State Parks in Autumn

This post is a beginning of a series on some central Pennsylvania state parks that I visited in October. The first up is Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, Perry County, PA. The visitor to Little Buffalo can partake of campgrounds, a swimming pool, a lake, hunting, fishing, picnicking and hiking. The park is 923 acres and was opened in 1972. It also features some historical sites which we’ll take a look at below.

Little Buffalo State Park is named for Little Buffalo Creek which runs through the park. The creek and the nearby Buffalo Ridge are named for the bison that are believed to have once roamed the ridge and valley region of Pennsylvania. Humans have lived in what is now Pennsylvania since at least 10,000 BC. The first settlers were Paleo-Indian nomadic hunters known from their stone tools. The hunter-gatherers of the Archaic period, which lasted locally from 7000 to 1000 BC, used a greater variety of more sophisticated stone artifacts. The Woodland period marked the gradual transition to semi-permanent villages and horticulture, between 1000 BC and 1500 AD. Archeological evidence found in the state from this time includes a range of pottery types and styles, burial mounds, pipes, bows and arrow, and ornaments. Perry County was part of the Albany Purchase of 1754 when the colonists purchased a large tract of land from the Iroquois League of Six Nations.

The lake reflecting the fall colors.
A quiet moment under a blaze of orange.
Canoe season is almost over.

European settlers arrived in the area in force after the Revolutionary War. John Koch, one of the first to farm the area in the 1790s, opened the Blue Ball Tavern in 1811. The tavern offered food, drink, and a sleeping loft. The Blue Ball Tavern served as a rest stop for messengers who travelled between Carlisle and Sunbury during the War of 1812. It is rumored that the tavern was where the plans for the creation of Perry County were made in 1821. The tavern was closed in 1841. A farmhouse was built in 1865 on the foundation of the tavern. Some recycled boards and hardware from the tavern were used in the construction of the farmhouse which currently houses the Blue Ball Tavern Museum and a library that are operated by the Perry County Historical Society.

The Blue Ball Tavern Museum.

William Shoaff bought 63 acres of land in the area and a gristmill from the Juniata Iron Works in 1849 after it had been shut down. The local farmers brought their crops to Shoaff’s Mill until the 1940s. The mill has since been restored and is back in operation. Visitors to the park can observe the milling of cornmeal, cracked corn and the grinding of apples for apple cider.

The mill. Sadly, the wheel was not running when I visited.

For me, not surprisingly, a covered bridge was one of the highlights. This is Clay’s Covered Bridge. It is a short walk from a parking area on your way to the mill.

The Legacy of Heroism

Bald Eagle State Park in Howard, PA is a 5,000 park that features a large reservoir for boating, fishing, and swimming, two campgrounds, hiking, hunting, and other activities. It is also the home of the Nature Inn, a unique hotel within the Pennsylvania state park system. The Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir, was formed by damming Bald Eagle Creek and other smaller streams. Bald Eagle State Park is at the meeting point of two distinct geologic features. The Allegheny Plateau is to the north and the Ridge and Valley area of Pennsylvania is to the south.

The park is named for the Lenape chief, Woapalanne, meaning bald eagle. Chief Woapalanne lived in the area for a brief period of time during the mid-18th century in a village that was on Bald Eagle Creek Path, part of the much more extensive Great Indian Warpath that stretched from New York into the Carolinas. This path was used by the Iroquois to conduct raids on the Cherokee in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Pennsylvania Route 150 follows this path in some areas near Bald Eagle State Park.

Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir is a 1,730-acre (700 ha) reservoir that was built in 1971 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a flood control project on the Susquehanna River basin. It stretches upstream for 8 miles (12.87 km) and has 23 miles (37.01 km) of shoreline.

