Cranesville Swamp – A Local Hidden Gem

Lying just west of Swallow Falls on the Maryland-West Virginia border is a unique ecosystem that offers window into ice ages past.  Because of its location on the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains, the Cranesville Swamp is home to plant and animal species uncommon for the mid-Atlantic region. 

About the Cranesville Swamp

The swamp is different due to its “frost pocket effect.”  The elevation is lower in a frost pocket, causing cooler temperatures and making that patch of ground particularly susceptible to frost. The combination of moisture and cold air create a landscape more reminiscent of habitat found much further north in Canadian boreal forests.  Visitors to the park, managed by the The Nature Conservancy (TNC), are able to glimpse a natural anomaly created by this rare mix of altitude, temperature and precipitation. 

cranesville swamp

A Look at the Past

Over 15,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, glaciers froze much of North America and northern latitude species were pushed southward.  The area that became Cranesville settled in a mountain valley. The surrounding hills catch cold air pockets and precipitation, pushing them into the valley. The valley “frost pocket” is responsible for Cranesville’s designation as a sub-arctic swamp. The preserve one of the coolest and wettest spots in Maryland, creating an isolated refuge for species normally found much farther north.

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