Lebo Run N.A./Miller Run N.A.   NR, Cook Forest
  Sep 10, 2003 18:21 PDT 

Bruce, Tom, Bob, Colby, Will, et. al.,

Bruce sent me on a fact finding mission over a month ago to take a look at the Lebo Run Natural Area which was reported to have old growth red pine. The Lebo Run Natural Area is about 1/2 hour north of Lockhaven in Lycoming County Sproul State Forest just off Lebo Run Road about 1/4 mile from where a large powerline intersects the road. A month ago, my first impression of the Lebo Run Natural Area was that the part I was in was a "well planted" C.C.C. red pine plantation. That is, the red pine I observed in my first brief trip to the area were adequately spaced out, but planted in rows. I returned to the area yesterday, and did a more thorough search of the area. The few trees that I observed on my first trip were planted in rows ( a row of 4 and a row of 3), but these trees most likely started to grow on downed logs long ago. A distinct spatial pattern emerged throughout the rest of the area which brought me to the conclusion that this was definitely not a C.C.C. plantation.

Preliminary core data suggests the following ages:

Species CBH Height Age

white birch 3.1 71.6 ~103
pitch pine 3.3 57.1+ ~ 157
red pine 3.8 56 ~100 (beside Lebo Run Road in the Miller Run N.A.)
red pine 5.8 90 ~ 234
red pine 5 81.1+ ~ 234
red pine 4.4 79.8 ~ 243
white pine 7.3 101.7 ~ 199+ (fire scar at ~196)

I took the core with me because I had a very difficult time seeing the old growth characters on my first trip, and have never observed old red pine before. This may be the only old growth stand of red pine in the entire state, but who really knows what else may be hiding on a secluded hilltop in PA's ridge and valley province. Every other stand I've observed in the state has been orchard grown. Usually the old C.C.C. red pine plantations have trees planted too close together in distinct rows. These trees had a spatial, almost territorial-like, quality to them that I haven't noticed before in old trees. The bark character didn't jump out to me as being aged, but then again, all I've observed are young ~70 year old red pine stands. The bark of the 200+ year old specimens were not deeply furrowed, but had a smooth balding type of appearance. The ~100 year old red pine at the top was very deeply ridged and furrowed. These ~200 year old specimens looked as if they had sloughed off part of their earlier furrowed pattern. I had to look closely to see some of the gnarled patterns of their tops. Gnarled white pine tops and its deeply furrowed bark were quite evident in the area. It was definitely a huge learning curve experience. I probably would not have believed these red pine were over 150 years without the core data to back it. The rings were so close that I had almost 100 years in 2 inches for two of my red pine cores. The rings were almost invisible in these sections of the core.

It was also my first trip to a forest in PA where I had naturally growing white pine, red pine, and pitch pine all in the same area. I haven't read any seriously detailed literature on the site yet, but core data and dominant species suggest multiple fire histories within the last two centuries. Fire scars were evident on the old red and white pine (~200 years ago), then pitch pine came into the picture
~150 years ago, then white birch at ~100 years ago. I wonder how this old stand of red pine first started, another fire ~250 years ago? Maybe we have a pattern here?

The ridge tops are very rocky with a shallow well drained soil. General understory species are mountain laurel, witch hazel, blueberry at the ridge tops, changing to maidenhair fern and other associated ferns, red maple and N. red oak at the valley floor. There is about a 500-800ft vertical drop from ridgetop to valley. It is a very steep hike, all off trail, through a trouser tearing mountain laurel thicket about 2/3 down the slope. Gnats and mosquitoes will definitely be happy for the company. Canopy dominant species ranged from red pine, pitch pine, chestnut oak, red maple, N. red oak, white birch, black birch at the top, to red pine, white pine, red maple, N. red oak mid-slope, to quaking aspen yellow birch, Am. basswood, slippery elm at the bottom. Tree heights would max out at about ~70ft on the ridge tops, to about 105ft at the valley floor.

Road maps outline various hiking trails through/around the area, but they are showing a high state of entropy... you'd probably be better off just bushwacking than trying to decide where you thought the trails were. If you make the long trip to this area I definitely suggest you drive to end of Lebo Run Road and take a look at the absolutely gorgeous vista of the Pine Creek Gorge, otherwise know as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. The vertical and horizontal views are astounding. You can see for miles and at the same time be looking at a 750-1000ft change in elevation from ridge top to valley floor.

The best way into the meat of the Lebo Run Natural Area from Lock Haven is as follows:

Lock Haven RT 664N to RT44N
RT44N to Lebo Run Road (small forestry road sign to the right)
turn right onto Lebo Run Road
park at the intersection of Lebo Run Road and the large powerline
walk the access road on the powerline roughly west until you run out of access road (1/4-1/2 mile)
turn roughly north (to the right) and cut across the powerline into the tree line
you are technically in the natural areas as soon as you get into the tree line, you'll see the old red pines about 30 yards in

I wouldn't suggest walking to the bottom of the ravine unless you're really into physical exertion. Going down isn't bad, but remember to bring your O2 for going back up... you'll be crawling on all 4's through a laurel thicket (great USMC training, Bob).

Another trip might put me upstream a bit from the initial natural area entry point. There appeared to be old red pine and white pine farther up the watershed from your view at the end of the access road on the powerline. The day's stats as follows:

Species CBH Height Age

Am. basswood 3.8 101.7
bigtooth aspen 2.6 78.6+
pitch pine 3.3 57.1+ ~157
red pine 4.4 79.8 ~243
red pine 5.1 81.1
red pine 5 81.1+
red pine 4.9 86.6+
red pine 5.5 87.3
red pine 5.2 87.5
red pine 4.8 88.6+
red pine 4.4 88.9
red pine 5.8 90 ~234
red pine 4.1 93.6
red pine 4.4 96.4 (new PA red pine height record for naturally grown tree)
slippery elm 3.3 86.6+
white birch 3.1 71.6+ ~103
white pine 5.9 89.6+
white pine 7.3 98.5
white pine 7.3 101.7 ~199+ (fire scar ~196)
white pine 9.3 102.1

You will be driving through part of the Miller Run N.A. as you proceed down Lebo Run Road. This is mostly dominated by chestnut oak, N. red oak, and pitch pine on the ridgetops. Most of the trees are stunted and showing some knarlage. I only measured/aged one red pine here to 3.8ft CBH x 56ft high at ~100 years with very deeply furrowed bark.