Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Ernie Ostuno
  Jul 26, 2004 03:14 PDT 

Lower Jerry Run Natural Area is located deep in the Elk State Forest in
Cameron County, PA. On my first visit to this site on 6/26/99, I found
only a small stand of a few big trees. When I returned on 4/20/00, I
found the rest of the old growth. Here are my notes:

Two separate sections of old growth occur here. The first is a very
small patch of old trees, only an acre or two. This small stand consists
of about a dozen big hemlock and two big white pine surrounding a spring
at the head of a creek (the beginning of the western fork of Lower Jerry
Run). An old railroad grade goes right by the big trees. The surrounding
area was completely cut over and is now second growth hardwoods (lots of
maple). Some second growth hemlock adjoins the big trees to the north.
They are surrounded by old stumps that show evidence of fire. One mile
east is the main section of old growth; about 20 acres of hemlock and
white pine. Curiously enough, the railroad grade from the first area
follows the northern edge of a ridge right though the second area of old
growth. Scattered big hemlock and white pine can be found in in the
valley of the eastern fork of Lower Jerry Run. The ridgetop between the
two areas is primarily mixed oaks and other hardwords, which may be old
growth. If so, this would greatly increase the total acreage of old
growth here.

It is always fun to speculate on why areas of old growth were left
standing. The William Penn-era laws of paying triple damages for cutting
someone else's trees explains why surveying errors along boundaries of
competing lumber companies left some pie-shaped patches of old growth.
Another reason could be that small sections of forest were used as shade
and shelter for the logging camps, and the trees were left standing when
the camp packed up and left. Or an economic downturn might have caused
logging operations to be halted. I think a combination of the two last
reasons may responsible for the patchwork of big trees at Lower Jerry
Run. The small patch of a few big trees was left standing as shelter,
while the larger stand of hemlocks and pine may have been abandoned when
the lumber market temporarily went bust. The remoteness of the location
meant that once the camp and railroad were packed up, it wouldn't be
profitable enough to come back and cut 20 acres of big trees.

Here's the Pennsylvania DNR site:



RE: Dale Part 2   Ernie Ostuno
  Jul 26, 2004 15:27 PDT 
Lower Jerry Run NA...

Yeah, you gave a good description of Johnson Run. And yes, there are a
few beautiful examples of old growth sycamore in there. The only similar
looking sycamores I had seen prior to the big ones at Johnson Run were
in town parks! It is strange how such an undisturbed area is bordered by
what looks like a narrow gage railroad grade, isn't it?
Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Dale J. Luthringer
  Sep 24, 2004 08:16 PDT 

I made it out to Lower Jerry Run Natural Area on 8/9/04. This place is
really out in the boonies. I walked a number of miles and still didn’t
see all of it. Lower Jerry Run is located in Cameron and Clinton
Counties Pennsylvania and is part of the Sproul State Forest. Portions
of the Lower Jerry Run Natural Area are adjacent to Bucktail State Park
and the Quehanna Wild Area. Lower Jerry Run is a tributary to
Sinnamahoning Creek which in turn is a tributary to the West Branch
Susquehanna River. This natural area is also in prime Pennsylvania elk


185 km NE of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

There are a number of different access points to this site, but there
are no designated trails here. I decided to take the high ground for my
first trip. I thought of coming in from the bottom of this watershed
and working my way upstream, but the easy access at the bottom is
blocked by no trespassing/posted signs. I may decide to skirt the
boundaries on a future trip, but I’m not willing at this point to put in
the extra miles that this would take. Coming in from the top end was
tough enough. I decided to park on a dirt road towards the southern end
of Lower Jerry Run (LJR) and access the eastern trib first in search of
old growth. There is a large powerline right of here and I chose to use
a camp access road to cut right into the top of this eastern trib.
Bruce Kershner and Ernie Ostuno found some small plots of old growth in
here, and were very kind to give me a heads-up on where to go . I was
very curious to try to see as much of these areas as possible on my
first trip.

As I crossed the powerline via the camp access road, I was greeted by a
short “buzz” in the royal fern and blueberries just off the road…
timber rattlesnake! This was a true testament of the wildness of this
area that I was about to explore. The camp road ended at a camp about
200 yards north beyond the powerline. The beginning of the east branch
of LJR was right behind this camp. I hopped the branch on continued
downstream upslope on its western side. I continued on this contour for
about 1.5miles until I came to where the east and west branch of LJR
joined together. The hillsides were very steep here with about 140ft of
relief from hilltop to stream bottom.

