Leonard Harrison State Park

Leonard Harrison State Park

Leonard Harrison State Park
Pennsylvania State Park
Part of National Natural Landmark
View north of Pine Creek Gorge, Pine Creek, and the Pine Creek Rail Trail from the main lookout area in Leonard Harrison State Park
Named for: Leonard Harrison
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Tioga
Townships Shippen, Delmar
Location [1]
 - elevation 1,821 ft (555 m) [1]
 - coordinates
Area 585 acres (237 ha)
Founded 1922
Management Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Visitation 142,716 [2]
IUCN category V - Protected Landscape/Seascape
A map of the state of Pennsylvania with a red dot in the north-central part
Location of Leonard Harrison State Park in Pennsylvania
A map showing the two parks with Tioga State Forest to the north, west, and south and private land to the east. Labels include Delmar, Elk, and Shippen Townships, Pine Creek and its tributaries Bear Run, Fourmile Run, Little Fourmile Run, and Stowell Run, Pine Creek Rail Trail, West Rim Trail, Turkey Path, Pennsylvania Route 660, Park Office, and Camping and Group Tenting areas. Symbols for picnic shelters and vistas are shown in each park.
Colton Point (left) and Leonard Harrison (right) State Parks in Tioga County, Pennsylvania
Website: Leonard Harrison State Park

Leonard Harrison State Park is a 585-acre (237 ha) Shippen and Delmar Townships, 10 miles (16 km) west of Wellsboro at the western terminus of Pennsylvania Route 660.

National Natural Landmark in 1968 and is also protected as a Pennsylvania State Natural Area and Important Bird Area, while Pine Creek is a Pennsylvania Scenic and Wild River. The gorge is home to many species of plants and animals, some of which have been reintroduced to the area.

Although the Pine Creek Gorge was [3]


  • History 1
    • Native Americans 1.1
    • Lumber era 1.2
    • Nessmuk and Leonard Harrison 1.3
    • Modern era 1.4
  • Pine Creek Gorge 2
  • Geology and climate 3
  • Ecology 4
    • State Natural Area and wildlife 4.1
    • Important Bird Area 4.2
  • Recreation 5
    • Trails 5.1
    • Camping and picnics 5.2
    • Hunting, fishing, and whitewater 5.3
  • Nearby state parks 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Native Americans

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.[4][5] 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 arrows, and ornaments.[4]

Leonard Harrison State Park is in the

  • Leonard Harrison State Park official map PDF (280 KB)
  • Leonard Harrison State Park official campground map PDF (143 KB)
  • Pine Creek Rail Trail

