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2.25.2018

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. 
Bears!
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.

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