The lake is named for Foster Joseph Sayers, a World War II hero. Sayers grew up in Marsh Creek. He received the Medal of Honor for acts of bravery on November 12, 1944 near Thionville, France. His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

CITATION: Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company L, 357th Infantry, 90th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Thionville, France, 12 November 1944. Entered service at: Howard, Pa. Birth: Marsh Creek, Pa. G.O. No.: 89, 19 October 1945. He displayed conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in combat on 12 November 1944, near Thionville, France. During an attack on strong hostile forces entrenched on a hill he fearlessly ran up the steep approach toward his objective and set up his machinegun 20 yards from the enemy. Realizing it would be necessary to attract full attention of the dug-in Germans while his company crossed an open area and flanked the enemy, he picked up his gun, charged through withering machinegun and rifle fire to the very edge of the emplacement, and there killed 12 German soldiers with devastating close-range fire. He took up a position behind a log and engaged the hostile infantry from the flank in an heroic attempt to distract their attention while his comrades attained their objective at the crest of the hill. He was killed by the very heavy concentration of return fire; but his fearless assault enabled his company to sweep the hill with minimum of casualties, killing or capturing every enemy soldier on it. Pfc. Sayers’ indomitable fighting spirit, aggressiveness, and supreme devotion to duty live on as an example of the highest traditions of the military service.

This beautiful park is well worth visiting and the lake is a fitting tribute to an American hero.

The Foster Joseph Sayers Medal of Honor Memorial is at the dam end of the lake.
Boating is a very popular activity at the lake.
The park, with its woodlands, meadows, and lake, is a frequent stop for birders.
Some Autumn views of the lake …

Honoring Those Who Served

Indiantown Gap National Cemetery is located in Annville, Pennsylvania. Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The cemetery was created in 1976 when a section of Fort Indiantown Gap was selected as the national cemetery for the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia. I also presume it is open to Pennsylvania veterans. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania donated Land for the 677-acre site to the Veterans Administration.

The elaborate Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial is the largest monument in the Veterans Administration’s National cemeteries. The combination open-air space and building stands 107 feet high and 360 feet long. Its design evokes “the ruins of a war-torn building centered in a land of solemnity.” Designed by Cee Jay Associates of West Chester, Pa., the granite, stone, and concrete composition was dedicated Oct. 7, 2001. The memorial is dedicated to all who serve the nation and veterans of all wars—past and future.

Let’s take a look around the cemetery and remember those who served our country.

Old Glory in Autumn leaves.
The cemetery has a peaceful and beautiful setting.

A walk around the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial is next.

The Pennsylvania coat of arms.
A bikers’ group was visiting the Memorial.
The flags of all states are flown.

And They’re Back …

This past Labor Day Weekend was spent trying to see the covered bridges in Columbia County that I had not previously viewed. I was able to see the remaining bridges, except the Lawrence L. Knoebel Covered Bridge inside Knoebels Grove, which was skipped due to the holiday weekend. It wasn’t visible from the road. The weather was nice this day, unlike on some of my other recent covered bridge adventures. I’ve put most of the rest of Columbia County’s bridges in this post, leaving a special grouping until another day.

The Columbia County bridges are painted red, although some do have white trim. All but one of the bridges pictured below are in the southern part of the county, south of Route 80.

The Krickbaum Covered Bridge
The Richards Covered Bridge
The Johnson Covered Bridge
Parrs Mill Covered Bridge – access to this one is blocked, and I’m not that ambitious.
The Esther Furnace Covered Bridge
A good side view here.
The Davis Covered Bridge
The Snyder Covered Bridge.
Good access for the side view here.
The Hollingshead Covered Bridge near Catawissa.

I had also previously missed the Covered Bridge in Briar Creek Lake Park near Berwick (and north of 80). I manged to accidentally photograph this one in black and white. Don’t ask.

Not Covered Bridges

Today we have a temporary break from covered bridges. On my trips to photograph these bridges, I come upon other interesting stuff. In fact, one of my all-time-favorite shots, was a picture I took after turning 180 degrees around from a covered bridge. The idly curious can check out the first shot on this post. Here are some views from around Columbia County:

Nice view of a campground across a lake. Near Esther Furnace Covered Bridge.
I really like the hand-made star and red and white paint on these buildings.
This really lovely barn is near Benton.

I also made my way over to Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County that same weekend.

Labor Day action at Frances Slocum.
A peaceful fishing spot on the lake.

Even More Bridges of Chester County

My goal of viewing all the bridges in Chester County is (almost) complete. I was unable to view the the Hayes Clark and Speakman II (Mary Ann Pyle) covered bridges because they sit inside the Laurel Preserve, which is owned by the Brandywine Conservancy. You must be a conservancy member to access the property. As you will see below, it was also a rainy day when I went out to see the remaining bridges, and I was on a tight schedule. I will have to come back to see these at some later date.

