There are some fantastic locations in Pennsylvania that have escaped my notice, even after all these years. Perhaps, in the case of our next location, it is because it’s almost all the way to the New York State line.
Tioga-Hammond Lakes are twin lakes in north central Pennsylvania with overnight and day use facilities in a scenic environment, southwest of Tioga, PA and north of Wellsboro on PA on Route 287. The recreation area has camping, a swimming beach, sand volleyball court, playground, boat launches, field sports area, a camp store, trails hunting, display gardens, archery trail, scenic overlooks and picnic facilities including grills and picnic shelters. There area is administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The lakes were formed by the building of two separate dams, one on the Tioga River and one on Crooked Creek. They are connected by a channel cut through the rock which has its own weir on the Tioga Reservoir side. This unusual arrangements allows acid polluted water to mix with cleaner water from the other stream, increasing overall water quality downstream.
I left Austin and proceeded south to Sizerville State Park. This park reminds me of Hyner Run or Reeds Gap. It is a quiet park with a small campground and a pool. Alas, the pool at Reeds Gap is gone, but this type of park remains one of my favorites. The 368 acre Sizerville is surrounded by Elk State Forest and near large blocks of additional state forest land. If it wasn’t so far, I’d like to come back here.
I then made the long journey to Kettle Creek State Park. In retrospect, I should have done this the day before as continuation of my trip to Ole Bull, but now I know better. The park consists of 1,793 acres along Kettle Creek in western Clinton County. The park is in a valley surrounded by mountainous terrain and wilderness. Many of the existing recreational facilities arose from a joint flood control project developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. The park offers camping, boating, hunting, fishing, hiking, and other activities.
I thought I might be able to save some time getting to Sinnemahoning State Park by driving up to Kettle Creek Vista then cutting across the ridge and down the other side. Of course there were no roads down into the other valley, because there was another lake, with (you guessed it) another dam.
I made the trek back down the valley to highway north to Sinnemahoning State Park. The park, located near the center of the Pennsylvania Wilds’ scenic steep valleys region, encompasses 1,910 acres of beautiful scenery and outstanding wildlife habitat. Situated in Cameron and Potter counties, the park is nestled between the green-shouldered ridges of Pennsylvania’s Elk State Forest and Susquehannock State Forest. The park is long and narrow and includes lands on both sides of First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek — a major tributary to the Sinnemahoning Creek. At the southern end of the park, a 145-acre reservoir created by the George B. Stevenson dam provides fishing and boating opportunities. There is a campground and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, including elk, bear, and large variety of birds.
My trip on this Juneteenth weekend began in earnest when I turned left from Route 15 onto Route 44 in Lycoming County. I was soon at my first stop of the day.
Upper Pine Bottom State Park is one of the smallest parks in the state park system, measuring in at 5 acres. It provides picnic tables next to a stream and access to hunting and fishing. It also acts as an entry point for hiking and cross country skiing in the nearby Tiadaghton State Forest.
My next stop was Ole Bull State Park which lies off Route 44 and a short distance down Route 144. Ole Bull State Park consists of 132 acres along the Kettle Creek Valley in Potter County in an area called the Black Forest because of its dense tree cover, mountainous terrain, and wilderness habitat. The park has a fascinating history. It is named for Ole Bornemann Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist who toured the United States in the 1850s. In 1852, Ole Bull purchased a large tract of land in Potter County and attempted to develop a series of Norwegian settlements. He began construction of a home, at what now is called Ole Bull Vista, which has never finished. After a year of severe hardships, the majority of the colony disbanded and moved west into Michigan and Wisconsin.
The park has swimming in Kettle Creek, a campground, and the usual array of state park activities.
Lyman Run State Park was next on the list. One of several parks in this area with a dam, it has a 45 acre lake, swimming, camping, boating and other activities.
A daytime visit to Cherry Springs State Park followed. This park is well known for being one of the best spots on the east coast for dark nighttime skies and astronomical viewing. The park has a public astronomy field for short term viewing and an overnight field. There is also a campground and opportunities for hiking.
This park is beloved, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when I returned the following night. The weather was fairly clear with low humidity, and the moon was below the horizon. However, I didn’t feel that the number of visible stars was significantly better than what I could see an hour from home in southeastern Pennsylvania. I didn’t attempt to photograph any. I have seen much better displays of stars during my adulthood in the Florida Keys and on the eastern shore of Maryland.
