Book and Calendar Purchases

Book and Calendar Purchase Options


Archbald Pothole State Park: World's Largest Glacial Pothole

Today we visit the "the world's largest glacial pothole," a roadside attraction at Archbald Pothole State Park. No axles or struts were destroyed in the making of this article for this natural occurrence is a roadside attraction, instead of being on the road itself. This geologic wonder has attracted visitors since it was found while coal mining, way back in 1884. When they set off some explosives to loosen some nearby coal, a giant load of rounded stones and water flooded through, leaving the miners fearing for their lives. Once things cleared, they noticed the hole went all the way to the surface. 1000 tons of pebbles were removed from the hole. After briefly being utilized as a mine ventilation shaft, it attracted the attention of geologists and tourists. Being located right off of US Route 6, this place became a popular roadside attraction in the infancy of the automobile age. While not worth making a special trip to, it is well worth checking out if you are passing through the area. 
The hole itself is roughly 42 feet wide by 38 feet deep. It is a nice place to check out if you are in the area.
The hole is estimated to be 13,000 years old and thought to have been created by a waterfall off of a glacier, or from the stream bed flowing off of a glacier.
In 1914, the land was given to Lackawanna County, who then proceeded to turn it into a county park. The grounds were opened up as a state park in 1964. 
A platform enables views from above.
The hole is neat to see, though I do not recommend making a long trip with this as your sole destination in mind. However, it is well worth a stop if you are in the area. It is conveniently located about 20 minutes northeast of Scranton on Route 6 and well worth checking out if it is en route to where you want to go, or if you are checking out some of the regions awesome attractions, including Steamtown, the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, the Tunkhannock and Starucca Viaducts, and more. 


Panther Rocks, Moshannon State Forest near SB Elliott State Park, Clearfield County

One of the neatest things about the rugged and varied geology throughout Pennsylvania is the beautiful rock formations/rock cities. Central Pennsylvania is filled with great rock cities, and Panther Rocks in the Moshannon State Forest, near SB Elliott State Park is no exception. The boulders that make up this rock formation are huge and spectacular. Moss and ferns grow in the small crevasses of the large boulders. While smaller than the more famed Bilger's Rocks, these rocks are certainly worth a visit. 
The "streets" in this rock city are vertical fractures in the rock called joints that have been widened over time through the freeze and thaw cycle (information from the DCNR). One of my favorite aspects of these boulders is the uneven weathering that has lead towards to growth of moss on the rock surface. When coupled with a little bit of snow, the colors really pop out. 300 million years ago, these rocks sat at the bottom of a sea that covered the region. 
The rocks are located a few miles down an unpaved state forest road that splits off near SB Elliott State Park. There is a short walk/hike to rocks from Four Mile Road, that is no longer than a quarter mile round trip, tops. When paired with all of the surrounding beauty in Moshannon State Forest, this is well worth exploring.
Getting closer! It is an especially beautiful place to visit after some snowfall. 
Some of the moss and ferns growing on the boulders.
Mountain Laurel surrounds the rocks, which I imagine is quite a sight to see in the summer.
Trees have grown with the "streets" between the boulders
Panther Rocks is well worth checking out. The coordinates to the parking area for the rocks are:
41.143314, -78.495709

From those coordinates, you will see a sign, and the boulders out in the woods. It is a quarter mile walk/hike to the boulders with a relatively easy walk.


Wintry Views from PA's Elk Country

Pennsylvania's elk herd is awesome to see. The heart of it is in the village of Benezette, Elk County. We have seen the elk in every season and we highly recommend that you do the same. There is nothing quite like seeing majestic creatures like this. Seeing this herd is the closest thing that Pennsylvania has to offer to the free roaming herds of bison and elk that you see in places like Yellowstone National Park, and to the herds of Moose that you see in Denali National Park in Alaska. The elk are majestic animals, and seeing them throughout the varied seasons in Pennsylvania is so exciting. 
You can get more of a background on these guys from some articles that we wrote after a fall visit, and a spring visit. Due to overhunting and environmental degradation, native elk were all but eliminated from the state by the end mid to late 1800s. Progressive and forward looking politicians like Teddy Roosevelt and his Chief of the Forest Service, and future PA Governor, Gifford Pinchot, reintroduced Elk from Yellowstone, where their populations were actually exploding. With some effort, the elk took to the habitat in the areas of Elk, Cameron, and Clearfield Counties, and today the bulk of the heard resides within Elk County. 
During this winter visit, the bulk of the elk were grazing through the fields in the valley of the Bennett Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek.
While they could be seen throughout the area, the highest concentration was located in the large fields across the creek from Benezette.
A pleasant snowfall began as the day wore on
Here is a pack of them at the beautiful Antler Shed Cabins. 

Note the unshed antlers on this bull. The bulls shed their antlers annually.
The snow beginning to collect. 

Nearby is the Marion Brooks Natural Area, home to one of the finest stands of birches. 

Dusk settling in with the snow collecting. We highly recommend going to see the elk in the PA Great Outdoors Region in the area of Benezette.


Parker Dam State Park: Beautiful Cabins, Lake, Natural Beauty, and More

Parker Dam State Park is an absolutely beautiful place in the PA Wilds. There is so much scenic beauty, history, and more at this state park in rural Clearfield County. Much of the natural beauty of the park actually stems from efforts undertaken by the state and the CCC, creating a dam on Laurel Run, a tributary to the Bennett Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek. Parker Lake is a 20 acre impoundment that is easily accessible for swimming on a sand beach during the summer months, fishing and sightseeing year round, and for ice skating when the conditions are suitable within the winter months. 

