At a Glance
Hours: Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Tips: This is an active hunting area. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ No restrooms.
Best Seasons: Spring, summer, and fall.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Bittinger CW, McHenry CE
Local MOS Chapter: Allegany-Garrett Bird Club
Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area
9085 Bittinger Road, Swanton, MD 21522
[Note: This description is for Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area in Garrett County. Do not confuse it with the similarly named Cunningham Falls State Park, which is in Frederick County.]
Opened in 2014, the 329-acre Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area has exceptional habitat for wetland and bog-related bird species. In addition to the swamp and bog habitat, there are open fields and upland forests with patches of conifers. The WMA is in the headwaters of the Casselman River, and lies tucked between the North and South Branches. The wetlands of the Main Tract of the WMA are associated with Pleasant Valley Run, a tributary of the North Branch.
The Main Tract of Cunningham Swamp WMA is on the west side of Route 495 and contains 257 acres. The majority is wetland with a core area centered around a hillside that contains three mowed paths that lead away from the parking lot. See the trail map at the link at left. Near the informational sign at the parking area, the first path leads northwest about 0.25 miles to a small pond and the edge of the wetland, passing near woods and through scrub-shrub habitat before emerging at the edge of the field. A second path leads across the field to the top of a small wooded hill; a third path exits the parking area at a yellow metal gate and leads west along the field edge for 0.37 miles to another small pond. A connector trail that goes through the woodlot at the top of the hill forms a 1.5 mile loop. The open fields contain scattered nest boxes that host Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows during breeding season, and there are Wood Duck boxes at the ponds; be sure to check these for Screech-Owls in the winter. The scrub-shrub that lies between the fields and more mature woods holds many songbirds. The woodlands, especially the coniferous areas, may host Evening Grosbeaks and Pine Siskins during irruption years.
On the opposite side of Route 495/Bittinger Road is the more recently acquired East Tract, offering an additional 72 acres of habitat. The outline of this section is irregular, like a kidney bean, with a north portion and a south portion joined by a narrow waist where the entrance lane and parking area are located. The entrance lane may be named “Lee Brenneman Road” on some maps. There is a small gravel parking area on the left that can hold four or five cars. The northern portion of the East Tract is upland covered with conifers, deciduous woods, and scrub-shrub. The only access is by a faint foot-trail that heads north from the parking area, paralleling Bittinger Road. The trail is about 1/4 mile, one-way. There is no loop trail, so when you reach the end, turn around and return to the parking area. The larger, southern portion of the East Tract is accessed by continuing on foot past the yellow gate that blocks the entrance lane. This grass and gravel lane will take you uphill through mixed deciduous and conifer forest. Watch for a side trail on the right and DO NOT CONTINUE straight ahead on the main lane as it would take you onto private property. The side trail will take you southeast through conifers and scrub-shrub toward a small pond and wetland area at the south corner of the property. It’s about 0.3 miles to the pond from the parking area, one-way. Another side trail, branching to the left, will take you on a loop around an upland field with scrub-shrub habitat, and rejoins the original trail near the pond. The loop trail will add another 0.4 miles to the walk.
Over 135 species have been reported on eBird since Cunningham Swamp WMA first opened in 2014; there is one eBird Hotspot that covers both the Main Tract and East Tract.
Specialties include Ruffed Grouse, American Kestrel,, Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos, American Woodcock, Purple Finch, and Swamp Sparrow. The open skies at the Main Tract make it a good spot to watch for overhead raptors. Both Alder and Willow Flycatchers may be present, with Alder more prevalent. There are also Least Flycatchers. Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos are both present in breeding season. This is a good place to look for breeding Brown Creepers. House Wrens are another common breeder, and Carolina Wrens might be found sporadically from spring through fall. Gray Catbirds and Brown Thrashers are easy to find. Breeding thrushes include Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, and Hermit Thrush, and possibly Veery and Wood Thrush. Cedar Waxwings are abundant.
There is a great selection of breeding sparrows: Grasshopper, Chipping, Field, Song, Swamp, and Eastern Towhee. Wintering sparrows include American Tree, White-crowned, White-throated, and Dark-eyed Junco. Yellow-breasted Chat, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Common Grackle are all present during breeding season.
The breeding season warblers include Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Golden-winged, Black-and-white, possibly Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Green. Additional warblers pass through during migration. Rose-breasted Grosbeak is another breeder.
Cunningham Swamp is contained within The Glades Important Bird Area (IBA) as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾Black bear, white-tailed deer, beaver, and other fur bearers are also likely to call this WMA home. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Allegany & Garrett Counties Bird Club, which hosts field trips in the region and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.
The small parking lot for the Main Tract is accessed via a gravel road located on the west side of MD Route 495/Bittinger Road. If coming from the north, the Main Tract entrance road will be 1.1 mils south of the intersection with Rock Lodge Road; if coming from the south, the Main Tract entrance will be 1.2 miles north of the intersection with Easy Street, and will be the next left past 4-H Camp Road.
The even smaller parking lot for the East Tract is accessed from a grass and gravel lane marked as Lee Brenneman Road on some maps; it’s on the east side of Route 495/Bittinger Road and is just 435 feet south of the entrance for the Main Tract. Both entrance roads – Main Tract and East Tract – are marked by green and tan Wildlife Management Area signs.
From I-68 at Grantsville, take MD Route 495/Bittinger Road south toward Swanton, MD. The Main Tract of Cunningham Swamp is on the west side of MD Route 495, approximately 11 miles south of Grantsville, 3 miles south of Bittinger, and just north of the Western MD 4-H Center. The East Tract is on the opposite side of the road just 435 feet south of the Main Tract entrance. Look for the WMA signs along MD Route 495.
Garrett County: Broadford Lake ◾ Carey Run MOS Sanctuary ◾ Caroline W. Wilson MOS Sanctuary ◾Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area ◾ Finzel Swamp Preserve ◾ Herrington Manor State Park ◾Loch Lynn Heights Wetland Trail ◾ Mt. Nebo Wildlife Management Area ◾ Piney Reservoir ◾ Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run ◾ Swallow Falls State Park ◾ Youghiogheny River Reservoir
Features:BeginnersFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasHunting Areas