Garrett County is home to two vastly different and quite unique state parks with
one common thread: their shared history. Both Swallow Falls and
Herrington Manor state parks exist today because of the foresight of several
key individuals. From the Garrett Brothers, who donated the tract of land
between the two parks and Swallow Falls, to the philanthropist Henry Krug who
loved the area so much he refused to let the woods around the falls be harvested
for lumber, to the dedicated members of Civilian Conservation Corps, their
efforts have made the parks the recreational destinations that they are today.
Swallow Falls State Park is
home to the oldest grove of white pine and eastern hemlock in Maryland, with
some trees over 360 years of age. This pristine grove of trees lies along the
only officially designated Wild and Scenic River, the Youghiogheny. The area is
most noted for Muddy Creek Falls, the tallest single drop waterfall in Maryland.
At 53 feet, the falls at Muddy Creek originates in Cranesville Swamp in West
Virginia and merges with the Youghiogheny within the park. The mix of decaying
vegetation and tannins from the swamp give the creek and falls their distinctive
color and name. Two other falls occur along the canyon trail on the Youghiogheny
itself: the lower is a small hydraulic falls and the upper a cascading falls.
Swallow Falls State Park draws its name from the rock pillar located below the
upper falls where cliff swallows once nested by the hundreds.
Swallow Falls State Park is popular not only for its natural wonder and beauty
but for its picnic areas, 65-site campground, and five-and-a-half mile trail
through the Garrett State Forest that connects the park with nearby Herrington
Manor State Park. It is hard to hike the canyon trail without imagining the
sounds that echoed forth from the sawmill that once sat atop Muddy Creek, or
hearing the voices of such legendary entrepreneurs as John Burroughs, Henry
Ford, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison as they camped beside the falls long
State Park is steeped in the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, an
emergency program established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 that
paired the nation’s high number of unemployed young men with the desperate need
for conservation work across the country. Camp S-54 Company 307 was stationed at
Swallow Falls State Park from 1935-38 and it was during this time that the men
of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “tree army” as they were called built
Herrington Manor’s 53-acre lake (see photo to left above), its first ten cabins and concession building,
as well as planted thousands of trees and constructed forest roads between the
two parks. These men, working for a mere twenty-five dollars a month, left an
indelible mark in our state parks. Were it not for their efforts, this area
would be vastly different today.
Herrington Manor features 20 rustic cabins for year round rental, a 53-acre lake
and beach area, and for snow enthusiasts, seven miles of groomed cross-country
ski trails with rentals and a warming hut on the lake. The park’s name is taken
from the manor house of Abijah Herrington -- or was it?
Abijah Herrington and the mystery that surround him leave in question the
origins of the manor house (see photo to right) and park name. It is commonly held that he was a
wealthy land owner living in the area in the 1750’s and a sergeant in the Sandy
Creek Rangers during the Revolutionary War, and that the park, manor house and
nearby creek were named for him. However it seems that most of what is known of Abijah is sheer myth. The facts do not seem to support the opinion that he held
vast amounts of land in southwestern Garrett County, and there is no actual
record of him ever serving in the Sandy Creek Rangers. It is not clear if he
ever even lived in the manor house or owned the land that is currently
Herrington Manor State Park. Abijah’s name cannot be found on any local deeds,
surveys or military rosters. So just who was he and how did his legend result in
the naming of a park, creek and homestead after him? As with Abijah Herrington,
the park itself is also Garrett County’s best-kept secret.
Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of The Natural
Resource Magazine. Author Caroline Blizzard served as a Park Naturalist at
Herrington Manor State Park and is currently Director of the Discovery Center at
Deep Creek Lake State Park. She has been with DNR for 16 years.
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