Allegheny National Recreation Area

Allegheny National Recreation Area

Pennsylvania

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Allegheny National Forest

24,145 acres

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/allegheny/specialplaces/

Overview

Allegheny National Recreation Area was created by Congress in 1984 under the Pennsylvania Wilderness Act.  It is managed as three separate parcels of land within Allegheny National Forest.  The first is named Cornplanter after an Iroquois warrior and leader during the American Revolution and it has two boat launches and no developed trails on the federal lands west of the Allegheny Reservoir.  The second is Tracy Ridge to the east of the reservoir, which we will discuss below.  Farther south, the third parcel is the Allegheny Front on the east side of the Allegheny River from Charlie Run to South Slater Run, bordered on the west by Highway 62.

Highlights

Willow Bay Recreation Area, Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System, North Country National Scenic Trail

Must-Do Activity

Tracy Ridge is easily accessible from scenic State Highway 321 and it has an extensive system of hiking trails, including a 10-mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail.  Further north, Willow Bay Recreation Area (day-use fee) is the most developed portion of Allegheny National Recreation Area.  The waters of the Allegheny Reservoir between Cornplanter and Tracy Ridge are also considered to be part of the National Recreation Area with three developed boat-in campgrounds (fee). 

Best Trail

In addition to the Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System, the undeveloped Allegheny Front parcel contains a three-mile segment of the Tanbark Trail.  These areas are popular with hunters, so remember to wear fluorescent clothing during hunting seasons.

Instagram-worthy Photo

While having lunch near the dock in Willow Bay Recreation Area, we saw a bald eagle, a red-tailed hawk, ravens, and a flock of Canada geese.

Peak Season

Summer

Fees

There is an entrance fee at Willow Bay Recreation Area, but it is half price with an America the Beautiful pass.  Even if you hike in to Hopewell and Handsome Lake Campgrounds on the shores of the Allegheny Reservoir, you need to pay the overnight camping fee.  Based on the signs, we think that backpacking in Tracy Ridge is free.

Road Conditions

We did not come across any unpaved roads while driving through Allegheny National Recreation Area, but they probably exist.

Camping

Willow Bay Recreation Area and Tracy Ridge have drive-in campgrounds, plus Hooks Brook, Hopewell, and Handsome Lake are accessible by boat.  Dispersed camping is allowed for no more than 14 consecutive days at one site and not within 1500 feet of the Allegheny Reservoir.  The same goes for backpacking sites on the Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System where hanging bear bags or using bear-proof containers is recommended.

Related Sites

Allegheny National Forest (Pennsylvania)

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Flight 93 National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

Nearest National Park

Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)

Explore More – When it is completed, how long will the North Country National Scenic Trail be in its entirety?

Allegheny National Forest

Allegheny National Forest

Pennsylvania

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region

742,693 acres (513,175 federal/ 229,518 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/allegheny

Overview

The only National Forest in Pennsylvania was created in 1923 utilizing the federal government’s ability to purchase land under the Weeks Act of 1911.  However, they could not afford the subsurface or mineral rights, which has created issues in this oil-producing area.  Before it became Allegheny National Forest, most of the hillsides were clearcut to feed the area’s wood chemical plants, allowing black cherry and early successional species to dominate the second growth forests.  The National Forest contains two Wild and Scenic Rivers: the Clarion River (51.7 miles) and Allegheny River (87 miles in three separate sections).

Highlights

Allegheny National Recreation Area, Hearts Content Scenic Area, Willow Bay Recreation Area, Old Powerhouse, Timberdoodle Flats Interpretive Trail, Minister Creek, Buzzard Swamp Hiking Area, Clarion Wild and Scenic River, Allegheny Wild and Scenic River, Buckaloons Recreation Area, Hall Barn Wildlife Viewing Area, North Country National Scenic Trail

Must-Do Activity

A good place to start exploring Allegheny National Forest is by driving the Longhouse Scenic Byway, a 36-mile loop, which includes views of the Allegheny Reservoir and Kinzua Dam, plus a side trip up to Jakes Rocks Overlook.  We drove in from the east and found the easy walks on the Timberdoodle Flats Wildlife Interpretive Trail to be a good introduction to this region.  This is one of the few places in Pennsylvania with old-growth forests, so be sure to stop at Hearts Content Scenic Area or Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Areas. 