Near the park is Cherry Springs Vista, which sits directly on Route 44.
Adjacent to the Goshenville Blacksmith Shop is the Goshenville Wetlands, a nice place for a short walk and a dog friendly area. It is located in East Goshen Township, which lies in northeastern Chester County. Here are some early Spring photos of the wetlands and the nearby historic structures.
The first thing you notice from the parking area is the honey bee project. The Bees by the Blacksmith Shop is a public-private partnership that brought honey producing hives to this open space. The Watermark at Bellingham Senior Living sponsored the hives, and Carmen B’s Honey, a Township-based small business, manages and maintain the bees. The Watermark will introduce apiary education to its residents and begin using the honey in its recipes and cooking classes. The Township was also set to begin a youth apiary program. In 2022, a kids program complete with youth-sized beekeeper outfits so they can safely get close and see the inner workings of the hives will be started.
The walk provides open views over the wetland with a dry walkway and elevated platforms and walks over potentially damp areas. There is a nice view of Ridley Creek which runs along side the property.
The historic structures are adjacent to this area and are connected via the walking path. The Goshenville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The Blacksmith Shop was built in 1840 and is open to the public two days a week from April through October. An image of the shop is a symbol of East Goshen Township.
Adams County is home to four covered bridges. A visit to the bridges provides a focus for a drive outside Gettysburg for visitors to the area. As usual, covered bridges look best to me in Autumn.
The first up the Anderson Farm Covered Bridge. The builder of this bridge is unknown, the length is 79 ft., and the width is 14 ft. The bridge appears to be in very good shape and closed to all traffic. The bridge is used for storage by the present owners of the property This structure originally spanned Mud creek. It was moved to the point where it is today by a farmer named Anderson.
Heikes Covered Bridge is located approximately 2.5 miles north of Heidlersburg, between Tyrone and Huntington Township. The structure was built in 1892 and uses the Burr truss, and the builder is unknown. The bridge crosses Bermudian Creek and is 67 ft. long and 14 ft. wide. The bridge is not open to any traffic and is located on private land.
Jack’s Mountain Bridge is located on State Route 3021, Jack’s Mountain Rd., approximately 1.5 miles south west of Fairfield in Hamiltonban Township. The bridge was built in 1890 by Joseph Smith using the Burr truss. The structure is 75 ft. long and 14 ft. wide and crosses Tom’s Creek. The state owns this bridge, and it is open to all traffic. This is the only bridge in Adams County that is opened to vehicular traffic. The bridge has a red light at each end to control the traffic flow on this one lane structure.
Finally, the Sachs Covered Bridge is very near Gettysburg National Military Park. It is located on Twp. Route 405, Pumping Station Road, in Freedom Township, just south of State Route 305 and west of the Eisenhauer National Historic site and and Gettysburg National Military Park. The bridge was built in 1854 by David Spooner using the Town truss and and utilizing one span. The structure is 100 ft. long and 15 ft. wide, and it is only open to foot traffic. The bridge crosses Marsh Creek and is owned by Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association.
The bridge was known as Sauck’s during the Civil War, it was built using oak and pine. The bridge was repaired in 1997 after heavy rains washed the bridge from it’s foundation and carried it approximately one hundred yards downstream.
On July 3rd and 4th, 1863 , the bridge was used by a portion of the Confederate army, in retreat out of Gettysburg, but is said to have been used by both armies during the time of the Gettysburg conflict. Robert E. Lee had split his army into 2 sections, with one headed to Northwest toward Cashtown, while the other crossed Sauck’s Bridge and headed Southwest. The bridge is known to have been the site of a triple hanging at one end, and in close proximity to a crude post battle field hospital, the Sauck’s Covered Bridge is a favorite of ghost hunters.
A bonus location is the historic Round Barn and Farmer’s Market on Cashtown Road, which I have featured on this blog before. While at the market, I picked up some delicious apple cider, cider donuts, and fresh apples. The market features many kinds of apples which are difficult to find.
Franklin County, Pennsylvania is home to two covered bridges. It was great to seem them in the Autumn, which is the Commonwealth’s best season (in my opinion. of course).
