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2.18.2016

Oil Creek State Park Waterfalls and Bridges, Venango County

Nearby Titusville is where the start of the oil industry began, with Edwin Drake drilling the first oil well. Oil Creek State Park encompasses the oil industry's first boomtown and bust. Oil Creek State Park is a vast state park that sprawls out over 6,250 acres along the Oil Creek. This is a giant state park that is strewn with industrial ruins, natural beauty that reclaimed this once decimated area, and more. I started at Miller Falls within the park. This is a park that you could spend a few days at and barely scratch the surface. I love investigating the history of places, especially industrial remnants. These are over a century old, so the remnants are mostly reclaimed by nature and difficult to find, making this even more fun and challenging. This is also a place for solemn remembrance. Many lives were lost due to carelessness on the part of the drilling businesses. The parts that do remain, such as the infrastructure of bridges and rail, now complement the recreation area, with the Oil Creek and Titusville Scenic Railroad. Our first stop at this fascinating and historic state park is at Miller Falls

Here is a map from the DCNR that outlines some of the attractions within the park.
Miller Falls
Coordinates: 41.5756, -79.6517
There is a nicely marked trailhead that leads towards Miller Falls. It is a very short trail that leads into an extremely steep gorge. The gorge also serves as a grove of Hemlock Trees. Very beautiful. Thanks to the efforts of the Depression era  New Deal Program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), this state park is a lush second growth forest after it was decimated between the oil drilling and logging.
Notice the industrial remnants that have sat in abandonment for a century. It is amazing that anything remains intact. Small remnants like this are scattered throughout this entire area that was the world's first oil boomtown and bust. 
Extremely awesome remains.


Now to Miller Falls. There is a nice observation area at the top. Miller Falls is one of at least five waterfalls within this state park. Sometimes the hikes to certain things outshine the destination you are headed to. While this is a short hike, it is full of scenery. What we see in the pictures above this were all part of the small trail to the falls. This is a stunningly beautiful state park that has a little bit of everything.


I think that my favorite part of the entire state park are the amazing old bridges. This is the Miller Farm Bridge. It dates back to 1888, the height of the boomtown days, and was fabricated by the Massillon Bridge Company. This historic bridge is slated for replacement, which I really hope does not happen. This style of bridge is dwindling, and it is a true beauty. It deserves preservation.

This Pratt through truss bridge also has a wooden deck. Very cool bridge that is roughly 154 feet long. 
This bridge is very similar to the Drake Well bridge that is downstream from here. That bridge has NRHP protections. This one should also have those. Additionally, there are a bunch of other awesome historic bridges here, including rail bridges for the cool Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad, and even a suspension bridge. Very cool place that is also a great destination for trout and bass fishing. Another point of interest is that the state park has 54 miles of hiking.

Pioneer Falls
Coordinates: 41.5416, -79.6667
Now we head to Pioneer Falls. This is one of at least 5 small waterfalls throughout the park. It is no taller than 20 feet. 
This is what the area around Pioneer looked like in 1865. Look at how incredibly this area has come back from the decimation during the oil boom. - Photo from the Drake Well Museum Archives
Some remnants from the boom times. When compared with how this area looked before, it is incredible how only a little bit is left, and the land has returned back into a mature forest.
One of the cool railroad bridges of the Titusville and Oil Creek Railroad
The Drake Well Bridge. This was built in 1882 by the Morse Bridge Company. This is another beautiful Pratt Through Truss bridge and it is on the NRHP.
The daylight was dimming on this day, close to the Winter Solstice. I headed to Freedom Falls, Furnace, Kennerdell Overlook, and all of the old tunnel, but it was way too dark. I have since visited them and will fill you in on them at a later tNaturally I took the country roads back home and I stumbled upon this beautiful Pony Truss bridge that dates back to 1885. It was built by the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, OH and it is the only remaining bridge of theirs within Pennsylvania. 

This is the Dotter Road Bridge. It is located on a back country road with some beautiful surroundings in rural Venango County. This area was gorgeous, though it reminded me of one of those "Wrong Turn" movies, set in the middle of the woods. I always opt to take the country roads when I can, but this one was really remote. This Pony Truss bridge really piqued my interest. I knew this bridge was special,
I highly recommend spending some time in this region. There are so many things to check out in the area that you could easily spend a weekend in the area and not hit everything. I think the narrative that we need to take from Oil Creek is that with a lot of hard work and time, we can reclaim areas hurt by industry. Oil Creek State Park is a story of success in this aspect, for while remnants exist from the times when the area was heavily damaged by industry, it has since grown back into second and third growth forest and turned into an excellent recreation area. 

2 comments :

  1. Love the descriptions/history and commentary along with all of the pictures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! That really means a lot!

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