Nestled along the banks of the Youghiogheny, Maryland’s only designated Wild and Scenic River, Swallow Falls State Park offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state. The impressive landscape provides endless recreational opportunities with three waterfalls, stands of ancient virgin hemlock and white pine, and abundant wildlife.
Swallow Falls State Park History
The area was once the hunting grounds of early Garrett County pioneers, including famed hunter and author Meshach Browning. They named Muddy Creek, which merges with the Youghiogheny (Native American for “river that flows north”) within the park, for its distinctive color. The creek originates in the Cranesville Swamp, and the swamp’s mix of decaying vegetation and tannins provides the brownish tint. Muddy Creek Falls is Maryland’s tallest free-falling waterfall, about 53 feet. The rocks that form this spectacular sight date to the Pennsylvanian Period and are about 300 million years old. The pioneer’s named nearby Swallow Falls for the great flocks of cliff swallows that were found there. Swallow Rock, a weathered stone pillar beside the falls, was their favorite nesting spot.
Swallow Falls is located in Garrett State Forest, one of the first state-owned forests in the country. In 1906 2,000 acres were donated by brothers Robert and John Garrett with the provision that it must be used for the protection of wildlife and the advancement of forestry. From 1934-1942 the area was home to a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. The program provided work for unemployed men during the Great Depression. Members of the CCC completed many projects at Swallow Falls, as well as at its sister park Herrington Manor.
Encompassing 257 acres, self-guided activities are available during all four seasons. The Youghiogheny River offers incredible fishing opportunities. Stocked with rainbow and brown trout and smallmouth and rock bass, novice anglers and experienced fly-fishermen will enjoy misty mornings casting a line among the boulders and trees. A fishing license is required and can be purchased through local outfitters or the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Connecting Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor State Parks is a 5.5-mile trail (one way) that can be used by hikers and cross-country skiers but is probably best loved by mountain bikers. With parking available at either end of the rocky yet relatively level trail. The skill level is appropriate for beginners, but even more advanced bikers will enjoy the trip down this old tram road used for logging in the late 1800s. Be sure to use caution during muddy weather, keeping trail impact and erosion to trails and streams during these times. It’s a good idea to keep a tire repair kit and bike pump on hand and always wear a helmet.
The 1.25-mile Canyon Trail is a small package that delivers a big payoff. Bikes are not permitted in the park’s Youghiogheny Grove Sensitive Management Area, but hikers are more than welcome. Be sure to bring your camera, as photo ops are around almost every turn. During the early summer months, mountain laurels and rhododendron decorate the trail with fragrant blooms. The area is equally breathtaking during the winter when the falls come to an icy standstill. Although this hike is relatively easy and appropriate for families, there are some sections with stairs, and it is essential to keep your skill level in mind.
An accessible parking area and ramp lead to a platform overlooking Muddy Creek Falls, making it easier for everyone to enjoy the park. After your hike, relax with a picnic in the covered pavilion. It is ideal for gatherings and can be reserved for groups of up to 100.
- Pets are allowed on trails outside the day-use area.
- Pets are allowed in the campground.
- Pets are allowed in the day-use area after Labor Day to Memorial Day weekend.
For Swallow Falls State Park hours and for more information, visitÂ http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/western/swallowfalls.aspx.