Best Trail

Huge eastern hemlock and eastern white pine trees up to 400 years old can be found in the 20-acre Hearts Content Scenic Area.  This National Natural Landmark has a picnic area constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and is located across from a nice campground.  There are two short, flat loop trails located here, but you can also connect into 7.8 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing routes.  Other popular hiking destinations include Rimrock Trail and a 10-mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail within the Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System (see our post on Allegheny National Recreation Area for more information).

Watchable Wildlife

As hard as it is to believe given their prevalence now, low populations of white-tailed deer in the 1920s allowed this new National Forest to grow back quickly.  Campers should exercise caution with their food and trash since black bears are in the area.  Turkeys, bald eagles, barred owls, Canada geese, black-capped chickadees, and pileated woodpeckers are common bird species.  Hall Barn Wildlife Viewing Area is known for its summer population of 1,000 roosting bats.  There is also evidence of beavers on the Timberdoodle Flats Wildlife Interpretive Trail.  Allegheny Reservoir has walleye, trout, bass, catfish, northern pike, and muskellunge, and small native brook trout can be found in the Farnsworth Stream and other creeks. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Kinzua Dam was completed in 1965 and stands 179 feet tall and 1,897 feet in length.  Kinzua is a Seneca Indian word that translates as “place of many big fishes.”  Watch for fish that gather in eddies at the edges of the Allegheny Reservoir near the dam, but remember that fishing and feeding the fish is prohibited at this spot.

Peak Season

Summer

Fees

There is an entrance fee at both Willow Bay and Buckaloons Recreation Areas, but it is half price with an America the Beautiful pass.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved to Willow Bay Recreation Area and Hearts Content Scenic Area, which are popular with RV campers. 

Camping

Allegheny National Forest contains 15 campgrounds with more than 1,000 sites, and Willow Bay Recreation Area also has cabins for rent.  We enjoyed our stay at Heart’s Content Campground, but found Buckaloons Campground to be too crowded.  Allegheny Islands Wilderness has seven islands that can be used for boat-in dispersed camping.

Wilderness Areas

Allegheny Islands Wilderness

Hickory Creek Wilderness

Related Sites

Allegheny National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania)

Grey Towers National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Pennsylvania)

Nearest National Park

Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)

Conifer Tree Species

eastern hemlock, eastern white pine

Flowering Tree Species

sugar maple, black maple, red maple, striped maple, silver maple, mountain maple, yellow birch, sweet birch, black walnut, bitternut hickory, shagbark hickory, sycamore, American beech, white ash, tulip-poplar, green ash, cucumber magnolia, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen, black cherry, pin cherry, choke cherry, northern red oak, basswood, American elm, slippery elm

Explore More – Timberdoodle is a local nickname for which native bird species that nests in this forest?

Explanation of National Forest Blog Posts

Welcome to the new Raven About The Parks | Raven About The Forests!  This week we are starting to post about the 155 National Forests (in alphabetical order), as well as the National Monuments and National Recreation Areas that they manage (which will be three of our first five posts).  For more information about how the U.S. Forest Service is different from the National Park Service, check out our previous blog post.

There will be a few differences in our posts on the National Forests, including some new headings, like a paragraph on Watchable Wildlife and a list of Wilderness Areas.  At the top of each page, we are going to start putting the managing agency (i.e. U.S. Forest Service), acreage, and a link to the government website.  We will still link to three of our blog posts on Related Sites on our public lands, plus now the nearest of the 63 National Parks. 

Another change is the addition of a list of Conifer Tree Species (cone-bearing Gymnosperms or softwoods often called “pines” or “evergreens”) and Flowering Tree Species (Angiosperms or hardwoods that are often called “deciduous” because many species lose their leaves in autumn).  Scott has a Ph.D. in forestry and always wanted to teach dendrology, so this keeps him happy.

We will still have all the headings that simplify getting information from our blog posts, including Overview, Highlights, Must-Do Activity, Best Trail, Instagram-worthy Photo, Peak Season, Fees, Road Conditions, Camping, and the final trivia question in Explore More.

