Kurtz’s Mill Covered Bridge

Kurtz’s Mill Covered Bridge is a covered bridge over Mill Creek in Lancaster County Central Park. The bridge is also known as the County Park Covered Bridge, Baer’s Mill Covered Bridge, Isaac Baer’s Mill Bridge, Keystone Mill Covered Bridge, Binder Tongue Carrier Covered Bridge, and Mill 2A Covered Bridge (that’s a lot of names). The bridge is used by road traffic from within the park to access a picnic pavilion.

Kurtz’s Mill Covered Bridge

The bridge has a single span, wooden, double burr arch trusses design with the addition of steel hanger rods. The deck is made from oak planks. It is painted red, the traditional color of Lancaster County covered bridges, on both the inside and outside. Both approaches to the bridge are painted in red with white trim. It has a 94 foot span.

The span of the bridge from the trail below. Excuse the backlighting.

The bridge was built in 1876 by W. W. Upp over the Conestoga River. In 1972, it was damaged by the floodwaters caused by Hurricane Agnes. It was repaired by David Esh in 1975 and moved to its present location in the Lancaster County Park over Mill Creek, a tributary of the Conestoga River. Unlike most historic covered bridges in the county, it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The banks of Mill Creek

The Season Begins

The onset of Spring turns my mind to birds. This is usually the best time of year to look for birds due to the opportunity to see migrating rarities in bright breeding dress. I frequently stop by Marsh Creek State Park when in the area. This is a good spot for bird watching, but I don’t seem to have much luck here. It probably doesn’t help that I am not a morning person and am, therefore, often looking for birds after 11 am. I did see some distant Common Mergansers on the lake, but had to settle for non-bird photos.

Land cruisin’
No entry
I always think I am going to find something here but never do ….

I also stopped by Struble Lake that day. This was more promising this time around. I saw a Savannah Sparrow and a lot of Snow Geese. There was still a fair amount of ice on the lake in early March.

Snow geese and friends

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

Snow, Snow Go Away

Here are some photos of snowy Valley Forge National Historical Park and Chester County. Snow becomes less agreeable to me as I age, but it still looks very pretty.

These views of Valley Forge look down the hill from the Varnum’s Quarters area.

The park was quite full with walkers and sledders under the circumstances.

A drive around northwestern Chester County follows.

A Pair of Parks

The 3,520-acre Swatara State Park consists of rolling fields and woodlands situated in the Swatara Valley, between Second and Blue mountains. Swatara Creek runs through the park and is surrounded by forests and wetlands that support an abundance of wildlife. The park is also a hotbed for fossil hunters.

In the past this landscape was dominated by a feeder branch of the Union Canal and then a railroad. Today, Swatara Park features a rail trail, hiking (including a few miles of the Appalachian Trail), fishing, hunting, cycling, horseback riding and kayaking.

The lovely rail trail.
Off for a ride.
The mountains are ablaze in Autumn.

Nearby Memorial Lake State Park consists of 230 acres at the the base of Blue Mountain in East Hanover Township, Lebanon County. The park is surrounded by Fort Indiantown Gap, the headquarters for the Pennsylvania Army and Air National Guard. The park is dominated by its lovely lake. It is a great spot for a picnic or some boating and fishing. There are also hiking trails at the park and and an exercise course.

Fort Indiantown Gap was named after the American Indian village known as Indiantown and the gap in the Blue Mountain where Indiantown was located. Indian artifacts found in the Lebanon and Swatara Valleys indicate a human presence as early as 2,500 BC.

Established in 1931, Fort Indiantown Gap was built as a National Guard training center. During World War II, it was used as a training site for seven Army divisions, and also as a demobilization site once the war was over. Memorial Lake was established in 1945 in memory of Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers who served in World War I and World War II. In 1955, Memorial Lake was transferred to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and became Memorial Lake State Park.

I would love to have a canoe moored here.
Done fishin’ for the day.
A beutiful picnic spot.
Let’s just enjoy the beauty of the lake.
A great view of Memorial Lake.

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.

Some Very Special Bridges

Columbia County is home to a unique pair of bridges. The Twin Bridges, named East Paden and West Paden, are located on Huntington Creek. They were constructed in 1884 by W. C. Pennington for $720, and are named after John Paden, who operated a nearby sawmill. Twin Bridges County Park was created in 1963 when a new road bypassed the bridges.

The original West Paden was washed away by floods waters in June 2006. It was reconstructed in 2008. The bridges are open to foot traffic and contain picnic tables. They are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The rebuilt West Paden Bridge – you can see a bit of the new road bridge to the left.
A very refreshing dip in Huntington Creek.
The view from the side, and picnickers with the downward view.
The shady inside.
The entrance from the East Paden side.
A view from the park of both bridges.
Inside East Paden.
Casting an interesting shadow.

Now for a bonus bridge – down the road a short distance is the Josiah Hess Covered Bridge. It has a deep woods feeling compared to the Paden Bridges. You can walk through this bridge.

The Josiah Hess Bridge.
A very shady interior.
Down the side, from the other end of the bridge.

The Wilder Side of the Holidays

I took advantaage of the fact that the Elmwood Park’s Zoos had its Wild Lights attraction open this holiday season with timed tickets that limited visitor numbers. I think most of this post is self-explanatory, so just enjoy the festive lights and holiday cheer. The Elmwood Park Zoo is located in Norristown, Montgomery County. The pictures are pretty much in the same order as if you followed the pathway through the exhibit.

This Eastern Screech Owl was popular for selfies with the kids.
One of the zoo’s jaguars, checking out the tourists. Excuse the glass reflections here.
Another owl in a desert exhibit in the jaguar house – it looks like a burrowing owl to me.

Let’s Hang onto Autumn a Bit Longer

Here are some late leaf season shots of Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County. I’ve been holding off on the Christmas posts as long as I can just as I was trying hold onto Autumn on this day in late October.

Blue Marsh National Recreation Area contains an artificial lake located northwest of Reading, Pennsylvania. It was constructed and is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is fed by the Tulpehocken Creek. Blue Marsh was the name of the village that was located where the lake now is. It was the first settlement in Lower Heidelberg Township. The United States Army Corps of Engineers began constructing the lake in March 1974 with the impoundment of the Tulpehocken Creek and was completed in September 1979. The lake is now a popular spot for recreation, including swimming, boating, fishing, wildlife watching and picnicing.

A view toward the mountains.
One of several great overlooks toward the lake.
The Autumn color was haning on.
This snag looks great against the fall leaves.
A view toward the dam.
A lovely old barn.
This shoreline is very inviting.
The color of this tree is just … wow!
A great view of the lake.
A close-up toward the left.

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.