External links

  1. ^ a b c "Leonard Harrison State Park".  
  2. ^ a b c d e f Fermata Inc. of Austin, Texas (August 2005). "Pine Creek Valley Early Action Recommendations" (PDF). Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved July 25, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c "Find a Park: 25 Must-see Parks".  
  4. ^ a b Kent, Barry C.; Smith III, Ira F.; McCann, Catherine (Editors) (1971). Foundations of Pennsylvania Prehistory. Anthropological Series of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. pp. 4, 7–11, 85–96, 195–201.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Wallace, Paul A. W. (2000) [1961]. Indians in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. pp. 4–12, 84–89, 99–105, 145–148, 157–164.  
    Note: For a general overview of Native American History in the West Branch Susquehanna watershed, see Meginness, John Franklin (1892). "Chapter I. Aboriginal Occupation.". History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania: including its aboriginal history; the colonial and revolutionary periods; early settlement and subsequent growth; organization and civil administration; the legal and medical professions; internal improvement; past and present history of Williamsport; manufacturing and lumber interests; religious, educational, and social development; geology and agriculture; military record; sketches of boroughs, townships, and villages; portraits and biographies of pioneers and representative citizens, etc. etc. (1st ed.). Chicago, IL: Brown, Runk & Co. typos.OCR ISBN refers to the Heritage Books July 1996 reprint. URL is to a scan of the 1892 version with some Note:  
  6. ^ The earliest written record of contact with the Susquehannocks comes from Captain John Smith of Jamestown, who met members of the tribe near the mouth of the Susquehanna River on Chesapeake Bay in 1608. The tribe controlled the Susquehanna drainage basin and are believed to have lived there for at least a few centuries prior to this contact.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "The Land That Was". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. pp. 39, 40, 43, 46, 49, 50.  
  8. ^ a b c Donehoo, Dr. George P. (1999) [1928]. A History of the Indian Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania (PDF) (Second Reprint ed.).  Note: ISBN refers to a 1999 reprint edition, URL is for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission's web page of Native American Place names, quoting and citing the book.
  9. ^ a b c Morey, Tim. "Park Spotlight: Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks". Resource: The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Leonard Harrison State Park".  
  11. ^ a b Wallace, Paul A. W. (1987). Indian Paths of Pennsylvania (Fourth Printing ed.).   Note: ISBN refers to 1998 impression
  12. ^ a b c Sexton Jr., John L. (1883). "Shippen Township". History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania with Illustrations, Portraits and Sketches. New York, New York: W. W. Munsell & Co. pp. 313–326. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum – History". Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  14. ^ a b Taber III, Thomas T. (1995). "Chapter Two: The Boom — Making It All Possible". Williamsport Lumber Capital (1st ed.).  
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "The Death of a Forest". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. pp. 53–62.  
  16. ^ a b Dillon, Chuck (2006). "Nessmuk: The Voice for Conservation". Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon: A Natural & Human History (2nd ed.). Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: Pine Creek Press. pp. 31–32.  (No ISBN)
  17. ^ Nessmuk (Sears, George Washington) (1884). "CHAPTER VI Camp Cookery—How It Is Usually Done, With A Few Simple Hints On Plain Cooking—Cooking Fire And Outdoor Range". Woodcraft (1920 ed.). New York: Forest and Stream. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  18. ^ a b c "PHMC: Historical Markers Program (Tioga County)". Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  19. ^ Quoted in Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "The Birth of Pennsylvania's 'Grand Canyon'". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. p. 67.  
  20. ^ a b Forrey, William C. (1984). History of Pennsylvania's State Parks. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Bureau of State Parks, Office of Resources Management, Department of Environmental Resources, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. pp. 14, 90.  
  21. ^ a b c Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "A Pine Creek Odyssey". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. pp. 12–13.  
  22. ^ a b c d e Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "The Birth of Pennsylvania's 'Grand Canyon'". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. pp. 65, 67, 68, 72.  
  23. ^ a b c d e A Public Use Map For Pine Creek Rail Trail (Map). 1" = 2 miles. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. December 2007. 
  24. ^ a b c d e Morey, Tim. "Park Spotlight: Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks (Part 2)". Resource: The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and natural resources. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  25. ^ a b Cupper, Dan (1993). Our Priceless Heritage: Pennsylvania's State Parks 1893–1993.  
  26. ^ a b Thomas II, Lee Ed (August 18, 1999). "Statue unveiled at park honoring work of CCC". The Marketplace (Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: The Gazette and Free Press Courier). pp. 1, 16. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  27. ^ "Calendar of Event: CCC Reunion Picnic". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. August 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  28. ^ "Pennsylvania State Parks: The CCC Years".  
  29. ^ "CCC Statues". National New Deal Preservation Association. November 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  30. ^ a b Dillon, Chuck (2006). "Protection for Pine Creek". Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon: A Natural & Human History (2nd ed.). Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: Pine Creek Press. pp. 51–52.  (No ISBN)
  31. ^ "Audubon names 73 important bird areas in state" 1 (3). Resource:  
  32. ^ "Manager named at Hills Creek Lake". Wellsboro Gazette. 2000-02-02. p. 6. Retrieved 2009-04-09.  Note: the eight parks in the Hills Creek State Park Complex are Cherry Springs, Colton Point, Denton Hill, Hills Creek, Leonard Harrison, Lyman Run, Patterson, and Prouty Place.
