The History of Swallow Falls
swallow falls

Across the country, a collective embrace of the outdoors is seeing a record number of visitors to parks and recreation areas. As more Americans find themselves caught in the bustle of urban living, their appreciation for natural spaces has been renewed. In 2020, Maryland state parks drew an all-time high in visitations.

For Marylanders looking to discover the great outdoors, Western Maryland is an ideal destination. Home to Maryland’s largest lake and a wealth of beloved state parks and recreation areas, there’s plenty for the outdoor enthusiast to take in. One such destination is Swallow Falls State Park.

Located along the western bank of the Youghiogheny River, the park is a short drive from the town of Oakland and Deep Creek Lake. It’s enjoyed by visitors all year round and features the largest free-falling waterfall in Maryland. The alluring Muddy Creek Falls sits at 53 feet tall.

Due to conservation efforts, Swallow Falls State Park has some of the oldest Hemlock and White Pine trees in the area. Their aged bark tells the story of lifespans eclipsing 360 years.

Swallow Falls is an iconic regional destination. It also holds a fascinating tale of how it came to be preserved as one of Maryland’s most beloved state parks.

Early Stages (early 1900’s)

The earliest documented ownership of Swallow Falls is that of John and Robert Garrett II. Their father, John W. Garrett, was a well-off entrepreneur who would become the president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. This legendary railway was the first passenger railroad in the country. John W. Garrett amassed his land ownership through the railroad business.

In 1906, the brothers gifted their inherited 1,917 acres of land to the state. The gift stipulated that the land would be used to start a forestry service and preserve the nature of the region. The 40-acre section that contained the Falls of Muddy Creek was owned by lumberman and whiskey barrel maker, Henry Krug. He protected the centuries-old trees spread across the expanse of his property.

Upon his death, left the property to the Grand Lodge of Masons of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It was used by the organization as a retreat destination for members.

Middle Stage (1920s-1930s)

The summer of 1921 brought three notorious American industrialists to visit the park. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone enjoyed Swallow Falls State Park as the destination for their annual camping trip.

In 1923, the Grand Lodge of Masons and the State Board of Forestry entered into an agreement for the state to manage and protect the nature site as an auxiliary state forest. This agreement gave way to the Civilian Conservation Corps entering Swallow Falls State Park.

The Civilian Conservation Corps or Roosevelt’s “Tree Army”, was a Depression-era work relief program that gave employment to millions of young men. The CCC is responsible for much of the crucial infrastructure that we enjoy in state and national parks today.

The 100 men that made up the 304th Company of the Civilian Conservation Corps were assigned to Swallow Falls State Park. They got to work making additions and improvements to the park’s facilities. These additions included the stone pavilion that can be found across the parking lot, the cozy camp office, and sturdy stone restrooms.

They also performed fire suppression methods and planted trees throughout the park. Altogether the Civilian Conservation Corps would plant over 3 billion trees across the United States.  

Swallow Falls State Park Today

Today, Swallow Falls State Park is enjoyed by visitors from all over. The park currently maintains 65 campsites, a picnic area, a playground, and a mile-long trail that goes through the old-growth forest. Various other trails can be found winding through the state park.

As one of the few locations in the United States that maintains old-growth trees, conservation efforts are ongoing. You can experience its wonders yourself, from the rush of flowing water in summer to the glitter of a thousand icicles on winter hikes.

Find the perfect getaway with a luxury log home along nearby Deep Creek Lake, and explore one of Maryland’s most iconic state parks.

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