The Wertz Covered Bridge

The Wertz Covered Bridge, also known as the Red Covered Bridge (but aren’t most of them), is a historic wooden covered bridge located at Bern Township and Spring Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The bridge is a 204-foot-long, Burr Truss bridge, constructed in 1867. It crosses the Tulpehocken Creek. It serves as the walkway entrance to the Berks County Heritage Center, which also includes the Gruber Wagon Works. It is one of only five covered bridges remaining in Berks County. It is the largest single-span covered bridge in Pennsylvania.

The bridge was restored in 1959 and later in 1984, however, when the Warren Street Bypass opened, the bridge was closed permanently in October, 1959. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1978.

The bridge is part of the Berks County Heritage Center, an historical interpretive complex commemorating important eras of Berks County cultural history. The Gruber Wagon Works (a National Historic Landmark) the C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, Wertz’s Covered Bridge, Melcher’s Grist Mill, Deppen Cemetery, Bicentennial Eagle Memorial, the Distlefink statue and a salad and herb garden are all encompassed within the Heritage Center.

The view from Tulpehocken Road.
Inside Pennsylvania’s longest single span covered bridge.
The Bat Colony of the bridge. I love bats. They eat insects and are so cute.
A look around the Berks County Heritage Center…
A look up at the bridge.
The view from the other end.
Tulpehocken Creek

Looking Back at Summer

Let’s take a look at some state parks in southeastern Pennsylvania from way back in mid September. Benjamin Rush State Park is in norheast Philadelphia and is the only state park within the city boundary. It has trails for hikers and bikers, good spots for wildlife and bird watchers and a model airplane field (like Valley Forge).

The park was named for Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and attendee at the Continental Congress. He is the Father of American Psychiatry and published the first text book on the subject in the U.S. He advocated improved conditions for mental patients and careful clinical observation and study. Dr. Rush pioneered addiction therapies including treatment of alcoholism as a disease. The park was created out of land from a former state mental hospital.

I found its most notable feature to be its large community garden, however.

Community gardens flying the flag.

The next location was in Bristol, PA, Bucks County, for two of the many access points for Delaware Canal State Park. A walk along the entirety of the 60-mile-long towpath of the Delaware Canal State Park is a stroll back in time. Following the Delaware River between Easton and Bristol, this park contains an historic canal and towpath, a 50-acre pond, many miles of river shoreline, 11 river islands, and diverse scenery.

Boat along the Delaware River.
The High Cross Monument to Irish immigration.
Harriet Tubman.
The Hispanic Monument.

Futher into town, we see the southern end of the canal.

The end of the line.
A monument to Irish Civil War veterans and the basin at Bristol.

Finally, White Clay Creek Preserve along the Delaware border is the only property in the state park system called a “preserve.” Maybe because it adjoins White Clay Creek State Park in Delware. The 2,072-acre White Clay Creek Preserve is in southern Chester County. One can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding in the Preserve. The area of White Clay Creek Preserve is part of a larger tract of land sold to William Penn in 1683 by Lenni Lenape Chief Kekelappen. It is thought that Kekelappen lived in Opasiskunk, an “Indian Town” which appears on a survey map of 1699 at the confluence of the Middle and East branches of White Clay Creek. The creek is named for the white clay found along its banks and used to make pottery.

The London Tract Baptist Meetinghouse, built in 1929, is at the intersection of Sharpless and London Tract roads. In its stone-walled cemetery rest many of the area’s earliest settlers including Dr. David Eaton.

The London Tract Baptist Meeting House, near the park office.
The remains of the Sexton’s House across the road.

In 1984, the DuPont Company donated land to Pennsylvania and Delaware for the purpose of preserving the diverse and unique plant and animal species, and the rich cultural heritage of the area. Today, these lands form the bi-state White Clay Creek Preserve. Because White Clay Creek posses outstanding scenic, wildlife, recreational, and cultural value, it has been designated by Congress as a National Wild and Scenic River, and shall be preserved in free-flowing condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

A Study in Contrasts

Greenwood Furnace and Penn-Roosevelt State Park may be close to one another, but they are very different in history and atmosphere. First up is Greenwood Furnace, which is one of those state parks with a lot of different activities available. It is in Huntingdon, PA.

In its 423 acres, the park offers a lake with swimming, small craft boating, hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, as well as a chance to view some local history. The park also provides access to the 80,000 acre Rothrock State Forest. However, a trip to the park begins with its historic district, which contains a blacksmith shop and the remains of an iron furnace. The community that existed on the site from 1834 to 1904 was a 19th century ironmaking complex.

The village blacksmith shop.
An old iron furnace.
The dam at the lake at Greenwood Furnace.
Care for a dip?