  33. ^ a b "Governor Rendell Says PA. Investing in the Future with Environmental Grants; Safeguarding Communities, Attracting Business Investment: 140 Critical Projects in 50 Counties First to Receive Funding". Press Release. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. November 2, 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  34. ^ a b c Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "Rails to Trails". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. pp. 87, 88, 92, 94.  
  35. ^ Bryan, Curtis Townley (July 16, 1950). "Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon: Camps and Picnic Areas Abound in Wilds Along Pine Creek Gorge". The New York Times. p. X19. 
  36. ^ Van Dyne, Ed (March 13, 1966). "Spring Means 'White Water' in Pennsylvania". The New York Times. p. 458. 
  37. ^ a b "National Natural Landmark: Pine Creek Gorge".  
  38. ^ Ingram, George (June 10, 1973). "Running the Rapids 'Deliverance'-Style in Pennsylvania". The New York Times. p. 542. 
  39. ^ "If You Go: Two State Parks, Divided by a Canyon". The New York Times. November 22, 2002. p. F4. 
  40. ^ "51 Great Places to Hike". USA Today. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  41. ^ "Colton Point State Park". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved September 30, 2008. 
  42. ^ a b McGlade, William G. "Pennsylvania Trail of Geology, Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks, The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, Geologic Features of Interest (Park Guide 5)" (PDF). Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved September 30, 2008. 
  43. ^ a b "Pine Creek Gorge". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved September 30, 2008. 
  44. ^ Fergus, Charles (2002). Natural Pennsylvania: Exploring State Forest Natural Areas. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. pp. 189–193.  
  45. ^ "Natural Areas".  
  46. ^ Tioga State Forest (PDF) (Map). 1 inch is 2 miles. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry.  Retrieved on September 30, 2008.
  47. ^ a b Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "A Wild and Scenic River?". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. pp. 75, 76, 80, 82, 84.  
  48. ^ "Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers Program: Location Map". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved September 30, 2008. 
  49. ^ a b c d e Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "Of Brachiopods and Glaciers". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. pp. 27, 28, 31, 34, 36.  
  50. ^ a b Van Diver, Bradford B. (1990). Roadside Geology of Pennsylvania. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company. pp. 31–35, 113–115.  
  51. ^ Shultz, Charles H. (Editor) (1999). The Geology of Pennsylvania. Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Geological Society and Pittsburgh Geological Society. pp. 372–374, 391, 399, 818.  
  52. ^ a b Shaw, Lewis C. (June 1984). Pennsylvania Gazetteer of Streams Part II (Water Resources Bulletin No. 16). Prepared in Cooperation with the United States Department of the Interior Geological Survey (1st ed.). Harrisburg, PA: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources. p. 167.  
  53. ^ a b Berg, T. M. (1981). "Atlas of Preliminary Geologic Quadrangle Maps of Pennsylvania: Tiadaghton" (PDF). Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 
  54. ^ a b "Map 67: Tabloid Edition Explanation" (PDF). Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey. Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  55. ^ http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/WebSoilSurvey.aspx
  56. ^ "Climate of Pennsylvania" (PDF). Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State Climatologist. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  57. ^ a b "Monthly Averages for Leonard Harrison State Park". The Weather Channel Interactive, Inc. Retrieved March 7, 2009. 
  58. ^ a b Dillon, Chuck (2006). "Wealth of the Forests: Lumber". Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon: A Natural & Human History (2nd ed.). Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: Pine Creek Press. pp. 23–24.  (No ISBN)
  59. ^ a b Dillon, Chuck (2006). "Human Issues Affecting the Stream". Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon: A Natural & Human History (2nd ed.). Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: Pine Creek Press. p. 46.  (No ISBN)
  60. ^ Early accounts of "salmon" in Pine Creek may have been referring to shad.
  61. ^ Owlett, Steven E. (1993). "Epilogue". Seasons Along The Tiadaghton: An Environmental History of the Pine Creek Gorge (1st ed.). Petaluma, California: Interprint. pp. 97–98.  
  62. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dillon, Chuck (2006). "The Forest Today". Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon: A Natural & Human History (2nd ed.). Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: Pine Creek Press. pp. 34–36.  (No ISBN)
  63. ^ a b c d   Note: This guide is available both as a book (page number given) and website (URL given).
  64. ^ "Abbreviated History of Pennsylvania’s White-Tailed Deer Management". Pennsylvania Game Commission. Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  65. ^ Serfass, Tom; Mitcheltree, Denise. "Fisher" (PDF). Pennsylvania Game Commission. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 4, 2006. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  66. ^ "From the Wild Bunch: The Fisher". Predator Conservation Alliance. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  67. ^ a b c d Doug Kibbe (May 2004). "Pennsylvania Important Bird Area #28" (PDF). Pennsylvania Audubon Society. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  68. ^ Robinson, Bryan G. (June 23, 2006). "Marine dies at Pennsylvania Grand Canyon". The Wellsboro Gazette. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  69. ^ Bly, Laura (July 27, 2001). "10 great places to take a bike tour".  
  70. ^ "The Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce: Pennsylvania Grand Canyon".  
  71. ^  
  72. ^ a b c Gertler, Edward (1985). Keystone Canoeing: A Guide to Canoeable Waters of Eastern Pennsylvania (1st ed.).  
  73. ^ Wayne T. Fletcher (November 2002). Leonard Harrison & Colton Point State Parks (PDF) (Map). 1" = 800 feet. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  74. ^ "Find a Park by Region (interactive map)".  
  75. ^ Michels, Chris (1997). "Latitude/Longitude Distance Calculation".  
  76. ^ "2007 General Highway Map Tioga County Pennsylvania" (PDF) (Map). 1:65,000. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Planning and Research, Geographic Information Division. Retrieved 2007-07-28.  Note: shows Leonard Harrison State Park