There is a small patch of ancient hemlock at this juncture on the
hilltop that appears to have been selectively cut of other species.

41 15.731N x 78 4.149W

An old logging road of sorts cuts through this site and wraps around in
a type of horseshoe around the land contour. I came into this section
downslope about 60 vertical feet from the top (1/2 mile from top of
slope) since I was scanning for big/tall trees in the bottom of the
eastern branch (none that I could see). When I got to the apex of where
the two branches came together, I spent most of my time scoping out the
western slope which appeared to be more impressive. Old hemlock
appeared to go up the slope and around the bend back in the direction I
came from (east side of branch), but I did not take the time to
investigate. Hemlock heights here were in the 115-120ft range. I’d
estimate some of the older ones to go over 250 years easy. Red maple
was prominent throughout the area.

I chose to follow this old logging road as far as possible up the
eastern side of the western branch of LJR to attempt to find Ernie’s
other small old growth plot at the beginning of this branch. Old
hemlocks continued along the logging road bench for about another ¼
mile, then stopped abruptly. Forest type changed into distinct 2nd
growth from here on. Ernie, I’m still not sure about the ridgetops… I
followed the old logging road until I couldn’t see it anymore, then
dropped down to the stream and followed it until I ran out of water. I
found the springs where the stream started and looked up, Bingo, the
small patch of old growth was right where you said it’d be.

41 15.492N x 78 4.571W

There were about a half dozen very old hemlock here, ~350 years plus,
along with some old chestnut oaks. The old logging road went right
through this tiny site and ended at another hunting camp about ¼ mile
off. Hemlocks in this site were about 90-95ft high, along with a decent
girthed white pine to about 80ft.   The ridgetop here was a twisted mass
of mountain laurel. I was running out of daylight by this time and
decided I better start to bushwhack my way out.

I walked to the camp and followed an access road for about ½ mile, but
it was taking me directly away from where my vehicle was. So, I mapped
out another route that cut across the flat hilltop back towards the
right of way and my vehicle. No old growth on this part of the flat.
Lots of sassafrass and thigh high royal fern… couldn’t help but think of
all the rattlesnakes that could have been nestled nearby. Gnats were
viscous when you stopped, hungry for moisture wherever they could get
it, mostly in your eyes and nose.

By the time I got back to the vehicle, I figured I walked about 5 miles
and confirmed two small old growth plots in some of the wildest terrain
I’ve been in Pennsylvania. Bruce has noted a couple of other old growth
sites on or just below various drainages and ridgetops in this area, but
that will have to wait for another day. I scoped out the bottom of LJR
where it flows into Sinnamohing Creek from the opposite bank, north side
of the stream, from RT555. It was a nice view looking up the watershed,
but appears that this private property section harbors no old growth

The days tally as follows:

Species            CBH     Height   Location

Am. chestnut     N/A                   branch juncture
downed snags
E. hemlock        N/A       90.4      W branch spring
E. hemlock        9.6        96.5      W branch spring            very
old tree
E. hemlock        8.8        115.5    branch juncture
E. hemlock        7.6        118.4    branch juncture
Mountain maple 1.4        25.5      W branch spring            personal
tallest find to date
Red maple         7.9        99.2      branch juncture
White pine         7.2        109.9    branch juncture
logging road
White pine         8.9        79.8      W branch spring

All in all, a very good day in a very wild place.



A quick review of this site can be found on the following website 
produced by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry:


RE: Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Ernie Ostuno
  Sep 29, 2004 21:31 PDT 

Nice job, Dale. You sure are a trooper...it took me two separate visits
to cover all the ground you walked. The small stand of old hemlocks to
the west I found the first time out, and I was quite disappointed
thinking that this was all there was to this site. I still wonder about
that wooden building near there. Who built it and why? Did you notice
how low the roof is and how small the doors are? I thought it might be
an ice house for storing blocks of ice in the summer...but it's so
remote and there are no large bodies of water nearby.

