Places We Protect

Cranesville Swamp

Central Appalachian Mountains

A boardwalk winds through thick foliage shrouded in fog.
Cranesville Swamp Boardwalk through the wetlands of The Nature Conservancy's Cranesville Swamp Preserve. © Kent Mason

Preserve Update: March 2023

Hydrology at the preserve is changing and water levels have been increasing along the trail; some sections maybe wet or underwater. We are working to address the issue, but in the meantime, please wear appropriate footwear and be prepared to get your feet wet.



At Cranesville Swamp, the elements of wind, water, mountains and temperature have created a landscape that is both beautiful and rare.

In combination, these climactic elements have produced a natural occurrence known as 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. 

As weather travels west-to-east across North America, the hills surrounding Cranesville Swamp channel precipitation and chilled air into the valley, which make the preserve one of the coolest and soggiest spots in West Virginia.     



Dogs are not allowed at this preserve.


Open year-round during daylight hours.


Throughout these rare and diverse wetlands communities, visitors can witness a spectacular range of birds and mammals.


1,774 acres

Explore our work in Central Appalachians


  • If you want to see, hear and smell the swamp’s plant and animal life—take a hike! There are five trails to choose from, all less than 2 miles long. There are some wet and boggy areas, so please bring proper footwear.

    One of the highlights of the preserve is the 1,500-foot boardwalk, which allows for easy exploration over the wettest parts of the bog. 

  • The cool, wet environ of Cranesville Swamp has over thousands of years fostered the formation of peat – made of compacted sphagnum moss that creates a nutrient-poor environment as it breaks down. 

    Few trees can survive in the resulting bog, but tall eastern hemlock, red spruce and tamarack prevail in the acidic environment.  Lower to the ground, plants like sundew, cranberry and sedge thrive in open areas.  

    Throughout these rare and diverse wetlands communities, visitors to the preserve can witness a spectacular range of birds and mammals. Lucky visitors may spot the rare northern water shrew, or catch a glimpse of a bear rummaging through the shrub thickets surrounding Muddy Creek. 

    Patience and binoculars may afford others a glimpse of any one of the more than 100 bird species found at Cranesville, such as alder flycatcher, Blackburnian warbler or the saw-whet owl, which nests in stands of red spruce and hemlock in the conifer swamp forest.

  • Read our Preserve Guidelines to learn about permitted and prohibited uses, ways of enjoying these spaces, a note about hunting season and more. 

Bundled red spruce seedlings ready for planting.
Genetic Diversity A broad and growing movement is restoring red spruce and genetic diversity across the species' native range. © Kathryn Barlow / TNC

What We're Doing

Restoration at Cranesville

The greatest threats to Cranesville Swamp Preserve and its wildlife result from climate change, the impacts of historic logging, incompatible development, invasive species and deer overbrowsing. Since 1960, our work here has included: 

  • Planting more than 35,000 red spruce and 2,000 white pines across more than 300 acres
  • Continual monitoring for new invasive species and management of existing invasive species (e.g. autumn olive, cattail)
  • Water quality research
  • Trail enhancement and nature interpretation projects to improve educational opportunities
  • Saw-whet owl and flying squirrel research 
  • Water bars installed across abandoned logging roads to reduce erosion

Self Guided Audio Tour

Planning a visit to Cranesville Swamp? Download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. Naturalists Rodney Bartgis and Kevin Dodge discuss bog plants, birds, bears and how the area will respond to climate change.

  • Step 1: Download the Cranesville Swamp audio tour map. The numbers marked on the map correspond to the audio files in the tour (note: disregard the number posts on the trail.)
  • Step 2: Download and save the mp3 audio files to your handheld device. Play the corresponding track when you reach a waypoint along the trail. Listen to them all or pick & choose based on your interests!

Audio Tour Files (mp3)

  1. Intro to Cranesville Swamp
  2. Geologic History of Cranesville
  3. Cranesville Habitat Man's Role
  4. Heath Family
  5. Bracken and Club Moss
  6. Black Cherry
  7. Hydrology of Cranesville Swamp
  8. American Mountain Ash
  9. Entering the Old Plantation
  10. Red Pine
  11. Fungi on Forest Floor
  12. Creeping Plants and Shrubs
  13. Powerline View
  14. Beaver Pond, Green Frogs and Warblers
  15. Star Violet
Exploring Cranesville Swamp (1:52) Discover Cranesville Swamp Preserve in this video courtesy of WCHS-TV.


Cranesville Swamp Preserve spans the state line between Maryland and West Virginia. 

TNC in Maryland/DC
Phone: (301) 897-8570

TNC in West Virginia
Phone: (304) 637-0160

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map