Panoramic view of the Pine Creek Gorge from the main vista terrace in Leonard Harrison State Park

Leonard Harrison State Park is mostly in Shippen Township, with a small portion in Delmar Township north of Stowell Run. It is 10 miles (16 km) west of Wellsboro at the western terminus of Pennsylvania Route 660.[73] The following state parks are within 30 miles (48 km) of the park:[74][75][76]

Nearby state parks

Edward Gertler writes in Keystone Canoeing that Pine Creek "is possibly Pennsylvania's most famous canoe stream" and attributes this partly to the thousands who decide to boat on it after they "peer into Pine Creek's spectacular abyss from the overlooks of Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks".[72] The park contains 1 mile (1.6 km) of Pine Creek, which is Class 1 to Class 2 whitewater here.[72] Boaters do not normally start or end their run in the park, which has no launches:[2] it is part of the 16.8-mile (27.0 km) trip from Ansonia (Marsh Creek) south to Blackwell (Babb Creek).[72]

Fishing is permitted at the state park, though anglers must descend the Turkey Path to reach Pine Creek. This has been designated as approved trout waters by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which means the waters will be stocked with trout and may be fished during trout season.[71] Other species of fish found in Pine Creek include Smallmouth Bass and some panfish. Several small trout streams are accessible from within the park, which had 2,597 anglers in 2003.[2][10] Historically, fishermen of note on the stretch of Pine Creek in the park include President Theodore Roosevelt and Pennsylvania Governor William A. Stone.[25]

Hunting is permitted on about 250 acres (100 ha) of Leonard Harrison State Park: hunters are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania State Game Commission. The common game species are ruffed grouse, eastern gray squirrel, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and black bear; however, hunting groundhog is prohibited. Additional acres of forested woodlands are available for hunting on the grounds of the adjacent Tioga State Forest.[10]

Hunting, fishing, and whitewater

Camping is a popular pastime at Leonard Harrison State Park, with 3,511 persons using the rustic camping facilities in 2003.[2] The DCNR classifies camping facilities as "rustic" if they do not have flush toilets or showers. The state has renovated the park camping area since 2003, building modern bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers, and no longer considers it "rustic".[33] The park has updated electric sites for RV campers as well. The campground has picnic tables and fire rings. The park has almost 100 picnic tables for use; seven of these tables are in shelters.[10] The park hosted some 29,150 picnickers in 2003.[2]

Looking south into the Pine Creek Gorge from the Otter vista, the nearly level horizon is a hallmark of a dissected plateau.

Camping and picnics

  • Jersey Shore: 1 mile (1.6 km) of this trail is in Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks.[10][23] A 2001 article in USA Today said the scenic beauty of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania made the trail one of "10 great places to take a bike tour" in the world.[69][70]

[23][21] A vista at the halfway point on Turkey Path was constructed in 1978 by the

  • Overlook Trail is a 0.6-mile (0.97 km) path to Otter View, a vista looking to the south.[10] This moderately difficult loop passes reminders of the CCC's work in the park, including a plantation of Red Pines and an old incinerator.[23]
  • Turkey Path is a difficult trail, 2 miles (3.2 km) long (down and back), that follows Little Fourmile Run down the side of the canyon, descending over 800 feet (240 m) to Pine Creek and the rail trail at the bottom of the gorge.[10] It was originally a mule drag used to haul timber to the creek.[21] There are several waterfalls on the trail, which passes through an environmentally sensitive area and is on a steep slope. Hikers are encouraged to remain on the path to reduce erosion and protect fragile plant life along the trail.[10] In 2006 a hiker who had left the path slipped near a waterfall and fell to his death.[68]

Leonard Harrison State Park is a destination for avid hikers, with some challenging hikes in and around the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The park has 4.6 miles (7.4 km) of trails that feature very rugged terrain, pass close to steep cliffs, and can be slick in some areas.[10] In 2003, the DCNR reported that 37,775 people used the trails in the park, and another 24,407 bicycled in it.[2]

 A gravel path through a mixed forest of deciduous and conifer trees, with a rail fence supported by stone pillars left of the path
Near the upper trailhead of the Turkey Path



A variety of Pine, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, and Black-and-white."[63] Many of these smaller birds are more often heard than seen as they keep away from the trails and overlooks.[63]

[67] the IBA is home to [67][62] In addition to bald eagles, which live in the IBA year round and have successfully established a breeding population there,


Leonard Harrison State Park is part of Important Bird Area #28, which encompasses 31,790 acres (12,860 ha) of both publicly and private held land. State managed acreage accounts for 68 percent of the total area and includes Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks and the surrounding Tioga State Forest lands. The Pennsylvania Audubon Society has designated all 585 acres (237 ha) of Leonard Harrison State Park as part of the IBA, which is an area designated as a globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations.[67]

 A large black bird soars overhead with a blue sky behind
Turkey vulture at Leonard Harrison State Park

Important Bird Area

Fishers, medium-sized gypsy moths, which eat all the leaves off trees, especially oaks,[62] and hemlock woolly adelgids, which weaken and kill hemlocks. Invasive plant species include purple loosestrife and Japanese knotweed.[59]

[62] Several species have been reintroduced to the gorge. White-tailed deer were imported from

There are over 40 species of mammals in the Pine Creek Gorge.[62] Leonard Harrison State Park's extensive forest cover makes it a habitat for "big woods" wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bear, wild turkey, red and gray squirrels. Less common creatures include bobcats, coyote, fishers, river otters, and timber rattlesnakes.[63] There are over 26 species of fish in Pine Creek, including trout, suckers, fallfish, and rock bass. Other aquatic species include crayfish and frogs.[62]