The eastern fork has more old trees and it's probably best to go there
when the leaves are down. I went in April and it was easier to spot the
isolated big conifers on the slopes. I gained access the same way you
did, from the hunting cabin near the power line clearing. This place is
certainly remote, and probably only Dutlinger and Mount Logan Natural
Areas are harder to reach. There's a strange patchwork of young and old
trees here. My theory is that cutting was underway when the building
market went bust. Maybe the financial panic of 1893 or 1907 put an end
to the logging operations? I saw only one decent intact stand of
hemlocks and that was the one you saw near the junction of the two forks
of the stream. It didn't look like there were any big trees beyond that,
further downstream on the way to Sinnamahoning Creek, but I didn't walk
it so I can't say for sure.


Was that 109.9 foot white pine right near the edge of the old logging
railroad grade? I recall seeing one of the biggest white pine there.

RE: Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Ernie Ostuno
  Oct 05, 2004 15:26 PDT 


The old wooden building with the low walls was only a few hundred feet
west of the springhead of the west branch, where the small patch of old
hemlocks was. I thought you saw it since you mentioned a hunting camp
near there, but you could be referring to something else. There is a
really poor access road to the building from Three Points Road:


Look for the intersection of Three Points Road and Sand Rock Road on the
map, just SE of the southern end of the Natural Area. The dashed road
heading north from that intersection branches off to the east and ends
at that building. From there you can walk into the Natural Area. This
road was unmaintained and in very bad shape. I recall almost bottoming
out with a Dodge Durango.

Yep, that white pine was exactly the one I was thinking of. There were a
couple similar white pines (or maybe even a little bigger) further south
of there on the western slope of the ridge, but the older white pine
seems to have fallen to the axe in this area.

In what part of the natural area were those other old hemlocks that you
didn't get to? I might take a trip out that way before the snow flies
this autumn.

RE: Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Dale J. Luthringer
  Oct 05, 2004 16:38 PDT 


O.K. I guess the hunting camp I was referring to is the same as the one
you're talking about. Come to think of it, it really was built quite
odd. Whatever it's original use was, it's definitely used as a hunting
camp now. I smelled smoke at the camp when I came to that "springhead"
old growth section, the fire was out but the coals were still hot. No
one home though. I don't recall many windows (if any) on it either.

Yes, I see where you came in at. I think I'd have to hoof it in though.
That road was quite nasty. I'd probably rip the oil or fuel tank of my
Blazer on that road. I'd prefer not to have to ride high on the ruts,
my luck I'd get stuck out there. I'm thinking of coming in that way the
next time on foot, but continue past the road to that camp and take the
next junction east to walk the point between Middle Jerry and Lower
Jerry Runs. There's lots of relief here, if it hasn't been logged for
awhile there may be some big/tall trees here.

Concerning the other older hemlock section, I believe I was referring to
the end of the east fork of LJR on its western slope. It appears that
the logging road that wrapped around the point headed south right into
that area. I initially came in on the eastern fork of LJR, but was way
downslope from the old hemlocks that appeared to be up near the ridge
about 1/3 mile up and west of my location. When I was coming back from
that odd looking hunting camp, I bushwhacked southeast to my vehicle
towards the powerline right of way. As I came over the flat and started
back downhill on the east fork side of LJR, I came across another old
logging/camp access road. This road just might join up with the one
that you and I have talked about on the east side of the western fork of
LJR that wraps around the point. This "new" logging road would be
uphill on the flat, and across the eastern fork of LJR from the hunting
camp which was adjacent to the powerline where I first started my hike
(now that sounds confusing...).

Did you explore 'Dark Hollow' yet? It's just outside and west of the
natural area. I've seen the bottom of it from Jerry Run Road. So much
area to explore, yet so little time?


RE: Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Dale J. Luthringer
  Oct 04, 2004 07:34 PDT 


Well, you gave me good directions so it saved me a LOT of time. I
didn't notice any building though... where abouts was it in that western
section? Bruce Kershner found some other sections of old growth hemlock
that we didn't see yet.   I didn't follow the logging road around the
contour from a northerly direction to south easterly direction, or go up
the hill to far since the tree heights diminished considerably and I still
needed to find the small patch of old growth at the spring.

The 109.9ft white pine was right on the edge of the logging grade as you
headed from the junction of both branches up the western fork and just
outside the decent old hemlock section. It was definitely a 2nd growth
area. I'd put that white pine to ~100 years old.