Even the forests through out the park, and the surrounding massive amount of land that makes up Moshannon State Forest, are the result of hard work. The land was once completely logged, starting with sawmills being built in the area by American colonists in years as early as 1794. They left the area with nothing but dead branches left piled up. The usable logs were floated downstream through the Susquehanna and to Baltimore. The branches were unusable for lumbering purposes, so they were just piled upon the ground and known to catch fire and cause major environmental issues. The ground no longer had roots and plant life holding it together, so erosion and flooding issues were a major problem. Progressive politicians in the late nineteenth century put plans into motion that worked to ensure that these lands would be rehabilitated and open to public recreation, and the State Forest system was put into place. Moshannon and the land that makes up Parker Dam is part of this effort. Some of the trails throughout the state park and surrounding state forest area are actually made from early railroad right-of-ways that were used to haul lumber away.

Visiting the state park is a great joy and escape. The park is filled with beautiful forest, CCC architecture, and lots of recreational opportunities. 
The fireplace in one of the CCC era cabins. 
One of the beautiful groves 
The park is filled with beautiful groves of hemlock, pine, and other species of trees. 
The cabin that we stayed in for the weekend. For most of the first day, the ground was mostly clear from snow. The park's cabins comprise a National Historic District, for they were built by the young men of the CCC during the Great Depression. These sturdy and beautiful cabins are a joy to stay in, with their spacious living areas, full kitchens, and sleeping areas, with many of the cabins housing multiple sets of bunk beds for prices that range from 50-60 dollars a night. You can easily accommodate six or more people within the cabin, and that value, especially for a family, is pretty much unmatched.
Snow coverage of the cabins on the following day
The Lou and Helen Adams Civilian Conservation Corps Museum has a number of relics from the CCC era.
Remnants of ice left on Parker Lake. Due to the torrential rains and unusual warmth that week, the ice was not strong enough to go out upon. The prior weekend saw skating and ice fishing on the beautiful little lake. In the summer months, the area in front of that building is a sand beach and utilized for swimming and relaxation. 
The dam for the lake. This is another awesome CCC project at the park. For those of you who are unaware, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was a New Deal program, initiated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression to help put unemployed men to work. Some of the work they did remains to this day, and Parker Dam State Park has what is one of the most intact areas of CCC architecture that remains to this day. The construction was top notch, both in what they physically did, and in the strengthening of the young men that served in the program. These guys would go on and defeat Hitler and the Japanese Empire in World War II, just a few years later, and go on to be referred to as "the Greatest Generation" that our nation has ever seen. 

Parker Dam is a beautiful, functional, and living monument to these guys. Construction on this sandstone dam started in 1933, and the dam was completed and the lake began to be filled in 1935. A setback in construction happened during one of the worst weather events in the history of Pennsylvania, the St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936, in which the limits of much of the infrastructure of the period were exposed in devastating fashion. The floods caused problems on both sides of the continental divide. The winter had been especially snowy, and heavy rains caused a huge meltdown event. The Susquehanna River, of which the creeks around Parker Dam are a tributary to, had been covered in ice prior to the storms. Ice jams occurred up and down the river, and major damage occurred. Estimates leave the number of dead in Pennsylvania at roughly 100 people. The deluge of water damaged the dam, and set back the grand opening of Parker Dam State Park to the spring of 1937. 

The beaver dam area of Parker Dam State Park has a boardwalk that allows for sightseeing and checking out wildlife in some beautiful meadows.
Snow coverage over the Beaver Dam Trail Area on the following day
The beach area. On cooler days, this area is utilized for ice skating, and on much warmer summer days, this area is utilized for swimming. The beach area initially had lifeguards that worked with the CCC.
The lake after the snowfall on the following day
The Parker Dam State Park Office. They have a small museum and interpretive area that shows the common wildlife found within the region, and offers interpretive programs to educate visitors on different topics. An ice harvesting program was scheduled for the weekend, and while the weather was too warm to do ice harvesting on the lake, they planned on doing a presentation on the tools and process within the classroom area.

Additionally, throughout the year the Friends of Parker Dam State Park runs interpretive programs for different sightseeing and outdoor activities, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, in addition to ice skate and kayak rentals within their respective seasons. They also run festivals at the park, including Woodsy Owl weekends in the spring where they do park cleanups and beautification with volunteers being offered free camping, the Woodhick Festival, every Labor Day weekend, which shows heritage logging displays and competitions, and the Fall Festival and Pumpkin Float. 
Owls and other birds!
A hawk!
A view of the lake from one of the beautiful picnic groves.
This CCC built structure within Moshannon State Forest, just outside of Parker Dam State Park, was strong enough to save the lives of Boy Scouts during the 1985 tornado outbreak. The tornadoes killed 89 people and injured more than a thousand people in locations ranging from Ohio, through western PA, NY, and Ontario. The trees within the immediate area of the cabin are markedly smaller because the older growth from the CCC days was wiped out by the 1985 Tornado. The revegetation is marked as an experiment to monitor forest growth.
The surrounding Moshannon State Forest is full of scenic beauty. A number of creeks cascade through the rugged landscape of the area.

A beaver dam within Moshannon State Forest
Parker Dam State Park has so many year-round recreational opportunities, and we highly recommend spending some time at the park, especially within one of the park's cabins, or at their campground. The state park, and the areas surrounding it, are extremely scenic and well worth going out of your way to explore.
Blogger Widget