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Cranesville Swamp Nature Preserve
Just a bit of overgrown conditions on the boardwalk, can you see the boardwalk? 5.67 West Virginia ratingStar
Cranesville Swamp Nature Preserve guyonthego

Cranesville Swamp is a natural preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy and located on the border of West Virginia and Maryland in the Appalachian Mountains. The preserve is about 1,700 acres. Cranesville was purchased mainly to protect rare plants and animals; visitor facilities are very limited. Several trails lead through a portion of the property, however the preserve did not have a visitor center or even interpretive information at the trailhead.

The preserve is located in a remote, sheltered valley called a “frost pocket” which is cooler than surrounding areas. Because of this attribute, plants typically found further north, such as in Canada, exist here. More than 50 rare plants and animals have been recorded at the preserve. Conservation efforts began in 1960. In 1965, Cranesville Swamp was designated as a National Natural Landmark. Much of the swamp interior is a peat bog type environment with a mix of short trees and tangled plants. Thick stands of oak and pine trees circle the swamp. Over the years the Conservancy has planted additional spruce and pine trees at the preserve.

The directions to the preserve were detailed and clear up to the final turnoff when it was difficult to find the road into the preserve. Carefully watching your mileage as you drive should help to locate the right turns. Most if not all people reading this review will have never heard of Cranesville Swamp. The benefit of such obscurity is that it's likely you will have the place to yourself. While the privacy was great, the sights and scenery and trail quality left a lot to be desired. Trail quality in particular was poor with frequent bushes and grass blocking the trail. The only unobstructed place enjoyable to walk was through was a mature pine forest. Interpretive signage also was lacking, but trail signs were helpful. Aside from the brush and grass, walking the Blue Trail loop was not challenging, but there was little of interest to see. This is the type of place that would be best to visit with a naturalist and when trail conditions are less overgrown. Since neither of these were available, the hike was disappointing. Perhaps die-hard nature types, such as those who appreciate observing rare plants, might enjoy a visit. For most weekend warriors, the preserve will be a long drive for questionable returns.

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October 2014
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