See 4 waterfalls and 300-year-old hemlocks at Swallow Falls State Park

Posted at 8:30 AM, Sep 03, 2016

Home to Maryland's largest vertical drop waterfall, Swallow Falls State Park is a must see destination on any visit to Garrett County. 

At 53 feet, Muddy Creek Falls is the state's largest waterfall. The park is also home to three other waterfalls - the upper falls, lower falls and Tolliver Falls. 

During the summer, many people come to Swallow Falls to dip their feet in the water and escape the heat. Ranger Donnie Oats warned that the park staff doesn't advise swimming. 

"In the summer a lot of people like to come get their feet wet and swim. We don't recommend swimming because there are a lot of injuries," he said.

The most popular trail is a loop trail through old growth forest that highlights all four of the park's waterfalls. Swallow Falls State Park gets about a quarter of a million visitors per year, many of which come between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

Fast Facts:

  • In August 1918 and again in July 1921, Henry Ford, Thomas A. Edison, Harvey Firestone, John Burroughs and company camped at Muddy Creek Falls
  • The Youghiogheny River get its name from American Indians, meaning "river that flows the wrong way" and it's the only river in the state that flows north to Pittsburgh
  • A 5.5 mile trail connects Swallow Falls State Park to Herrington Manor State Park
  • Park has more than 65 campsites
  • In the 1930s, Swallow Falls was used as a Civilian Conversation Corps overnight encampment

The 37-acre woods are dominated by tall hemlock trees. In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy dumped more than 30 inches of wet, heavy snow in Garrett County, damaging more than 30 acres of Swallow Falls State Park.

"We have hemlocks over 350 years old."

The snow and winds uprooted dozens of 300-year-old hemlocks. Seventy percent of the park's trees were damaged in the storm. It took more than 5,000 man hours for park staff and volunteers to clean up the aftermath. 

Ranger Oats said Sandy was the most devastating storm to hit Garrett County in over 100 years. He said the park staff cut back and removed debris from the trails and are letting nature do the rest. He estimates it will take hundreds of years for the trees to grow back. 

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Swallow Falls was originally purchased by the state's forest service. Then, like so many of Maryland's state parks, became a state park thanks to the Civilian Conversation Corps. In the 1930s, the CCC, as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, worked to preserve the lands of state and national parks. The CCC aimed to put people back to work who couldn't find jobs during the Great Depression.


The park got its name from the cliff swallows that used to nest on the rock pillar near the upper Swallow Falls. 


Swallow Falls has changed a lot since the legends of American entrepreneurship visited in the 1920s, but it's still a peaceful respite like none other.

"Just being in Garrett County enjoying nature, the big trees, the trail and the waterfalls... you just don't find that anywhere else in the state."


Upcoming Events:

  • Apple Butter Boil: September 3 & 4 - Old fashioned apple butter is made outside an open fire, stirred by a long-handled paddle and a big copper kettle. Staff will teach you some tricks and let you stir the butter. Enjoy live music, food and crafts. Event is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park
  • Maple Syrup Demonstrations: March 2017 - Park staff gives a demonstration of boiling maple sap into maple syrup.
  • For more, click here

Click here for more Baltimore area events.