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Sideling Hill Exhibit Center
Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area
Sideling Hill Visitor Center is on Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area's (WMA) 3,000-acres of mixed oak-hickory forest that straddles Sideling Hill Creek. For outdoor enthusiasts, this is a prime location for mountain scenery and wildlife, especially in the spring when the wildflowers of the forest floor and the mountain laurel bloom. Visitors to the Sideling Hill Exibit Center have a unique opportunity to stop and view one of the best rock exposures in the northeastern United States. Highway construction cut through the mountain exposing almost 850 vertical feet of a textbook example syncline formed nearly 350 million years ago. The four story exibit center features interpretive displays, an orientation program, and tourism information. It is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources State Forest and Park Service, in cooperation with the Maryland Geological Survey, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Office of Tourism Development. Sideling Hill has been a formidable obstacle to travel since the earliest days when settlers were moving west. Travelers formerly crossed the mountain about two miles to the south on U.S. 40. A new route to the west was needed to meet interstate standards and construction of the road cut began in 1983. Excavation of ten million tons of rock were later used as fill to construct the inclined road grades leading up to the cut from the east and west.
To help provide the public with a better understanding of the geology of the cut, an exhibit center was constructed. A noticeable feature when you look at the exposure is the ever-present water flowing from the sides of the hill. Two water-bearing zones, called aquifers, were intercepted by the excavation of the mountain. As the aquifers leak, the evaporating water causes iron oxide, or rust, to be deposited along the sides of the rocks. During the winter months, a beautiful ice cascade can be seen as the flowing water freezes.
If weather permits, take a walk outside up the fenced walkway, to view the cut up close. Several geologic wayside stations help you interpret what you see. A walk over the pedestrian bridge offers good photo opportunities from the middle of the bridge, as well as from the opposite side, south of the road.
The Exhibit Center is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., except for major holidays. Restrooms are available 24 hours a day. School or group tours of the center to explain the basic geology of the area can be made by calling 301-842-2155. While there is no cost for the tour, there is a small reservation fee.
What To See
The geological history of these mountains has left scenic cliffs where rocky outcrops of Devonian shale and Chemung and Hampshire sandstone create dramatic formations. Colorful forest songbirds will dazzle you with their flashes of reds, yellows, blues and greens and their melodious songs. In the spring, turkey gobblers strut through the forest and forest clearings, displaying their beautiful array of feathers. Black bears are occasional visitors to the area. Check out a map of the area.
What To Do
White-tailed deer, turkey, grouse and squirrels will challenge the forest hunter. Anglers will enjoy "put-and-take" fishing for stocked trout in the shallow creek. Canoeing is only possible during the spring melt, but canoeists will find the creek is at its most splendid at this time of year. Old logging roads are scattered throughout Sideling Hill WMA, creating both easy and challenging walks for hikers.
Picnic area, visitor center.
Accessibility for the disabled - The exhibit center is accessible, as are the other levels of the building, by stairs or elevator, to view various geologic exhibits. Several exhibits are designed for the visually and hearing impaired. Wheelchairs are available.
Location - Sideling Hill Visitor Center is located 33 miles west of Hagerstown, and 6 miles west of Hancock on Interstate 68.
To reach the northern section of Sideling Hill WMA, take I-68 to the Woodmont Road exit. Turn right on MD 144 (National Pike). At the top of the mountain, make a left onto Riser Road into Sideling Hill WMA. To reach the southern section, take the I-68 exit to Woodmont Road. On MD 144, turn left and make an immediate right onto Woodmont Road (MD 453). Follow this route to Pearre Road and turn right. At Allegany County Line Road make another right. Follow this road to the area. For additional information, contact Indian Springs Wildlife Office at (301) 842-2155.
Sideling Hill Visitor Center
c/o Fort Frederick State Park
11100 Fort Frederick Road
Big Pool, MD 21711
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Funding for Maryland's State and local parks and conservation areas is provided through the Department of Natural Resources' Program Open Space. Established in 1969, Program Open Space symbolizes Maryland's long term commitment to conserving natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.
Updated on June 14, 2000
Overlook Photograph by: Tom Darden