About The Area
Clear Creek State Forest was formed as a direct result of the depletion of the forests of Pennsylvania that took place during the mid-to-late 19th century. Conservationists like Dr. Joseph Rothrock became concerned that the forests would not regrow if they were not managed properly. Lumber and Iron companies had harvested the old-growth forests for various reasons. They clear cut the forests and left behind nothing but dried tree tops and rotting stumps. The sparks of passing steam locomotives ignited wildfires that prevented the formation of second growth forests.
Conservationists feared that the forest would never regrow if there was not a change in the philosophy of forest management. They called for the state to purchase land from the lumber and iron companies and the lumber and iron companies were more than willing to sell their land since that had depleted the natural resources of the forests. The changes began to take place in 1895 when Dr. Rothrock was appointed the first commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters, the forerunner of today's Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a piece of legislation in 1897 that authorized the purchase of "unseated lands for forest reservations." This was the beginning of the State Forest system.
The first parcel of land that was to become Clear Creek State Forest was purchased by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for $6,880. The original purchase of 3,200 acres (1,300 ha) was purchased in 1919 at the end of the lumber era that swept throughout the mountains of Pennsylvania. The state continued to purchase land throughout the 20th century with the last acquisition taking place in 1980. Most of the land was acquired from large scale lumbering corporations. These lumber businesses stripped the old growth forest that once spread over most of Pennsylvania. They began lumbering on a large scale in 1883 when the first sawmills were constructed in the area along the many creeks that drained the Allegheny Plateau. The lumbermen harvested the hemlock and white pine trees on an almost exclusive basis. The logs of hemlock and pine were lashed together in rafts and floated down the Clarion River and into the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh. The lumber companies also built three logging railroads in the area to get the lumber out of the mountains and on to the cities of Western Pennsylvania.
The lumbering operations left behind what has been described as a "barren wasteland" of stumps and dried treetops. The sparks cast off by passing steam trains set off massive forest fires. These fires slowed the development of the second growth forest that now covers Clear Creek State Forest. The forests have largely regrown with the hemlock and white pine trees being replaced with thriving populations of various hardwood trees.
The Clear Creek State Forest was founded on September 1, 1920, with the district office in Clarion. The two largest tracts in Heath Township, Jefferson County and were the earliest purchases in 1919. This purchase included most of what was established as Clear Creek State Park in 1963. The latest acquisition was the 3,184 acre Kennerdell Tract in Venango County made in 1980. This tract includes a stone iron furnace on Bullion Run that was constructed in the 1840's and remnants of past and present oil and gas production sites. Logging was a major industry in this region in the early 1800's. The original forest consisted of white oak, chestnut, sugar maple, beech, hickory, birch, cherry, basswood, cucumber magnolia, poplar, butternut, sycamore, black ash, elm, pine and hemlock. The first sawmill in Heath Township was built along the river in 1833. The early mills were generally located on streams and cut mostly white pine. Most of the timbers and boards were then made into rafts and floated down the Clarion River to Pittsburgh. Hiking is available throughout Jefferson County portions of the State Forest on 35 miles of trails including the Little Clear Creek Trail, Silvis Trail, Trap Run Trail, Beartown Rocks Trail and North Country Trail. A section of the North Country Trail runs through the Maple Creek tract in Forest County. Another network of trails allows hikers to explore the Kennerdell tract in Venango County and enjoy vistas above the Allegheny River. Horseback riding is authorized on all State Forest roads and trails, with the exception of those trails designated off limits to horses at the Kennerdell Tract in Venango County. Mountain bikes may be used on most roads and trails on Clear Creek State Forest unless otherwise posted. Only Dennison Run Trail is permanently off limits to bicycles. Degree of difficulty varies considerably.
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