Stillfork Swamp occurs in a broad valley in the Western Allegheny Plateau Ecoregion. The wetlands were formed by a complex series of events related to Pleistocene glaciation. Blockage of the pre-glacial Dover River caused the Stillfork Valley to fill with water, forming a finger lake. Deposits from the surrounding hills gradually filled the valley, forming a slack-water silt terrace. The resulting broad, flat, and poorly-drained land created favorable conditions for the various wetland communities to develop.
The entire swamp encompasses over 600 acres within the Stillfork Valley and its major tributaries and is drained by Stillfork Creek, a small, slow moving stream characterized by an extremely low gradient. Stillfork Creek now flows into Sandy Creek, and into the Tuscarawas River. Beaver utilize the area to a great extent.
Examples of other species that can be found at this preserve include: Plants: water-starwort—an Ohio state listed plant; Birds: American bittern, least bittern, marsh wren, green heron, swamp sparrow, common snipe, Virginia rail; Amphibians/Reptiles: spotted turtles
Why We Selected This Site
This is one of the most extensive inland marshes in the unglaciated Western Allegheny Plateau Ecoregion of eastern Ohio, and contains a diversity of other wetland habitat types. The area has been long recognized for its importance as nesting grounds for a variety of waterfowl and marsh birds.
Most of the threats to the system are from past attempts to modify the drainage in the valley. In the past, there was concern about a series of drainage ditches that dissect the marsh, but their impact to the system remains relatively unknown. Many of the ditches are now occupied by beaver lodges. Cattle graze on adjacent parcels, and in at least one area, right up to the preserve boundary, so nutrient enrichment from manure runoff could affect the wetland communities. Although apparently not present now, acid mine drainage and other effects of surface mining (a major industry in the region) are perhaps the most serious potential long-term threats to Stillfork Swamp.
What We Have Done/Are Doing
Stillfork Swamp was one of the Ohio Chapter’s first projects due to the efforts of Professor J. Arthur Herrick and local naturalist Forest Buchanan. The first parcel was purchased in 1963. The Nature Conservancy cooperatively owns and manages this preserve with Kent State University.
The overall goal for Stillfork Swamp is to maintain the wetland communities and quality of bird habitat. The preserve design is being evaluated for ways to improve long term protection for this site. Stewardship at the preserve includes periodic surveys for bird species, monitoring of beaver activity, and controlling non-native invasive species.