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12.01.2016

Greenwood Furnace State Park: Well Preserved Iron Furnaces, a Ghost Town, Hiking, Swimming, and More

Greenwood Furnace State Park is a beautiful place to explore. There are many hiking opportunities within the pine and spruce covered and mountainous setting of this area of Northern Huntingdon County. To top off the natural beauty of the area, there are a number of industrial remnants that date back to the start of mass ironmaking and the early westward expansion of the railroads. These remnants include one restored furnace that was originally built in 1860, and the remnants of another. The furnace area dates all the way back to 1834. Also included is a lake that is also an old industrial remnant. The dam for the lake impounded water to power a gristmill. The resulting lake is great for swimming, fishing, boating, and general relaxation. This is one of the most remote areas of the state. If you are looking for peace and quiet, this state park is an excellent place to go.
This stack was reconstructed back in 1936 by the always great Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Many of the awesome things that we enjoy as public assets within our state and many public parks were created by this awesome organization. I am not shy about being a huge proponent of these programs for they put so many young men to work in such a desperate time. These same young men would become the "Greatest Generation" that would go on to fight and win World War II, push to eradicate segregation, and usher in one of the most prosperous times in our nation's history.

Rebuilding this furnace and fixing up the then derelict buildings of this former industrial center were just some of the many projects the CCC completed. 
You are able to walk in to the old furnace and get a view that would certainly have left you with severe burns when these furnaces were operational. 
The perspective looking up through the stacks is disorienting. It almost reminded me of the vertical perspective in Hitchcock's Vertigo when Jimmy Stewart's character is within the tall staircase area. While I know there is no staircase and that this place bears almost no resemblance to that, the feeling of looking up into it almost reminded me of that.
You have to admire the great foresight they had in rebuilding this furnace, while there were still living individuals that remember these furnaces in operation. While there are many remnants of furnaces that are intact from their days of operation, this was preserved in perfect detail to really see how this early ironmaking was done. 
Here are the intact remnants of the second stack, with little disturbance from their original placement. A number of buildings remain nearby that were a part of the operation. One of the buildings is a working blacksmith shop. The buildings were kept as the preservation of the shadow of a once prosperous ghost town that would have long been forgotten if it were not for the foresight of the leaders of that day.
While the other industrial remnants are beautiful and worth checking out, the natural beauty of this particular area is especially nice. This lake is also an industrial remnant, formed by a dam that powered a former gristmill. Now the lake serves as an excellent place to fish, boat, sightsee at, and swim in, for those of you who may not be as interested in the industrial history represented in the state park. This is a really well rounded place that is also home to some of the premier hiking in the area, with it being the northern terminus of the Standing Stone Trail and a connection to the Mid-State Trail. There are hiking options for day hikers and backpackers alike. 
The state park is covered by a large grove of pines, spruces, and other evergreens. The carbon from the old charcoal powered ironmaking operation provided great nutrients for the growth of trees. The State Forest Reserve Commission, charged with the reforestation of places that were logged and severely environmentally distressed, utilized the land around Greenwood Furnace as a nursery for trees. Trees were grown and transported to state forests throughout the state. The operation ran from 1906 to 1993 and averaged growing three million tree seedlings a year at its peak of operation. We can thank the efforts of the nursery for bringing our state forests to where they are today and for making  the beautiful groves of Greenwood Furnace State Park. We highly recommend visiting this beautiful place.

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