The Old Forest

The Clarion River area is one of the most scenic in Pennsylvania. One of its jewels is a 13-mile stretch of the the river that flows through Cook Forest State Park and is popular for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing.

The 8,500-acre Cook Forest State Park and 3,136-acre Clarion River Lands lie in Clarion, Forest and Jefferson Counties. The Cook Forest Association was formed in the 1920s to save the few areas of surviving old growth timber. Endorsed by national natural resource groups and Governor Gifford Pinchot, the association raised $200,000, which helped the commonwealth purchase 6,055 acres from A. Cook Sons Company in 1927 for $640,000. Cook Forest became the first Pennsylvania state park acquired to preserve a natural area. It was later designated a National Natural Landmark.

This area is known for some of the tallest trees in the state and old growth forest.
Some camping cottages.
The surrounding area was surprisingly touristy.

I also visited Clear Creek State Park which is 11 miles from Cook Forest. The park encompasses 1,901 acres in Jefferson County and occupies a scenic portion of the Clear Creek Valley from PA 949 to the Clarion River. It has camping, rustic cabins, and Clarion River access for fishing and boating.

One of the Stars of Our Show

One of Pennsylvania’s iconic state parks is Kinzua Bridge. There is a large visitor center and an opportunity to walk out onto the old railroad viaduct with impressive views of the valley below.

The Viaduct was once the longest and tallest railroad structure at 2,053 feet long and 301 feet high. It was partially destroyed by a tornado during 2003. Reinvented as a pedestrian walkway in 2011, visitors can stroll 600 feet out on the remaining support towers, peer miles out into the Kinzua Gorge, and gaze down through the partial glass platform at the end of the walkway. The Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitor Center features great views, self-guiding exhibits, and information about the surrounding area.

A view to the valley below. This photo really doesn’t do it justice.
Some exhibits in the Visitor’s Center.
A unexpected photo op – the Swedish Viking Ship sculpture in nearby Mt. Jewett.

Finally Heading North

After an overnight stay in the Dubois area, I headed north to Bendigo and Elk State Park. The small Bendigo has a swimming pool and fishing and kayaking in the east branch of the Clarion River. Here are a couple of looks at the pool.

A bit further north is Elk State Park which boasts a large reservoir and a campground. The lake is large enough for unlimited horsepower boating. I have included a few shots of the lake, dam and a cabin the camping area.

Two Great Places for Overnight Stays

Simon B. Elliott State Park and Parker Dam State Park are two parks that offer great access to the area of the “Pennsylvania Wilds” and the Elk Visitor Center. I wanted to check them out to for potential future trips to the area. The first stop was S.B. Elliott. It was gray and raining when I arrived. This park features a lot of interesting CCC built structures surrounded by the Moshannon State Forest, including rustic cabins.

Parker Dam is not far away from S.B. Elliott. As the DCNR website says “a scenic lake, rustic cabins, quaint campground, and unbounded forest make Parker Dam an ideal spot for a relaxing vacation.” This park is great for access to hiking and mountain biking, including a walk through tornado ravaged woods. The lake offers swimming, boating and fishing. Stay overnight in a cabin or in the campgrounds. You may even see some elk.

The beach.
The Parker Dam dam.
The unique octagonal Tyler Log Cabin is available for rent.

A Few Quick Stops

I had previously travelled through this area in Union and Clinton Counties but did not have the opportunity to visit all of the state parks. I routed myself through this area on my way to western Pennsylvania. My first stop was Sand Bridge State Park, the smallest state park, which occupies three acres. It is used for picnicking and fishing.

I next made a quick stop at the lake and dam overlook at Raymond B. Winter State Park on my way to McCalls Dam State Park. I had previously been to RB Winter and hope to return to do some camping. This park has a wide variety of activities including hiking, fishing, swimming, camping and mountain biking.

The nearby McCalls Dam State Park is also one of the state’s smallest, consisting of a picnic area along with access to hiking, hunting and fishing in Bald Eagle State Forest. I first stopped at a scenic overlook on McCalls Dam Road on my way to the park. Note that even the state can’t decide if there is an “s” in the name of this park or not.

The last stop in this cluster of parks was Ravensburg State Park. It lies in a narrow gorge carved by Rauchtown Run. It was a popular spot with local Amish couples out for a drive on this Sunday afternoon. This lovely spot provides camping, picnicking, hiking, hunting and fishing opportunities. I managed to miss the entrance into a section of the park, but this is a location which will be easy for me to get back to.

Lancaster County Spring

Before we head to western Pennsylvania, let’s take a look at some shots from a nice Spring day in Lancaster County. It was a good day for photography, the sun was shining and the cows seemed happy.

This shot and following one are the same farm.

Celebrating the Lancaster County Buggy

A day out in the rural areas of Lancaster County will provide many encounters with horse drawn buggies, whether in motion or stationery. Sundays tend to be particularly busy, with people going to church or visiting neighbors.

A small child looks on …
Traffic Gap with a miniature of the Clock Tower (full size below).
People who drive buggies need to shop too. Stores in the area often have hitches, or even simple open sheds, for horse parking.