View down a steep slope to a small stream flowing over reddish rocks. There are several trees and bushes and the dappled sunlight covers the scene
Second-growth forest along Little Fourmile Run, as seen from the Turkey Path

The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is known for its fall foliage, and Leonard Harrison State Park is a popular place to observe the colors, with the first three weeks of October as the best time to see the leaves in their full color. Red leaves are found on Jacob's ladder, wild pea, and hemlock parsley.[62]

The gorge has over 225 species of wildflowers, plants and trees,[62] with scattered stands of old growth forest on some of its steepest walls. The rest of the gorge is covered with thriving second growth forest that can be over one hundred years old.[15] However, since clearcutting, nearly 90 percent of the forest land has burnt at least once. Typical south-facing slopes here have mountain laurel below oak and hickory trees, while north-facing slopes tend to have ferns below hemlocks and hardwoods. Large chestnuts and black cherry can also be found.[62]

about 95% State owned, unroaded, and designated the Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area. It is a place of unique geologic history and contains some rare plant communities, an old growth hemlock stand, ... active bald eagle nest[s] ... and is a major site of river otter reintroduction. Departmental policy is protection of the natural values of the Canyon from development and overuse, and restoration of the area to as near a natural condition as possible.[34]

While Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks and parts of the surrounding Tioga State Forest are now the Pine Creek Gorge National Natural Landmark, it is their status as part of a Pennsylvania State Natural Area that provides the strongest protection for them.[43] Within this Natural Area, all logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling are prohibited, and only foot trail access is allowed.[61] In 1988 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources, precursor to the DCNR, described it as

Looking north from Leonard Harrison State Park in autumn

State Natural Area and wildlife

The virgin forests cooled the land and streams. Centuries of accumulated organic matter in the forest soil caused slow percolation of rainfall into the creeks and runs, so they flowed more evenly year-round.[58][59] Pine Creek was home to large numbers of fish, including trout, but dams downstream on the Susquehanna River have eliminated the shad, salmon,[60] and eels once found in the creek.[7] The clearcutting of forests destroyed habitat for animals, but there was also a great deal of hunting, with bounties paid for large predators.[7]

Descriptions from early explorers and settlers give some idea of what the Pine Creek Gorge was like before it was clearcut. The forest was up to 85 percent hemlock and white pine, with the rest hardwoods.[58] Many animal species that are now vanished inhabited the area. A herd of 12,000 American Bison migrated along the West Branch Susquehanna River in 1773. Pine Creek was home to large predators such as wolves, lynx, wolverines, panthers, fishers, foxes and bobcats, all save the last three now locally extinct. The area had herds of elk and deer, and large numbers of black bears, river otters, and beavers. In 1794, two of the earliest white explorers to travel up Pine Creek found so many rattlesnakes on its banks that they had to sleep in their canoe. Further upstream, insects forced them to do the same.[7]

 Black and white image of a man standing in a wasteland of massive tree stumps that stretch to the horizon. A few small trees are still standing.
Clearcutting led to the "Pennsylvania Desert", caused local extinction of many species, and changed the seasonal flow of streams.


Climate data for Leonard Harrison State Park
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 30
Average low °F (°C) 13
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.88
Source: The Weather Channel[57]

The Allegheny Plateau has a continental climate, with occasional severe low temperatures in winter and average daily temperature ranges of 20 °F (11 °C) in winter and 26 °F (14 °C) in summer.[56] The mean annual precipitation for the Pine Creek watershed is 36 to 42 inches (914 to 1,070 mm).[52] The highest recorded temperature at the park was 104 °F (40 °C) in 1936, and the record low was −30 °F (−34 °C) in 1934. On average, July is the hottest month at Leonard Harrison, January is the coldest, and June the wettest.[57]

The dominant soil in Leonard Harrison State Park is somewhat excessively drained Oquaga channery loam, which is often associated with well drained Lordstown channery loam. Much of the campground near the eastern boundary is supported by Morris gravelly silt loam, which is somewhat poorly drained due to a subsoil fragipan. The Oquaga tends to be very strongly acidic (pH 4.8), Morris is strongly acidic (pH 5.3) and Lordstown is moderately acidic (pH 5.5). All of these soils belong to the Inceptisol soil order.[55]

[54][53][50][49] Next below these is the late

Five major rock formations are present in Leonard Harrison State Park, from the Pennsylvanian Pottsville Formation, a gray conglomerate that may contain sandstone, siltstone, and shale, as well as anthracite coal. Low-sulfur coal was once mined at three locations within the Pine Creek watershed. Below this is the late Mississippian Mauch Chunk Formation, which is formed with grayish-red shale, siltstone, sandstone, and conglomerate. Millstones were once carved from the exposed sections of this conglomerate. Together the Pottsville and Mauch Chunk formations are some 300 feet (91 m) thick.[49][53][54]

A waterfall spills down a sunlit stone wall made of many layers of rock, surrounded by foliage.
The second waterfall on Little Fourmile Run cascades over layers of ancient rock.