We also plan to keep up with our Top 10 Lists, so watch for those, too.

Thank you for reading.  Happy New Year!

Scott and Tiff

Raven About The Forests in addition to the Parks

Starting in 2022, Raven About The Parks is becoming Raven About The Parks | Raven About The Forests! 

So other than adding another cool logo to our website, what does this actually mean?  We will now be posting about the 155 National Forests in America that are managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) not the National Park Service (NPS – we just posted on our 300th NPS site in December!).  For more information on the history of the USFS check out our newspaper article from November.

As a quick reminder of the differences between the two government agencies:

U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is in the Department of Agriculture and manages 155 National Forests (in 40 states and 1 territory), 20 National Grasslands, 22 National Recreation Areas, 13 National Monuments, and 1 National Historic Site.  Hunting is allowed in most National Forests and rules are generally more relaxed about hiking off trail and dispersed camping.  The USFS was founded in 1905 on the ideal of conservation, which includes natural resource extraction and logging in a sustainable manner.

National Park Service (NPS) is in the Department of Interior and manages 423 sites (in all 50 states and 5 territories plus Washington, D.C.), which are made up of no National Forests nor Grasslands, 63 National Parks, 20 National Recreation Areas, 82 National Monuments, 82 National Historic Sites, and many other designations.  Hunting is not allowed in most NPS units and rules are generally stricter about hiking off trail and dispersed camping.  The NPS was founded in 1916 on the ideal of preservation, which does not allow for natural resource extraction or logging.

I feel like my old forestry professor self was coming out there.  There will not be a test, though.

Our Goals

When the pandemic shut down most NPS sites, it inspired us to do something we had talked about for years: hiking in all 155 National Forests.  We determined that we already had traveled enough to write about 55 National Forests in places we previously lived, including Alaska, Arizona, California, North Carolina, and Wyoming.  That left 100 more to go.  Of course, that did not stop us from returning to a few favorites along the way, like Black Hills, Bridger, Gila, Medicine Bow, Nebraska, and Roosevelt National Forests.

Over the past 17 months, to complete this monumental task I (being Scott) needed lots of support from both my wife (being Tiff who was still working full time at the local hospital) and my recently-retired mother.  Together we drove more than 40,000 miles across 42 states (plus Puerto Rico).  We hiked and backpacked well over 700 miles of trails in 117 National Forests, spending 129 nights camping.

Our major objective in visiting all 155 National Forests was to finish research so we can publish a guidebook in 2022.  Watch for updates on how that project progresses, but in the meanwhile enjoy learning more about our public lands as we start posting on National Forests (in alphabetical order) and their associated National Monuments and National Recreation Areas.  We start next Thursday with Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest.

Thank you for reading.  Happy New Year!

Scott and Tiff

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Overview

Columbian mammoths grew up to 14 feet in height, much larger than woolly mammoths that reached about 10 feet.  About 65,000 years ago, a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths died in a ravine here due to unknown causes, possibly a flood or drought.  Then about 51,000 years ago, another three mammoths died at the same spot before the onset of a new glacial period.  Many of the fossils have been left in situ within the Dig Shelter, but others are on display at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex.

Highlights

Dig Shelter tour, Eagle Trail

Must-Do Activity

Established in 2015, this National Monument was already developed for visitors by the city of Waco and Baylor University.  As such, annual America the Beautiful passes provide no discount for the guided tour to the Dig Shelter where the 65,000-year-old Columbian mammoth and camel bones have been excavated.  First discovered in 1978, this dig site has since had a building constructed around it, making it a pleasant place to visit year round.

Best Trail

From the paved Mammoth Trail, there is the short Deer Loop that connects to the longer Eagle Trail.  Located south of Waco Mammoth National Monument, Cameron Park in Waco has trails along the Brazos and Bosque Rivers.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Dig Shelter is only viewable on a guided tour (admission charged).

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/waco/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$5 per person for the tour (no discount for America the Beautiful pass)

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Many private campgrounds can be found around Waco, Texas, in addition to six Corps of Engineers campgrounds on Waco Lake that take reservations.

Related Sites

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (Nebraska)

Explore More – A small tooth was discovered here from a cub of what fearsome Ice Age predator?