At a Glance

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Cost: Free.

Tips:  Waterproof footwear is advisable.

Best Seasons: Spring, Summer, and Fall

Local MOS Chapter: Allegany-Garrett Bird Club

Finzel Swamp Preserve

305 Cranberry Swamp Road, Frostburg, MD 21532
(301) 897-8570

Access alert:  As of January 2020, The Nature Conservancy has posted this notice on their Finzel Swamp website: “It has been brought to our attention that a new neighbor has installed a gate that blocks access to the preserve. Please know that we are working diligently with legal services to determine how to best resolve this issue. We will continue to provide updates on this matter as we have them.” If you are planning to visit, we suggest checking The Nature Conservancy website (https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/finzel-swamp/) for any updates before you go.

Finzel Swamp is an approximately 326-acre preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). It is located partly in Garrett and partly in Allegany County in a topographic depression between Big Savage and Little Savage Mountains in what is called a “Frost Pocket.” This is a climatological phenomenon that is more common farther north, and results in cold air being trapped at the site. The result is a rich habitat containing many rare, cold-tolerant plants. The swamp is a relict of the last Ice Age and is at least 15,000 years old.  There is a trail through the swamp that is usually dry but waterproof footwear is recommended, just in case. The trail continues past the swamp out to a pond that is in the Allegany County part of the preserve. The American larch trees (Larix laricina) that occur here are unusual in Maryland.  Other northern plants that occur in Finzel include alder and red spruce.

Birdlife:

Over 195 species have been reported on eBird from Finzel Swamp.  It’s a good place to see Sora and Virginia Rails, which are often found just past the third bridge. Occasionally American Bitterns have been seen and Common Gallinule has occurred in spring. Breeding birds of interest include Ruffed Grouse, Alder Flycatcher, Veery, Northern Waterthrush, and Swamp Sparrow.  Finzel is an outstanding place to look for spring migrating warblers.

Parking:

Gravel lot at the end of the Cranberry Swamp Road. Be cautious when driving into the swamp; the roads may be under water or snow-covered and it is possible to slide off the road into the swamp.

Special Features:

Finzel Swamp is the focal point of the Finzel Swamp Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society. For more information on this IBA, please see https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas/finzel-swamp. ◾ Finzel Swamp is also classified as a state Natural Area by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources; see http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/NaturalAreas/Western/Finzel-Swamp.aspx. ◾ 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.

Directions:

Take I-70 west to 1-68 at Hancock. Continue on I-68 about 50 miles to Exit 29. Turn right at the end of the exit ramp, heading north toward Finzel on MD Route 546 (the section of road heading south is called Beall School Road; the northbound portion is Finzel Road, which is the road you want), and continue about 1.8 miles. Just past a ballfield, turn right onto Cranberry Swamp Road and keep left at the fork.  Parking for the preserve is on the left.

Nearby Sites:

Piney Reservoir, Carey Run MOS Sanctuary.

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams

Features:

BoardwalkFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsLake, Pond, Bay, River, OceanNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsParking

Type:

Audubon Important Bird AreasState Natural Areas & Wildlands