The land on which Leonard Harrison State Park sits has undergone tremendous change over the last 400 million years. It was once part of the coastline of a shallow sea that covered a great portion of what is now North America. The high mountains to the east of the sea gradually eroded, causing a buildup of sediment made up primarily of clay, sand and gravel. Tremendous pressure on the sediment caused the formation of the rocks that are found today in the Pine Creek drainage basin: sandstone, shale, conglomerates, limestone, and coal.[49][52]

The park is at an elevation of 1,821 feet (555 m) on the erosion have made this a dissected plateau, causing the "mountainous" terrain seen today. The hardest of the ancient rocks are on top of the ridges, while the softer rocks eroded away forming the valleys.[49]

Although the rock formations exposed in Leonard Harrison State Park and the Pine Creek Gorge are at least 300 million years old, the gorge itself formed only about 20,000 years ago, in the last ice age. Pine Creek had flowed northeasterly until then, but was dammed by rocks, soil, ice, and other debris deposited by the receding Laurentide Continental Glacier. The dammed creek formed a lake near the present village of Ansonia, and the lake's glacial meltwater overflowed the debris dam, which caused a reversal of the flow of Pine Creek. The creek flooded to the south and quickly carved a deep channel on its way to the West Branch Susquehanna River.[42][49]

A waterfall seen from above spills down a broad stone wall made of many layers of rock, surrounded by foliage.
Little Fourmile Run's first waterfall, seen from the Turkey Path, which descends to the bottom of the Pine Creek Gorge.

Geology and climate

Within the park, Pine Creek and the walls of the gorge "visible from the opposite shoreline"[47] are also protected by the state as a Pennsylvania Scenic River.[48] In 1968 Pine Creek was one of only 27 rivers originally designated as eligible to be included in the National Wild and Scenic River system, and one of only eight specifically mentioned in the law establishing the program. Before Pine Creek could be included in the federal program, the state enacted its State Scenic Rivers Act, then asked that Pine Creek be withdrawn from the national designation. However, there was much local opposition to its inclusion on the state's list, based at least partly on mistaken fears that protection would involve seizure of private property and restricted access. Eventually this opposition was overcome, but Pennsylvania did not officially include it as one of its own state Scenic and Wild Rivers until November 25, 1992. The state treated Pine Creek as if it were a state scenic river between 1968 and 1992. It protected the creek from dam-building and water withdrawals for power plants, and added public access points to reduce abuse of private property.[30][47]

The gorge is also protected by the state of Pennsylvania as the 12,163-acre (4,922 ha) Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area, which is the second largest State Natural Area in Pennsylvania.[43][44] Within this area, 699 acres (283 ha) of Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks are designated a State Park Natural Area.[45] The state Natural Area runs along Pine Creek from Darling Run in the north (just below Ansonia) to Jerry Run in the south (just above Blackwell). It is approximately 12 miles (19 km) long and 2 miles (3.2 km) wide, with state forest roads providing all of the western border and part of the eastern border.[46]

The Pine Creek Gorge [37]

[42][41] Leonard Harrison State Park lies on the east side of the

Map of Pine Creek flowing from north to south. Marsh Creek enters it in the north at Ansonia, the two parks are south of this, below is the village of Tiadaghton, and further south Babb Creek enters at Blackwell. Also in Tioga County are Wellsboro (east of the parks) and Leetonia (southwest of Tiadaghton). Lycoming County is further south and there Pine Creek receives Little Pine Creek at Waterville, and enters the West Branch Susquehanna River south of Jersey Shore. To the east is Lycoming Creek, which enters the river at Williamsport.
Map showing the park and important locations in its history in the Pine Creek Gorge and Tioga and Lycoming Counties

Pine Creek Gorge

In the new millennium, the two state parks on either side of the Pine Creek Gorge are frequently treated as one. A 2002 New York Times article called Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks "Two State Parks, Divided by a Canyon" and noted their "overlooks offer the most spectacular views".[39] Leonard Harrison and Colton Point were each included in the list of state parks chosen by the DCNR Pennsylvania Bureau of Parks for its "25 Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks" list. The DCNR describes how they "offer spectacular vistas and a fabulous view of Pine Creek Gorge, also known as Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon".[3] It goes on to praise their inclusion in a National Natural Landmark and State Park Natural Area, hiking and trails, and the Pine Creek Rail Trail and bicycling.[3]

[38] the year before, and Leonard Harrison's waterfalls.Hurricane Agnes article on whitewater canoeing in 1973 noted the damage along the creek done by New York Times Another [37] Leonard Harrison State Park continued to attract national attention in the post-war era.

