National Natural Landmark: Pine Creek Gorge

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In 2006, we stayed in a cabin on the banks of Pine Creek at Rough Cut Lodge. This was a comfortable base from which to explore Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, as the Pine Creek Gorge is commonly called.

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The canyon is a 47-mile gorge carved through the northern Pennsylvania mountains by Pine Creek over time. It is 1450 feet deep at its southern end and 800 feet deep where we were, just outside the quaint town of Wellsboro.

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Pine Creek Gorge was designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service in 1968 for being one of the finest examples of a deep gorge in the eastern United States.’ The land remains under State management and includes Colton Point State Park, Leonard Harrison State Park and Tioga State Forest.

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We began our exploration with a covered wagon ride through the Canyon. As the team of horses led us along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, our guide told us about the history of the area.

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The early 1800s saw large-scale lumber harvesting in Pine Creek Gorge for ship-building on the coast. The pines were considered ideal for ship masts.  A railroad was built along the creek to carry the lumber away en masse (this railroad bed was converted to a rail-trail in 1996.)

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By the early 1900s, the old-growth forest was gone. What remained burned in wildfires, leaving the land barren and prone to erosion and landslides.

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With the end of the lumber harvesting and through conservation efforts, the forests have since re-grown and the wildlife returned.

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To see the canyon from the top, we drove to Leonard Harrison State Park. We stopped into the Visitors Center and the took the short, but steep Overlook Trail for sweeping views of the gorge.

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Location: 4797 PA-660, Wellsboro, PA 16901

Designation: National Natural Landmark

Date designated or established: April 1968

Date of my visit: 8/7/2006

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The Wellsboro Diner serves home-style comfort food in building designed to look like a railroad dining car.

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