Cranesville Swamp (The Nature Conservancy)

A rustic sign heading into the small parking area at the Cranesville Swamp

A rustic sign heading into the small parking area at the Cranesville Swamp

I first saw the Cranesville Swamp on a map many years ago, and I’ve often thought about stopping for a visit.  Recently, by chance, I discovered that it’s only about 12 miles from the Hazelton exit on I-68.  I pass through that area pretty often, so it seemed like my destiny to finally see the swamp.  Unfortunately, I got sidetracked both heading in and leaving, but the good people of Garrett County, Maryland helped me first find the swamp and later the interstate.

Some information and a map of the trails!  Fortunately, it's almost impossible to get lost in the nature preserve

Some information and a map of the trails! Fortunately, it’s almost impossible to get lost in the nature preserve

Cranesville Swamp is owned and maintained  by The Nature Conservancy, and the site has grown to nearly 2000 acres in size.  The swamp lies between two hills (at roughly 2500′ above sea level), creating a “frost pocket,” and the captured moisture creates a habitat similar to what one would find in Canada.  There are more than fifty unique plants and animals that live on the preserve, and, surprisingly, these include sundews and cranberries.

Through the trees on the blue trail

Through the trees on the blue trail

The blue and orange trails form an outer loop for hikers, and the yellow and white trails cut across the center of the loop.  With a little bit of imagination, all of the trails can be walked with a minimal amount of repetition, and the entire course can be traversed in a little over two miles.  The elevation gain is pretty insignificant, but “swamp” generally means mud, so wearing hiking boots is definitely a good idea.

Crossing the swamp on the boardwalk was definitely the highlight of the hike

Crossing the swamp on the boardwalk was definitely the highlight of the hike

Another view of the swamp, including some standing water

Another view of the swamp, including some standing water

The highlight of the hike is a short loop across the actual swamp on a boardwalk.  Here, and throughout the rest of the preserve, are numbered posts that correspond to a downloadable audio tour that can be found on the Cranesville Swamp/Nature Conservancy website.  Taking the e-tour is something to be considered beforehand because cell phone service isn’t very good in the area.

In spite of my many failures as a would-be botanist, I did recognize ground pine!

In spite of my many failures as a would-be botanist, I did recognize ground pine!

The insects that live in the preserve are cataloged after being trapped in this device.  The only way out is to fall into a bottle (top left of the trap), and after being collected, scientists identify the insects through their DNA

The insects that live in the preserve are cataloged after being trapped in this device. The only way out is to fall into a bottle (top left of the trap), and after being collected, scientists identify the insects through their DNA

A naturalist of any stature could spend hours (or much longer!) in the Cranesville Swamp, but I went about my business in a little over an hour.  I’m not the world’s most-skilled woodsman, so the only things I identified were a couple of deer and squirrels and a small patch of ground pine.  Nevertheless, this was a great side trip for a traveler heading from Morgantown to Martinsburg.  I would like to come back better prepared to appreciate this wonderful little preserve.  It’s definitely worth another look!

Orange trail sign.

Orange trail sign.

I had the whole place to myself!

I had the whole place to myself!

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