The second half of the 20th century saw great changes in the rail line through the park. Regular passenger service on the canyon line ended after the Second World War, and in 1960 the second set of train tracks was removed.[34] Conrail abandoned the section of the railroad passing through the gorge on September 21, 1988. The right-of-way eventually became the Pine Creek Rail Trail, which follows the path of the former Pine Creek Path.[24][34] The first section of the rail trail opened in 1996 and included the 1 mile (1.6 km) section in the park: as of 2008 the Pine Creek Rail Trail is 63.5 miles (102.2 km) long.[23]

After the Second World War the state took over operation of the park,[22] and expanded its size beyond the original land donated by Harrison: six purchases between 1946 and 1949 increased the park's area from 128 acres (52 ha) to 585 acres (237 ha) at a cost of $26,328.[24] The Pennsylvania Geographic Board dropped the word Forest and officially named it Leonard Harrison State Park on November 11, 1954.[20] The park was improved in the following decade with the completion of new latrines (1963) and a new concession stand and visitor center (1968).[24] Pine Creek was named a state scenic river on December 4, 1992, which ensured further protection of Pine Creek Gorge in its natural state.[30] In 1997 the park's Important Bird Area (IBA) was one of the first 73 IBAs established in Pennsylvania.[31] In 2000 the park became part of the Hills Creek State Park complex, an administrative grouping of eight state parks in Potter and Tioga counties.[32] In 2005 the state began a $1.2 million upgrade of park facilities, including a new maintenance building, the replacement of three pit latrines at the overlook and campground, the addition of showers at the campground, and the conversion of all restrooms to flush toilets.[33]

A rock-strewn stream beneath a blue sky with some white clouds. On either side steep tree-covered slopes come down to near the water's edge.
Pine Creek and the bottom of the gorge within the park

In 1936 Larry Woodin of Wellsboro and other Tioga County business owners began a tourism campaign to promote the Pine Creek Gorge as "The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania". [26][28][29]

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) improved access and constructed many of the amenities at Leonard Harrison park from 1933 to 1936, during the Great Depression. Leonard Harrison State Park is one of many examples of the work of the CCC throughout north-central Pennsylvania. The CCC built picnic and comfort facilities, made roads and trails (often following old logging roads), and planted stands of white pine, spruce and larch.[24] Some of the CCC-constructed facilities remain and are still used,[25] and the park has hosted a reunion of former CCC workers each summer since 1990.[26][27]

Life-size bronze statue of a shirtless man with a hat, resting his right hand on a pick axe and holding a shirt in his left hand. The top half of the statue is lit orange by the setting sun. A boulder to the right has a plaque that reads
A statue honoring the Civilian Conservation Corps workers who built many of the facilities in Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks

Despite its status as Leonard Harrison State Forest Park, it took time for the park to become more well known. Access to the park over small roads was still difficult. An elderly woman who had lived nearby all her life visited the park for the first time in 1932 and asked, on seeing the gorge, "How long has this been here?"[22]

Modern era

Although the park was donated to the state, the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce made initial improvements there and operated it for the first two decades.[21] Elsewhere in the gorge the state bought land abandoned by lumber companies, sometimes for less than $2 per acre ($5 per ha).[15] Except for the adjoining Colton Point State Park, this land became the Tioga State Forest, which was officially established in 1925 and lies just north and south of the park. As of 2008 the state forest encompasses 160,000 acres (65,000 ha), mostly in Tioga County.[22][23]

[20][10] The creation of the park was the work of

Sepia tone image of the head and shoulders of a clean-shaven middle-aged man in a suit and tie
Leonard Harrison

[18] (PHMC) state historical marker commemorating Nessmuk was dedicated in the park in 1972.Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission A [19] He also described a trip to what became Leonard Harrison State Park: after a 6-mile (9.7 km) buggy ride, he then had to hike 7 miles (11 km) through tangles of fallen trees and branches, down ravines, and over banks for five hours. At least he reached "The Point", which he wrote was "the jutting terminus of a high ridge which not only commands a capital view of the opposite mountain, but also of the Pine Creek Valley, up and down for miles".[18] Sears lived in

Nessmuk's words went mostly unheeded in his lifetime and did not prevent the clearcutting of almost all of the virgin forests in Pennsylvania.[16]

A huge tannery ... poisons and blackens the stream with chemicals, bark and ooze. ... The once fine covers and thickets are converted into fields thickly dotted with blackened stumps. And, to crown the desolation, heavy laden trains of 'The Pine Creek and Jersey Shore R.R.' go thundering [by] almost hourly ... Of course, this is progress; but, whether backward or forward, had better be decided sixty years hence.[17]

, an early conservationist who wrote under the pen name "Nessmuk", was one of the first to criticize Pennsylvania lumbering and its destruction of forests and creeks.[16] In his 1884 book Woodcraft he wrote of the Pine Creek watershed where