First up is the Martins Mill or Shindle Bridge which is reported to be the longest remaining Town truss covered bridge in Pennsylvania. It was reconstructed after the Hurricane Agnes flood of 197, but it is now closed to all traffic. It is still open to foot and bike trail users. The bridge was built in 1839 by Jacob Shirk. The length is 207 ft. with a width of 16 ft.. it crosses Conococheague Creek in Franklin County.
One the way to this bridge, I spotted some interesting cattle:
The Witherspoon Covered Bridge is the second covered bridge in Franklin County. The bridge was built in 1883 by S. Stouffer. It utilizes the Burr Truss in its construction. The bridge’s length is 87 ft., and the width is 14 ft. it crosses Licking Creek in Montgomery Township.
Looming over the town of Nicholson, Pennsylvania is the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, a railroad bridge completed in 1915. It is a concrete deck arch bridge on the Nicholson Cutoff rail segment of the Norfolk Southern Railway Sunbury Line that spans Tunkhannock Creek. Measuring 2,375 feet (724 m) long and 240 feet (73.15 m) tall when measured from the creek bed (300 feet (91.44 m) from bedrock), it was the largest concrete structure in the world when completed in 1915 and still merited “the title of largest concrete bridge in America, if not the world” 50 years later. Built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the bridge is owned today by Norfolk Southern Railway and is still used daily for regular through freight service. Apparently almost half of the bulk of this behemoth is underground, in the form of bridge pillars up to 138 feet (142 m) below ground.
The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 1977. In 1975, the American Society of Civil Engineers or ASCE designated the bridge as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. ASCE recognized the bridge as “not only a great feat of construction skill” but also a “bold and successful departure from contemporary, conventional concepts of railroad location in that it carried a mainline transversely to the regional drainage pattern, effectively reducing the distance and grade impediments…”
I also swung by Lackawanna State Park on my way back from the bridge. The 1,445-acre park is ten miles north of Scranton. The focus is the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake, which is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through forest. Boating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming are popular recreation activities here.
Nestled in the far north of Susquehanna County not far from the New York line, Salt Springs State Park feels like one of the more remote state parks in Pennsylvania. It is well known for its deep gorge with three waterfalls, old growth hemlock trees and the salt spring which gives the park its name. It is unusual among state parks in that it is managed by the Friends of Salt Springs State Park, a volunteer organization. The Friends also own and operate an adjacent tract of land. Prior to becoming a park, Salt Springs was the homestead of the Wheaton family. The park offers hiking, camping, picnicking, and educational programming.
I visited on a rainy day which cut short some of my planned activities. I had intended to find the salt spring which is near the main homestead. From looking at photos and video on the internet, this spring is gurgle bubbling up through a pipe in a small hole in the ground. It does not seem like a main feature of the park which bears its name.
The park is lovely, especially along Salt Springs Road.
Prompton State Park and the Varden Conservation Area are located near each other in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Wayne County. Prompton State Park provides boat launching and picnicking facilities for the 290-acre Prompton Lake, which is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are twenty-six miles of hiking trails which surround the lake and a disc golf course.
A gift from veterinarian Dr. Mead Shaffer, the 444-acre Varden Conservation Area is in an area that was once a remote section of the state, but which is now beginning to feel pressure from development. The land is conserved as open space with opportunities for low impact recreation and educational use. It is a great place to learn about Pennsylvania’s natural history. There is picnicking by and fishing in the pond. There is also hiking in the two tracts which constitute this conservation area. I visited the Tannery Road Tract.
I made two recent trips to Dixon Meadow Preserve in Montgomery County to see a sora (seen) and a yellow crowned night heron (not seen), This Preserve provides some great bird habitat in the suburbs, especially in connection with the adjacent Erdenheim Farm. With its 14 acres rand boardwalk measuring nearly two-thirds of a mile, the Preserve is a haven for birders, walkers and those who simply enjoy the area’s natural beauty
Purchased by the McCausland family in 2009, Erdenheim farm is home to prize winning Cheviot Sheep, Black Angus cattle, and elegant Morgan Horses. Situated on close to 450 acres, Erdenheim Farm remains one of the last sanctuaries of pastoral life within the greater Philadelphia area.