The first bridge of the day was the Speakman I bridge south of Coatesville. If you are interested in learning more about these bridges, or would like to find your own local covered bridges, I suggest this site.

The next stop (after the aborted Laurel Preserve visit) was a cluster of bridges near the Maryland border. I often find that covered bridges come in clusters, which is very convenient when trying to visit them. These three all sit across Elk Creek.

The Glen Hope Covered Bridge.
The Rudolph Arthur Covered Bridge.
The Linton Stevens Covered Bridge.

The next bridge is the impressive Pine Grove Covered Bridge over Octoraro Creek. It is 198 feet long and the longest covered bridge in Chester or Lancaster counties.

The Pine Grove Bridge,
Open to traffic, it is a well-maintained bridge.

I had to sneak in this shot in Oxford:

The view outside the Miss Oxford Diner. I liked the trains and cars in front of this old silo.

The final stop was in Lancaster County, because, well, it was nearby and ticks off another bridge.

Jackson’s Saw Mill Covered Bridge.

The Covered Bridges of French Creek

Chester County still has a fair number of covered bridges, with 15 still in existence. Many of them are open to traffic. It also continues to share some bridges with surrounding counties (Bartram, Pine Grove, and Mercers Mill, for example). A cluster of bridges span French Creek in the northeastern section of the county, west of Phoenixville.

Heading east, we encounter the bridges, beginning with Rapps Dam Covered Bridge.

Interesting that these bridges have white ends and red sides.

We come upon Kennedy Covered Bridge next.

The western most is Sheeder Hall Covered Bridge.

You have a good view of the side of this one and the creek.

The covered bridge saga continues next week.

A Little Bit of Lake Jean

i spent this past Labor Day at Ricketts Glen State Park. I avoided the crowds on the Falls Trail and spent the days photographing covered bridges and other nearby areas. The cottages on Lake Jean are some of my favorites in the state park system.

The front of the cottage faces the lake.
Sunset on Lake Jean. This view is facing east, so there is better view …
at sunrise. Seriously, I am never up this early.
Expressing how many feel, at a nearby location on Route 118.

The park was open, with some restrictions on check in times and requirements for mask usage in bath houses and park office buildings. Some facilities, such as the boat rental, were closed. Most things seemed to be operating normally.

I did see some interesting birds just sitting outside the cottage. A bald eagle, Canada warbler, a possible vireo, great blue heron, as well as a number of more common species such as chickadee, white breasted nuthatch, robin, chipping sparrow, catbird, and mallard.

As an added bonus, below are a few shots of holiday activity at Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County.

The lakeside is a popular area.
He had this fishing pier all to himself.

The Bridges of Chester County, Part I

This post is just the beginning of the promised photos of covered bridges. I set out on a mission to view and, in most cases, photograph my local covered bridges. For those of you interested in finding these bridges for yourself, I recommend this site. A view of the Knox (Valley Forge) covered bridge can be found in my earlier post.

Covered bridges were sometimes called “kissing bridges” because they provided some privacy for travellers to sneak a kiss. While at the Mercer’s Mill Covered Bridge, I met a guy who used to bring his girlfriend there from Delaware in the 1980s. So it seems the tradition of young lovers being drawn to covered bridges extended well into the twentieth century.

The Mercer’s Mills covered bridge.
Horses hanging out at a nearby farm.

The Bartram covered bridge straddles the border with Delaware County on Crum Creek. It would make one end, at least, Delaware County’s only covered bridge.

The Bartram Covered bridge.

The Gibson covered bridge sits along side a busy road. Traffic through the bridge is only one way. The eastern side has a parking area for access to local hiking in the Brandywine Meadows Preserve.

The Gibson Covered Bridge.
The Larkin Covered Bridge – sadly out of use, but it has a walking path nearby.

More Chester and Lancaster County Farms

Driving around locally usually produces more images of farms, even if I am mainly looking for covered bridges. The farms in Chester and Lancaster County are really visually interesting and varied, so I can’t help myself.

This one is in Lancaster County.
As is this one …
Back to Chester County …
I love the distressed paint and stone fence here.
This is nice looking complex of buildings.
Interesting grain silos.
Sunset over the cornfields.

Plenty more covered bridge photos are upcoming, too.