George Washington Sears
George W. Sears (1821–1890), also known as Nessmuk

Nessmuk and Leonard Harrison

In 1883 the [15]

As the 19th century progressed, fewer pines were left and more hemlocks and hardwoods were cut and processed locally.[15] By 1810 there were 11 sawmills in the Pine Creek watershed, and by 1840 there were 145, despite a flood in 1832 which wiped out nearly all the mills along the creek.[12][15] Selective harvesting of pines was replaced by clearcutting of all lumber in a tract. The first lumbering activity to take place close to what is now Leonard Harrison State Park occurred in 1838 when William Dodge and some partners built a settlement at Big Meadows and formed the Pennsylvania Joint Land and Lumber Company. Dodge's company purchased thousands of acres of land in the area, including what is now Colton Point State Park.[9] In 1865 the last pine spar raft floated down the creek, and on March 28, 1871 the General Assembly passed a law allowing splash dam construction and clearing of creeks to allow loose logs to float better. The earliest spring log drives floated up to 20,000,000 board feet (47,000 m3) of logs in Pine Creek at one time.[15] These logs floated to the West Branch Susquehanna River and to sawmills near the Susquehanna Boom at Williamsport.[14] Hemlock wood was not widely used until the advent of wire nails, but the bark was used to tan leather. After 1870 the largest tanneries in the world were in the Pine Creek watershed, and required 2,000 pounds (910 kg) of bark to produce 150 pounds (68 kg) of quality sole leather.[15]

Black and white image shows a large building with a smokestack at left and many large logs in the foreground. At right is a logging train with a loader crane on a car. A bare mountain is in the background.
A lumber mill in Asaph, in the Pine Creek watershed – few trees remain on the mountain behind

By the early 19th century the demand for lumber reached the Pine Creek Gorge, where the surrounding mountainsides were covered with eastern white pine 3 to 6 feet (0.9 to 1.8 m) in diameter and 150 feet (46 m) or more tall, eastern hemlock 9 feet (2.7 m) in circumference, and huge hardwoods.[7] Each acre (0.4 ha) of these virgin forests produced 100,000 board feet (236 m3) of white pine and 200,000 board feet (472 m3) of hemlock and hardwoods. For comparison, the same area of forest today produces a total of only 5,000 board feet (11.8 m3) on average. According to Steven E. Owlett, environmental lawyer and author, shipbuilders considered pine from Pine Creek the "best timber in the world for making fine ship masts",[15] so it was the first lumber to be harvested on a large scale. Pine Creek was declared a public highway by the Pennsylvania General Assembly on March 16, 1798,[7] and rafts of spars were floated down the creek to the Susquehanna River, then to the Chesapeake Bay and the shipbuilders at Baltimore.[15] The lumbermen would then walk home, following the old Pine Creek Path at the end of their journey.[11] A spar sold for one dollar and three spars up to 90 feet (27 m) long were lashed together to make a ship's mast. The largest spar produced on Pine Creek was 43 inches (110 cm) in diameter 12 feet (3.7 m) above the base, 93 feet (28 m) long, and 33 inches (84 cm) in diameter at the top. By 1840, Tioga County alone produced over 452 such spar rafts with more than 22,000,000 board feet (52,000 m3) of lumber.[15]

Black and white image of a raft made of long logs lashed together, tied to the bank of a stream. It has a large oar for steering.
A log raft on Pine Creek

Prior to the arrival of William Penn and his Quaker colonists in 1682, up to 90 percent of what is now Pennsylvania was covered with woods: more than 31,000 square miles (80,000 km2) of eastern white pine, eastern hemlock, and a mix of hardwoods.[13] The forests near the three original counties, Philadelphia, Bucks, and Chester, were the first to be harvested, as the early settlers used the readily available timber to build homes, barns, and ships, and cleared the land for agriculture. The demand for wood products slowly increased and by the time of the American Revolution the lumber industry had reached the interior and mountainous regions of Pennsylvania.[13][14] Lumber thus became one of the leading industries in Pennsylvania.[13] Trees were used to furnish fuel to heat homes, tannin for the many tanneries that were spread throughout the state, and wood for construction, furniture, and barrel making. Large areas of forest were harvested by colliers to fire iron furnaces. Rifle stocks and shingles were made from Pennsylvania timber, as were a wide variety of household utensils, and the first Conestoga wagons.[13]

Lumber era

The War of 1812.[12]

[8][5] (or Delaware).Lenape and Shawnee To fill the void left by the demise of the Susquehannocks, the Iroquois encouraged displaced tribes from the east to settle in the West Branch watershed, including the [11][10] After this, the lands of the West Branch Susquehanna River valley were under the nominal control of the Iroquois. The Iroquois lived in long houses, primarily in what is now

[8][5] into other tribes.assimilated, and by 1675 they had died out, moved away, or been Iroquois Their numbers were greatly reduced by disease and warfare with the Five Nations of the [7]