skills, with the fun reward of finding real hidden treasure.

There is one geocache at Finzel:

We invite you to explore the Conservancy's natural areas in this fun and free way.  It's a great hobby, and you may learn a little about our work as you play!

Log on to to set up a free account and start the hunt for geocaches placed by MarylandTNC

Please keep these tips in mind during your outing:

  • Caches are only accessible during normal hours of operation.
  • Stay on marked trails at all times.
  • Please leave pets at home.  Dogs are not allowed on any Conservancy preserve.
  • Do not litter; used marked receptacles to dispose of any trash.
  • Please respect the land; do not remove plants, animals, artifacts, or rocks.
  • For your safety and comfort, bring drinking water, hats, sun protection, bug repellent and use appropriate footwear.

New geocaches are not permitted on Conservancy preserves.  These sites were carefully selected for their accessibility and low impact to the environment.  For questions about geocaching at The Nature Conservancy’s preserves in Maryland, please contact Deborah Barber at

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

  • Step 1: Download the Finzel Swamp audio tour map and topic chart. This map and chart will help identify which audio tracks to play based on your location on the trail, so make sure to take a copy with you on your trip.

  • Step 2: Download and save the mp3 audio files to your handheld device. Play the corresponding track when you reach a waypoint along the trail. Listen to them all or pick & choose based on your interests! 
Tour Stops / Audio Files (mp3)

1. Introduction

2. Finzel Overview

3. Starting the Trail

4. The Edge of the Forest

5. Swamp Vegetation

6.1 First Bridge

6.2 Color of the Water

7. Spring season and frogs

8. Swamp Rose

9. Pass the First Bridge

10. Food for Migrating Birds

11. Tamarack Tree - Second Bridge

12. Water Plants

13. Beaver - Third Bridge

14. Important Birds

15. Last Bridge

16. Pass the Gate

17. Succession at the Gate

18. Finzel through the Seasons

19. Pond and Live in the Water

20. Habitats of Finzel Swamp

21. Serviceberry

22. Rare Butterfly - Fourth Bridge

23. After Second Bridge - Plants

24. Skunk Cabbage and Bear

25. Climate and Pollens

Digging into the Past A Frostburg State University graduate student is rebuilding the history of plants from thousands of years ago.