April 2008: Swallow Falls State Park


Oakland, Maryland

Early Americans were extremely adept at clearing land for farms and stripping forests for building houses. By 1900, out of five trees that stood east of the Mississippi in Colonial days, only one survived. It was highly unusual to see any big tree in Maryland that had escaped a logger's saw, unless it was too costly to reach.

That was the case with the grove of white pines and hemlocks at Swallow Falls. The giants are the oldest in Maryland - some trees are estimated to be 360 years old. Philanthropist Henry Krug refused to allow the trees to be logged in the gorge and when a World War I plan to dam the Youghiogheny River fell through their suvival was assured.

America's most famous car camp-ers of the early 20th century - industrialists Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone camped here at Muddy Creek Falls and during the Depression the Civilian Conservation Corps created the campsite enjoyed by thousands today. 

This is the best single-trail park in Maryland. The Falls Trail is easy going for your dog through the river canyon under cool, dark hemlocks. Muddy Creek Falls, Maryland's highest single water plunge at 53 feet, arrives quickly on your canine hike and shortly you arrive at the confluence of Muddy Creek and the Youghiogheny River. Here you'll travel past several more hydrospectaculars before turning for home. This gorgeous loop covers about one mile.

If your dog is hankering for more trail time there is a 5.5-mile out-and-back trail to Herrington Manor State Park (no dogs allowed). You'll get more water views and more giant hemlocks - be advised that this canine hike involves a stream crossing that may not be doable in times of high water.  

Dogs are not allowed in the day-use area the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. Dogs are allowed in the surrounding Potomac and Garrett State Forests anytime. Dogs are also allowed in the campground.

At the Upper Falls on the Youghiogheny River you will find the source of the park name: a rock pillar where cliff swallows once nested by the hundreds.

From I-68 take Exit 14 at Keysers Ridge and go south on Route 219 for 19.5 miles to Mayhew Inn Road (2 miles past Deep Creek). Turn right on Mayhew Inn Road, travel 4.5 miles to end of road. At the stop sign turn left onto Oakland Sang Run Road, travel 0.3 miles to first road on the right which will be Swallow Falls Road. Turn right and travel 1.3 miles to the park.