Open to the Public
Take a self-guided audio tour of the preserve. View All
The Nature Conservancy first began to protect Cranesville Swamp in 1960. Since then, the preserve has grown to encompass nearly 2,000 acres through land purchases and donations. We're grateful for your generous support for our efforts. Will you help us continue this work?
Why You Should Visit
A window into ice ages past, Cranesville 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. Given Cranesville Swamp’s lush forest and wetland, it’s not surprising that it is home to an exceptional variety of animals. In total, more than 50 rare plants and animals live at Cranesville.
An information booth identifies several trails, one of which includes a quarter-mile boardwalk over the swamp. Admission is free.
Before You Go
- Plan your visit with the Cranesville Swamp Brochure and Cranesville Swamp Trail Guide (pdf)
- Download the Cranesville Swamp Preserve Visitors Guide
- Download our self-guided audio tour. Naturalists Rodney Bartgis and Kevin Dodge discuss bog plants, birds, bears, and how the area will respond to climate change.
- eBird Observations
- View our complete Preserve Guidelines. Please note: dogs are not allowed at any Conservancy preserves
Four hour drive from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., just past Deep Creek Lake.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
In 1965, Cranesville Swamp was one of the first National Natural Landmarks designated by the National Park Service. The mountain peatlands created by this rare mix of altitude, temperature, and precipitation are home to a spectacular range of plants, birds, and mammals.
What the Conservancy Is Doing Here
- The primary threat to the unique setting of Cranesville Swamp is a warming of the local climate, causing a loss of habitat and species. The Conservancy is working to prevent a loss of species by restoring forests, managing wildlife and promoting compatible land management in the valley.
- 1,774 acres purchased by the Conservancy since 1960.
- Since 2002, the Conservancy has planted 17,000 red spruce and 1,550 white pines over 250 acres.
- Volunteer Weed Watchers monitor the preserve for new weeds.
- Planting Red Spruce at Cranesville Preserve - Passport to Nature: Working to restore red spruce to western Maryland - one seedling at a time.
- Winter in a Frost Pocket - Passport to Nature: On a cold day at one of Maryland’s coldest preserves, signs of life abound.
- Inside a Western Maryland Frost Pocket (WAMU)
The preserve is open year-round during daylight hours.
Take a virtual trip to Cranesville Swamp Preserve!
30 volunteers joined staff from the MD/DC chapter to celebrate Earth Day by planting 4,000 red spruce seedlings at Cranesville Swamp Preserve.
Visiting the Preserve
Cranesville Swamp Preserve is open year-round during daylight hours for nature walks and birding in designated areas.
If you want to see, hear and smell the swamp’s plant and animal life — take a hike! There are five trails to choose from, all less than 2 miles long. There are some wet and boggy areas, so please bring proper footwear.
One of the highlights of the preserve is the 1,500-foot boardwalk, which allows for easy exploration over the wettest parts of the bog. Take your time and get a closeup look at the sphagnum moss, sundew and tamarack.
Download an Audio Tour
Planning a visit to Cranesville Swamp? Before your trip, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. Naturalists Rodney Bartgis and Kevin Dodge discuss bog plants, birds, bears, and how the area will respond to climate change.
- Step 1: Download the Cranesville Swamp audio tour map. The numbers marked on the map correspond to the audio files in the tour (note: disregard the number posts on the trail.)
- 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! Need a little help saving the files? Check out our step-by-step guide!
Downloadable Files (mp3 format)
- Introduction to Cranesville Swamp
- History of Cranesville Swamp
- Cranesville Habitat and Man's Role
- Hydrology of Cranesville Swamp
- Red Pines
- Powerline View
- Beaver Pond, Green Frog, and Warblers
- Star Violet
- Origin of Water in Cranesville
- Cinnamon Fern
- Climate Change
- Red Spruce
- Logging the Wetland
- Evaporation and Transpiration
- Maples and Mountain Oak Grass
- Similarities and Differences between Wetlands
- Bristly Sarsaparilla
What to See: Plants and Animals
- The southernmost tamarack (or larch) forest in the United States.
- Red spruce and eastern hemlock.
- There are 19 distinct plant communities that include Sphagnum moss, cranberries, insectivorous round-leaved sundews, and other plants typical of a Canadian climate.
- Northern water shrew.
- State-rare breeding birds found here are the golden-crowned kinglet, alder flycatcher, Nashville warbler, and saw-whet owl.
From Baltimore/DC (approximately 3.5 hours)
- From either I-270 or I-70, head to western Maryland
- In Hancock, take I-68 west to exit 14/Keysers Ridge and follow Route 219 south for 19 miles
- From Route 219, turn right (west) on Mayhew Inn Road, and after 1.4 miles turn left on Bray School Road
- In 1.6 miles at a T intersection, turn right on Oakland/Sang Run Road (Route 15)
- After 1 mile, turn left on Swallow Falls Road and follow for 2.6 miles to a sign for Youghiogheny Mountain Resort
- At the sign, take a hard right on Cranesville Road
- After approximately 4 miles, turn left onto Muddy Creek Road and immediately park on the gravel at the corner of the intersection. Our informational kiosk with brochures, trail guides, and other information can be found here
- To get to the trail head for the swamp, visitors must take a left back onto Cranesville Rd. and take the next left onto Lake Ford Rd
- Take a sharp right curve in the road and stay to the right at the fork
- Stay to the right at the next fork in the road, and Cranesville Swamp is 0.2 mile down the gravel road. Park in the lot