Nassawango Creek is one of Maryland's most pristine waterways. Along its banks lie majestic bald cypress swamps and upland forests, making Nassawango one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in the state. The preserve is home to an abundant diversity of life, including many species of orchids, warblers, and other plants and animals. An onsite visitor center and the Paul Leifer Trail provide additional ways to explore Nassawango's treasures.
Inside the visitor center, you can also find information about visiting Furnace Town, a historic village sitting alongside the preserve boundary. From 1828 to 1850, the Nassawango Iron Furnace was in its heyday. Hundreds of people -- miners, sawyers and colliers, molders and firemen, carters, draymen and bargemen -- were engaged in gathering iron ore from the nearby bogs, smelting it day and night in the furnace, and loading cooled pig iron bars into barges to be floated down Nassawango Creek to the Pocomoke River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The preserve is open year round for nature walks, birdwatching, and canoeing. Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum is open from April 1 to October 31 between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm, as is the Nassawango Preserve & Furnace Town Visitor Center. The Furnace Town business office may be reached year-round by calling (410) 632-2032.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
Admission to the visitor center is free.
To access the Preserve's Paul Leifer Trail in season, Nature Conservancy Members, or member of Furnace Town Foundation, may present their valid TNC membership card for free admission. For nonmembers (or those without their card), there is a $4.00 entry fee for adults; there is a $3.50 for adults over 60; there is a $2.00 for children 18 months through 18 years.
To access Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum in season, Nature Conservancy Members, or member of Furnace Town Foundation, may present their valid TNC membership card for free admission. For nonmembers (or those without their card), there is a $7.00 entry fee for adults; there is a $6.00 for adults over 60, AAA members, and military members; there is a $4.00 for children ages 4 to 16.
Back among the trees of the Pocomoke Forest stands a tall structure made of brick. The structure is what remains of an iron furnace; the furnace stack has been dormant since 1850, but between the years of 1831 and 1850 it was the center of a small, bustling town, thriving in the early iron industry of ante-bellum Maryland. The furnace, situated near Snow Hill, Maryland, was an important part of the industrial age, because of its contribution to technology of the time.
The furnace, called the Nassawango or Naseongo Furnace, was erected at the site of a grist and saw mill on 2,000 acres of land on Nassawango Creek. The land was formerly owned by Elijah Coulbourne, and was offered for sale specifically for the iron contained in its soil (Snow Hill Messenger Dec. 13, 1831). The land was purchased by the Maryland Iron Company, which had been formed in 1828 by the Maryland Legislature (A Bill). The new owners completed construction of the furnace stack by the spring of 1832 (Snow Hill Messenger May 21, 1832), only a few months after their purchase. Upon the completion of the furnace stack, the Maryland Iron Company purchased an additional 5,000 acres of land surrounding the original holding, and began the manufacture of iron.
Nassawango is home to an abundant array of wildlife and native plants, including many species of orchids and warblers. This tannin-stained waterway is steeped in early American history and one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in Maryland. From Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Nassawango Creek flows southward into Pocomoke River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.
Canoe the creek or hike the Paul Leifer Trail at the preserve to look for: bald cypress trees, 12 species of orchids (including pink lady's slipper, grass-pink, and the rose pogonia), stands of Atlantic white cedar, wild lupine, 21 species of warblers (including the prothonotary, Kentucky, hooded, and worm-eating), red-shouldered hawks, river otters, and rockfish.
At Furnace Town explore the daily life of a 19th century village centered around iron-making. Artisans recreate the various crafts and professions that were part of Furnace Town during its life. Visit 13 historic exhibit buildings. An annual calendar includes nature walks, archaeological digs, the Chesapeake Celtic Festival, special events and workshops.
A visitor center (with restrooms, a soda machine, a water fountain, Museum Shop, nature-oriented exhibits, and brochure wall), historic buildings, picnic pavilion, and the Paul Leifer Trail (which begins just beyond the brick furnace at the south end of the village) are the available facilities.