Stauffer's Marsh Nature Preserve
The Stauffer's Marsh Nature Preserve is located in Back Creek Valley in Berkeley County, one-half mile south of Shanghai, on the east side of Back Creek Valley Road (County Route 7).
Formerly marshy farmland, most of the preserve property was entered into a permanent conservation easement in the mid 1990s through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wetland Reserve Program. At that time, USDA restored it as a wetland. This was the first USDA wetland restoration project in the state of West Virginia.
The property was donated to the Potomac Valley Audubon Society in the summer of 2011 by Stauffer Miller and his wife Elinor, of Charlottesville, VA. Mr. Miller is a native of Inwood, WV. The Millers had owned the property since 1999 and had maintained it as a nature preserve on their own.
Characteristics of the property
The preserve is 45.7 acres in size. It includes shallow ponds, many of which dry up in the summer, marshy areas, woods and edge lands, and about 780 feet of Back Creek frontage.
This rich, diverse habitat makes Stauffer's Marsh especially attractive to birds, and it is a favorite spot for many Eastern Panhandle birders. To date, some 150 species of birds have been identified there.
View the entire list here. Stauffer's Marsh Bird List 2012.PDF
Many of the preserve's ponds and marshy areas are easily viewed from the road. Currently, the preserve's only trail is a mowed trail at the north end, which runs from a locked gate near the road to Back Creek. PVAS hopes to develop additional trails in the future.
What is the preserve's mission?
The mission of the preserve is to protect the land forever from future development and to fulfill the Millers’ wish that it be maintained to provide habitat for wetland bird species in particular, and serve as a place to help educate the public about the importance of wetlands. Birders, hikers, and photographers are welcome at the preserve any time.
The Stauffer's Marsh property is part of an 882-acre tract granted by Thomas Lord Fairfax to Abraham Haines, a Quaker from Eversham Township in Burlington County New Jersey, on October 21, 1754. Although Haines owned quite a bit of land in New Jersey, his Back Creek Valley property seems to represent his only venture into land speculation away from home.
As far as is known, Haines never visited his Back Creek Valley property. However, at least two of his sons, Abraham and Joshua, were active in Frederick County, Virginia, from the mid 1740s to the mid 1750s and were members of the Opequon Friends Meeting.
When Abraham Sr. died in 1758, the portion of the Back Creek Valley property that encompassed Stauffer's Marsh went to his son Isaac, who was known as "Lame Isaac." It is not clear if Isaac ever visited the property but he never lived there.
Among the succeeding owners, Bethuel Middleton Kitchen (1812-1895) was a person of some prominence. He was a justice of the peace and a county commissioner, and he served in both houses of the state of the state legislature. The house he built in 1857 still stands, across from the Shanghai store.
If you are using GPS, the parking lot at the north end of the preserve is across from 4069 Back Creek Valley Road, Hedgesville WV.
From Hedgesville and points west: take Route 9 to Back Creek Valley Road (County Route 7) just west of Hedgesville. Follow Back Creek Valley Road south for 10.5 miles to the village of Shanghai. In Shanghai, from the intersection with Hampshire Grade and Tub Run Hollow roads, continue following Back Creek Valley Road south for another one-half mile. The preserve will be on your left, on the east side of the road.
From Martinsburg: Take King Street west over I-81 to Tuscarora Pike (County Route 15). Follow Tuscarora Pike about 10 miles over North Mountain and across Back Creek into Shanghai (it becomes County Route 18 at the intersection with Poor House Road). In Shanghai, turn south onto Back Creek Valley Road and follow it one-half mile to the preserve, on your left, on the east side of the road.
From Charles Town: Take West Virginia Route 51 west about 16.6 miles to West Virginia Route 45. Turn west (left) on Route 45 and follow it 2.5 miles into Glengary. At Glengary, turn north (right) onto Back Creek Valley Road (County Route 7). Follow Back Creek Valley Road 4.2 miles to the preserve, on your right, on the east side of the road.
There is a substantial graveled parking area at the north end of the preserve. There is also parking at the south end.
View an aerial view of Stauffer's Marsh. The black lines denote the preserve boundaries. The arrow points to the parking area at the north end
View a plat of the property
Because local residents have been fishing the property since USDA restored its ponds, PVAS continues to allow fishing but only with prior written permission. To prevent ecological impact, no additional permissions are being granted at this time. No boats of any kind are allowed on the ponds.
To keep deer populations down, one local family has exclusive hunting rights in exchange for helping to care for the property. No other hunting is permitted.
Ticks are prevalent at the preserve, and visitors are urged to use appropriate precautions.