The United States National Natural Landmarks (NNL) is a program that identifies and encourages the management, conservation, and rehabilitation of natural history in the U.S. The program identifies the geological and biological features in private and public ownership. The primary aim of the program is to encourage and support individual and organization efforts in preserving sites that illustrate the country's ecological and geological history. The program also seeks to encourage the public to appreciate natural heritage. There are 599 national natural landmarks in the country spread across 48 states, as well as well as various territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa. Delaware and Louisiana are the only states without a national natural landmark. The federal, state, county, or municipal governments manage about one-half of the landmark sites, one-third are privately owned, while the remainder are owned and managed in public-private cooperation. A site qualifies as a NNL if it contains the remnants of a specific geological, ecological, or biological feature. The state of Maryland has 6 designated NNL, four of which are privately owned, while the other two are owned by the state. The National Natural Landmarks of Mayland are highlighted below.
The National Natural Landmarks of Maryland
Cranesville Swamp Nature Sanctuary
The Cranseville Swamp Nature Sanctuary is the only National Natural Landmark in Maryland that extends beyond state borders, as it boundaries include parts of Preston County, West Virginia. Water, wind, low temperature, and mountains have combined to create a beautiful and rare landscape. These elements create an environment with high humidity and low temperature known as a “frost pocket,” and the swamp is among the coolest and soggiest spots in the country. The privately owned sanctuary covers an area of 261 acres and was designated in 1964 as the first National Natural Landmark in the state.
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp is located near Prince Frederick, Calvert County, and is the northernmost swamp that harbors bald cypress trees on the continent. The Nature Conservancy purchased the swamp in 1957 as its first conservancy in the state, and leases it to Calvert County. Battle Creek Cypress Swamp covers an area of 105 acres and was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1965. The wetland provides a habitat for several animals and birds. Part of the sanctuary is open to the public, including a quarter-mile boardwalk.
The Gilpin's Falls was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1980 and remains the last in the state to be designated as such. The waterfall is an example of a fall zone stream and an outcrop of metavolcanic activities during the early Paleozoic period. The Gilpin's Falls Covered Bridge was built in 1860-61 and is a major tourist attraction, especially during the summer.
Ownership of Maryland's National Natural Landmarks
Four of the National Natural Landmarks in the state are owned privately, while two are owned by the state. The federal government does not own a National Natural Landmark in Maryland. Beltwoods and the Long Green Creek and Sweathouse Branch are state owned, while the Nature Conservancy owns the Cranesville Swamp Preserve and the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, although the latter has been leased to Calvert County since 1977.