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Places We Protect

Nassawango Creek Preserve

Maryland / DC

Two men paddle a red canoe through a heavily forested swamp. They and the surrounding trees are reflected in the still water.
Canoeing Nassawango This tannin-stained waterway is steeped in early American history and one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in Maryland. © Alan Eckert Photography

Climb into a canoe and enjoy a tranquil paddle.

Overview

Description

Nassawango Creek is one of the last pieces of true wilderness left on the East Coast. Dominated by bald cypress and black gum, the massive trees of this primeval forest envelop visitors with ample shade and security.

Starting with a gift of 154 acres given by E. Stanton Adkins in 1978, the effort to establish the preserve was spearheaded and led by a group of Worcester County residents who recognized the beauty and diversity of Nassawango Creek and its intrinsic value to the region.

For more than 40 years, TNC has worked to protect 14,787 acres of swamp and upland forest along Nassawango Creek. Today the preserve includes 9,953 acres of this land, and is one of the northernmost remaining examples of a bald cypress swamp.

A legacy of support

The Nassawango Creek Stewardship Committee was formed in 1979, and has been going strong ever since!  The committee ranks among the longest-serving groups of preserve volunteers in the history of The Nature Conservancy. 

Contact Chase McLean at chase.mclean@tnc.org to learn how you can become a part of this dynamic committee and help ensure the ongoing care of this beloved preserve.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Dogs are not allowed at this preserve.

Hours

Open daily, dawn to dusk.

Highlights

Kayaking, canoeing, nature photography, hiking, self-guided audio yours. Explore Nassawango by water or hike one of the preserve's trails.

Size

9,953 acres

Explore our work in Maryland/DC

Visit

  • What to Do

    Nassawango's tannin-stained waterways are steeped in early American history and one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in Maryland. From Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Nassawango Creek flows southward into the Pocomoke River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

    Nassawango Creek abuts portions of Pocomoke State Forest, a nearly 15,000-acre forest of loblolly pine and cypress swamps. Large, intact forests also serve as corridors for large mammals, such as deer, and help sustain the overall health of the forest by allowing the forest to survive and recover from destructive events such as hurricanes and wild fires.

    Along the boundary of Nassawango Creek Preserve is Furnace Town, an historic village.

  • What to See: Plants and Animals

    Nassawango is home to an abundant array of wildlife and native plants. Bobcat, mink, fox and a host of interior forest nesting bird species thrive here as a result of maturity, ecological integrity and relative scarcity of harmful invasive plants and animals. Rare plants such as pink lady’s slipper, cardinal flower and Indian pipe color the forest floor.

    With more than 60 recorded species of migratory birds, such as the scarlet tanager, yellow-throated vireos and prothonotary warbler, there’s no doubt that Nassawango Creek is a critical stopover point for migratory birds. The preserve's Cubler Payne Forest is part of an Audubon Important Birding Area.

  • Geocaching

    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 are three geocaches at Nassawango:

    We invite you to explore TNC'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 www.geocaching.com 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 at any MD/DC TNC 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 TNC preserves. These sites were carefully selected for their accessibility and low impact to the environment. For questions about geocaching at TNC preserves in Maryland, please contact Deborah Barber at dbarber@tnc.org.

Self Guided Audio Tours

Explore Nassawango Creek Preserve with a self-guided audio tour on your handheld device. It's like having a naturalist in your pocket! 

Please note: The Leiffer trail is temporarily closed due to damage to the boardwalk caused by flooding.

MEET YOUR GUIDES

Deborah Landau (Johnson Tract, Leifer Trail) is the Maryland/DC chapter's conservation ecologist. She enjoys exploring nature both on her own and with others, especially her children, who often spot interesting things that adults miss. She enjoys cooking, traveling, gardening, and learning about geology.

David Ray (Prothonotary Trail) is an applied forest ecologist whose work focuses on management and restoration of coastal plain habitats.

Janice Ward (Prothonotary Trail), a retired school library media specialist, has been a member of TNC's Nassawango Preserve Stewardship Committee since 1995. She has been involved with the conservation of Eastern bluebirds since 2006, with the establishment of the Nassawango Creek Bluebird Trail on TNC property near her home.

Resources: Audio Tour Maps

Audio Tours

Explore: Orchids

Following the reintroduction of fire through controlled burns at sites around Nassawango Creek, plants that haven’t been found there in decades are suddenly making an appearance. Among them are several species of rare orchid, which bloom for just a few weeks over the summer.

Close up view of a white orchid. The lower portion of the four lobed blooms is fringed and longer than the others, resembling a togue.
Close up view of a golden yellow orchid. The lower portion of the four lobed blooms is fringed and longer than the others, resembling a togue.
A black and orange butterfly sits on a small white orchid collecting nectar. Tall grasses and vegetation surround the plant.
Close up view of a pale yellow orchid. The lower portion of the four lobed blooms is fringed, forming a longer tongue.
A clump of pitcher plants grow on the forest floor. The squat green tubes have a large opening to trap insects.
Close up view of the mouth of a pitcher plant showing the tiny white hairs that line the plant's mouth and help trap insects.
Delicate white blossoms sprout from thin stalks growing out of a sundew plant. Sticky lobes help trap insects.
Close up view of the flat lobes of a sundew plant. Spikey fringes are each tipped with a bead of sticky nectar to trap insects.
A carnivorous sundew plant grows on the forest floor. Spikey fringes are each tipped with a bead of sticky nectar to trap insects.
A low fire consumes pine needles as it moves towards the thick green moss protecting a purple pitcher plant.
View looking up along the trunk of a white cedar tree.
Mature Atlantic White Cedar These majestic trees can live up to 1,000 years when their habitats are undisturbed. © Matt Kane / TNC

Conservation At Work

Since 2009, more than 36,000 Atlantic white cedar trees have been planted at Nassawango Creek Preserve in partnership with the National Aquarium and with the help of the Maryland Conservation Corps. Many of the seedlings were grown in the classrooms of Wicomico and Worcester County middle schools, and the students come out to the preserve every spring to plant their trees.

We’re also using fire and selective thinning to restore habitat that would have historically been found here—a savanna-like habitat of undulating grasslands punctuated with mixed pines and oaks and other drought-tolerant hardwoods. Habitat that will help support millions of songbirds that flock to the Eastern Shore to rest and replenish themselves.

Fire is an important tool in our restoration kit. A frequent cycle of controlled burns mimics the natural occurrence of fire on the landscape, stimulating grass and wildflower seeds that can lay dormant in the soil for decades.

In addition to profound ecological benefits, restoration forestry at Nassawango provides work for local loggers and mills, supporting an industry that has existed on the Eastern Shore for generations.

TNC has a long-standing relationship with the Eure family whose logging business has been in operation for three generations. Selective thinning requires adopting practices such as power washing equipment to prevent spreading invasive weeds. The cutting itself requires close attention to different management zones, selecting or leaving individually marked trees. Pine trees that are removed from the preserve are trimmed, sorted and loaded onto trucks for delivery to a nearby mill.

“It’s the satisfaction of doing what’s right in the long run,” says owner Frankie Eure, adding that his seat high up on the loader allows him to appreciate the future forest he sees beginning to take shape.

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WATCH: Explore Nassawango's history and learn how TNC is restoring habitat and engaging the next generation of conservationists.

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