Penn-Roosevelt is a 41-acre park is in an isolated area of the Seven Mountains region known as the Stone Creek Kettle. While the park is small in size, it is surrounded by a large block of Rothrock State Forest in Centre County.

Penn-Roosevelt is a good base for those seeking off the beaten track, low-density recreation in the State Forest. Activities include hiking on the Mid-State or other trails, gravel-riding on over 100 miles of Forestry roads, and mountain biking the nearby Cooper’s Gap area. There is also picnicking available. The small campground is rustic (tent camping only with latrines). However, one really does have the sense of being deep in the woods here. There is fishing in the streams in the park and access to hunting in the State Forest.

One of the most notable aspects of Penn-Roosevelt State Park is that it was constructed during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp S-62, which was built in Stone Creek Kettle. This was, unfortunately per CCC policy, a segregated camp. The members of the camp were all African-American and it was one of only 12 such CCC camps in Pennsylvania. The members of Camp S-62 constructed many of the facilities in use today at Penn-Roosevelt State Park. They constructed a log-crib dam that has since received a stone facing. They also built many of the roads and trails in the surrounding Rothrock State Forest. Remnants of the camp, including two stone fireplaces and a stone bake oven, can be seen today in the woods of Penn-Roosevelt State Park.

Remains of the CCC and a picnic area.

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.

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.

One of the Best Views of the Susquehanna River

Susquehannock State Park lies on the east bank of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County. The overlook at the park provides one of the best views of the river in southern Pennsylvania.

I visited the park near sunset, after stopping for dinner in Quarryville.

The wide open southern view from the park.
Somehow, I found the northern view more interesting.
A glimpse of sunset. The western facing overlook is a great sunset spot.
The James B. Long home from 1850

The Long home, pictured above, has an interesting history, which you can read about here.

From Whitemarsh to Green Lane

Here’s a look at some of my Spring travels through Montgomery County.

An old barn near Evansburg State Park from the front …
,,, and the back.
One of the buildings of Casselberry Farm
This farm is near Dixon Meadow Preserve, where I once saw a very lost Rock Wren.
Red barn near Green Lane Park.

Pennsylvania’s Fruit Basket

Western Adams County, along the slopes of South Mountain, hosts a large number of orchards. I was on my way to Gettysburg from Pine Grove Furnace and happened on this area by chance. It was a nice surprise.

A look down a row of new trees.
A mature orchard,
I loved this farm peeking out from behind the pond.

I had to visit the Historic Round Barn and Farm Market in Biglerville, PA. The family-owned market has fresh fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, honey, canned fruits and vegetables, snacks, candy, and gift items. It is well worth a visit if you are near Gettysburg.

A very interesting building and well-maintained.
A signature painted horse out front.
Some adorable residents.

Gettysburg on Memorial Day

Memorial Day brought me to Gettysburg National Military Park on my way home from the Cumberland Valley. I had been here a few times when I was young, but it’s been a while since I was there. In additional to being educational and preserving this country’s history, the park is a lovely place for a walk or bike ride. As I am not an expert on military history, I will share some of the views and monuments that I particularly liked, with particular emphasis on farms.

.

A cannon on Confederate Avenue.
The State of Louisiana Monument – one of the most imposing.
Part of the Snyder Farm.
Irish Brigade Monument, 63rd, 69th and 88th New York Infantry 14th New York Independent Battery.
A view of the Slyder farm.
The Codori farm.
The Abraham Trostle Farm.
More of the Trostle farm.
A distant view.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Memorial.
The Jacob Hummelbaugh farm.
… with some adjacent cannon …

A Salute to Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to the Cumberland Valley and Michaux State Forest. The Carlisle area is home the U.S. Army War College and the Army Heritage and Educational Center. I was not able to visit the exhibits at the Heritage Center due to it being closed because of “the situation,” but was able to visit some of the outside exhibits. More about the Heritage Center can be found here.

I liked this mural on the side of the building.
An old artillery piece on display.
A great statue memorializing out veterans.
One of the tanks near the main entrance.

The Heritage Center also hosts the Army Heritage Trail, which serves as an outdoor museum. It covers about one mile and highlights nearly every era of Army history with different exhibits and large artifacts. The Trail also serves as a stage for living history presentations by historians serving as interpreters.

Fourteen individual exhibits include full scale reconstructions of a French and Indian War way station, Redoubt Number 10 from the Revolutionary War siege of Yorktown, a section of the Antietam battlefield, a Civil War winter encampment with cabins, a WWI trench system, a WWII company area, a replicated Normandy Bocage scene from World War II, a Current Operations HESCO Bastion barrier checkpoint, and an interpretation of the Vietnam helicopter air assault at Ia Drang that includes a period Fire Support Base. Additionally, there are numerous smaller exhibits featuring armor, aircraft, and artillery from several different eras of U.S. Army history.

A view of the Heritage Trail.