Yep, mountain maple is Acer spicatum. I've found this website from
Virginia Tech to be quite helpful:



RE: Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Ernie Ostuno
  Oct 05, 2004 20:27 PDT 


I haven't seen Dark Hollow at all. Do you think there's old growth
there? Where did Bruce Kershner find the other OG that you haven't seen
yet? I still have to get that Sierra Club book.

Speaking of books, a few years ago I bought two books about the railroad
logging era from the PA Lumber Museum up in Potter County. The books
were published in the early 1970s and the author interviewed a few old
timers that actually worked for the logging companies more than 50 years
previously. The books are titled "The Goodyears: An Empire in the
Hemlocks" and "Ghost Lumber Towns of Central Pennsylvania". They contain
some fascinating history of the era and includes many historical photos
as well as maps of logging operations annotated with the dates that
certain areas were logged. The two books are at the bottom of the page
on this site:


Here's a web site that shows some photos from the book:


One of the rangers of the Elk State Forest also recommended a book
called "The Story of the Sinnemahone" about the logging of the
Sinnemahoning River area in the late 1800s, but I haven't been able to
find it for sale on the net. I did find this reference to it:


near the bottom of the page:

"The largest spar was hauled in February 1881.....Ed Dundon scaled it.
After several measurements and calculations by Scribner's rule, he said
that it contained fifty-two hundred feet, which put it in the class of
the largest spars taken down the Sinnamahoning."

Anybody know what "Scribner's rule" is?

RE: Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Ernie Ostuno
  Oct 07, 2004 23:04 PDT 


Yeah I saw the old Shay locomotive and the re-created lumber camp/saw
mill at the Lumber Museum. That's also where I got the old logging
railroad books. I thought the bark peelers convention was held at Cherry
Springs State Park?

I went back and looked at the video I took of Lower Jerry Run back in
1999 and 2000. I did walk that railroad grade "spur" that you found when
you crossed the ridge. I also found a small patch of old hemlock/white
pine on the east slope of the east fork of Lower Jerry Run. Did you see
those? There were dozens of old stumps all over the east fork valley.

RE: Lower Jerry Run Natural Area   Ernie Ostuno
  Oct 16, 2004 06:08 PDT 


I had forgotten about the old trees on the east slope until I looked at
the video I had taken. The are fairly easy to get to since they are not
far from the hunting cabin near the power line clearing. Follow the east
fork of the creek from there and look up along the east slope. If you
are able to get back there in the next few weeks after the leaves are
down, they are easy to spot from the creek. It's only a couple acres of
old white pine, hemlocks and a few hardwoods. The biggest intact stand
of old trees I saw were those just upslope of the confluence of the west
and east forks of the creek, which you saw.

Lower Jerry Run Natural Area:  
Pass Through
  Dale J. Luthringer
  Mar 03, 2005 17:00 PST 


Here is a forward from a super Quehanna Wilderness observer as we were
discussing the location of one of the old growth patches in the Lower
Jerry Run Natural Area in Pennsylvania. Hopefully the jpeg will take.
Ed if it didn't come through, can you post it on the website?



-----Original Message-----
From: George Lockey 
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 7:44 PM

virgin_hemlock2.jpg (167444 bytes)


I did manage to find the Virgin Timber in the Lower Jerry area. From the

Quehanna Hwy.( they have a sign there for the Natural Area) go 5.65 
miles on the Three Runs Rd. You will be at the intersection of the Sand 
Rock Rd. There is a parking area there. Across from the Sand Rock Rd. 
there will be Orange blazes on a camp road toward the north. Follow this

about a quarter mile to a power line where the trail will turn right. 
There is a trail sign there but it is down now. Go two poles and you 
will see the orange blazes again, on the left. Follow them to the

I found one tree that is about 10' 10" in circumference. This tree is at

N41.15.623 W078.04.131. There are a lot of of others that are 8' and 
9' in circumference.

The trees are about 8 tenths of a mile from the parking area. You can 
drive to the power line and park if you have good ground clearance. It 
is an easy walk following the trail, after the snow goes away.

I have attached a picture near the largest tree I found, at the listed 
coordinates. The trail goes about 200 yards past this tree and dead ends

at a bunch of trees. It is just a small area of trees, scattered over 
about 10 acres?

I hope this helps you find it.

George Lockey

PS your trip to the big trees in Cooks Forest was great. I learned a 
lot. I'll be back this summer.