Finzel Swamp

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.

The students, in turn, will share data with the Conservancy, helping us better understand how our restoration work contributes to the habitat’s health.

Before You Go


Three-and-half hour drive from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., past Cumberland.


The preserve is open to the public during day light hours year-round.  Admission is free.

Why the Conservancy 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.

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

What the Conservancy Is Doing Here

  • 326 acres purchased by The Nature Conservancy since 1970
  • Removing woody vegetation to restore habitat for northern larch (larix laricina)
  • Removing culverts to restore natural hydrology and habitat quality for swamp plants
  • Ecological management: installing barriers to prevent off-road vehicle access to grassland and swamp 

Related Stories

Rebuilding the Vegetative History of Finzel's One Fine Fen (Frostburg State University) : Frostburg graduate student Jade Llewellyn is digging deep into the history of the Conservancy's Finzel Swamp Preserve.

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.

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. 

Download an Audio Tour

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.

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


  • From Washington's Capital Beltway (I-495), take I-270 North.  Take I-70 West:
  • From Baltimore (I-695), take I-70 West:
  • Near Hancock, take I-68 West.  Past Frostburg, take Routh 546 North 1.7 miles towards the Town of Finzel.  Turn right onto a dirt road on the north side of the recreation park and baseball field.  After the ballpark, where four driveways converge, take the second one from the left.   Follow this road for .6 mile to the preserve sign and gate.  Park in front of the gate leading to the preserve.
PLEASE NOTE: The final .6 miles of road into the preserve is unpaved and does not get plowed.  In snowy conditions, please plan to park at the ballpark and hike in.  Please do not park in front of our neighbor’s house (the 2-story brown house.)



Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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