North-Central PA old growth areas
   May 23, 2006 19:39 PDT 


I've been to a number of these sites. Unless you really have a
hankering for exploring lots of area to find minimal results, I'd
suggest maybe visiting some different old growth Central PA sites
instead. Then again, they are nice wilderness areas, it's just that big
and old trees are pretty slim in the following areas:

Johnson Run N.A. - nice little natural area, it's been reported to have
old growth, but I didn't find anything of real stature. I barely broke
120ft for their few biggest white pines in the valley. There are some
select old trees. I've been told there is dwarf old growth forest on
the ridge top, I just didn't go high enough up in elevation to see it.
I was looking for reported bigger stuff in the valleys. There's an old
logging road that goes right down the main stream of this site that was
put in somewhere in the mid to late 1800's.

Lower Jerry Run N.A. - LOTS of area to explore here, just bring a good
map, compass, GPS unit, sturdy hiking boots, and plenty of water. Big
woods, tics, elk, and rattlesnakes. Lots of "elevation" to explore
here. Old growth E. hemlock in scattered areas... old logging road will
take you to the small area they left. VERY WILD. I've probably walked
close to 15 miles at this site and still haven't seen it all.
Interesting topography. I'm still holding out hope for some decent
sized trees on the lower elevations near Sinnemahoning Creek. Bring a

Wykoff Run N.A. - been on the edge of it, there is supposed to be
ancient old growth hemlock here but the area suffered serious wind
damage a number of years ago. Can't recal if it was associated with the
1985 storms. I was told the best of it was down and only a handful of
big/old hemlock were left.

Quehanna Wild Area - huge area that encompasses all the above natural

Forest H. Dutlinger N.A. - it's on my list, haven't been there yet.

From the ones I've been to in central PA so far, I'd say the most
impressive site was Snyder-Middleswarth N.A. Their hemlocks rival the
best we have at Cook, it's just a smaller area, very steep valley. Old
growth hemlock in the valleys, turns to dwarf old growth oaks on the
ridgetops. Tough walking on medicine ball sized boulders.

Another site to visit would be Detweiler Run N.A. This is another very
wild place. Lots of old growth. No impressive heights, but many
ancient small stature trees here. The path just skirts the old growth
on the western side of the stream. You have to get off the path and
walk parallel to the stream on the east side. It's tough going, but
look for deer paths for the easiest approach. This is the best
"rhodo-surfing" site I've come across so far in PA. I belly crawled
through parts of it, and could only walk on top of other areas. I'd
give a 10 on my PA rhodo-surfing index. I'm sure Will and Jess would
chuckle at MY 10 rating compared to their sites down south. Many
ancient chestnut oaks, white oaks, N. red oaks, hemlocks, and black gums
here. A number of other species should reach 150 years or greater:
pitch pine, yellow birch, black birch, red maple, tuliptree. I tried
getting up to the eastern ridgetop, but ran out of time. It was old
growth as far as I was able to get up. It just became smaller stature
the higher up in elevation. VERY WILD. Supposedly the last wolf in the
state was shot here.

Alan Seeger N.A. is another must see. It's very close to Detweiler Run
and Bear Meadows N.A. (old growth spruce/balsam fir bog - cored a black
spruce here to ~217). Alan Seeger has some VERY old hemlock and black
gum. Nice tulips, but small area. Very thick rhododendron understory.
I'd be willing to say that the oldest hemlocks at Detweiler Run, are
every bit as old as the ones that were accurately cored at Alan Seeger
(~500+ years - Abrams, Orwig, et. al. data I believe). The hard part is
finding a tree you can get a good core from though at Detweiler.

There's got to be a number of trip reports on many of these areas
already on the ENTS list, I just haven't dug back in to find them.
Ernie Ostuno is my 'go-to' guy for central PA old growth areas. If he
hasn't visited them all, he's probably visited a good 95% of them. I
believe he was at Forest H. Dutlinger and could describe that better to

You can't lose with any site you choose, regardless of my comments.
They're all unique in their own special way. The more different old
growth habitats you visit, the better you'll be able to identify it in
the future.


RE: North-Central PA old growth areas   Anthony Kelly
  May 23, 2006 22:43 PDT 


Thanks for the info about those areas. I'm kind of in the mood to go
tromping around in some of those really wild and romote areas even if the
big tree finds turn out to be minimal. I've been hankering to get out of
McConnells Mill and into a really big area. McConnells Mill is wonderful,
but is somewhat of an oasis being surrounded by flat boring farmland.

I've been able to explore a few more areas these past two weeks, including
the flood plain where I found the 137.5 sycamore and the 142' Tulip.
(Remember that I first measured them from high up on the other side of the
river). I was hoping to find more giants, but didn't. I doubt that the
area is old growth. It's probably just a good growing area. There was a
nice silver maple with about 3 or 4 huge trunks coming out of the ground and
over the river. It's not very tall, though.

Back at Walnut flats, I was able to measure another one of the elms I found
with Carl. I think now that they are almost surely slippery elms. Because
of the thick undergrowth I had to estimate where the bottom of the tree was
with the clinometer, so I probably didn't get the most accurate reading
possible. I got 126.3' and 9'0"CBH. I will only put the height accuracy at
+/- 2ft at this point. Next time I'll attach a white ribbon around the
trunk at some height above the surrounding brush so I can get an accurate

I was upset to see that the 121.7' sugar maple lost about 1/2 of its crown.
A huge branch of the top section came down recently.   There goes the Rucker
Index, I thought. I remeasured it carefully and got 122.7', so it must not
have been the highest part that came down. It appears to have put up some
nice sized twigs this spring.

I found two more lower 140's poplars (that makes about 8 or 9 now) and a
120.9ft beech. That's about it.

As far as the Rucker goes, with the new elm and the extra 1ft for the sugar
maple, it now stands at 130.62. This assumes that the elm measurement was
relatively accurate.

Here's the list:

As of 5/13/2006
Slippery Rock Creek Gorge Rucker Index:

Tulip Poplar             10'9"        146.0'
(?) Ash                     6'7"         137.7'
Sycamore             n/a          137.5'
Bitternut(?) Hickory        5'10"        132.7'
Cucumbertree             10'2"        130.3'
Am Basswood             6'5"         127.1'
S. Elm                      9'0"         126.3'
N. Red Oak                  9'7"         123.1'
E. Hemlock     n/a          122.8'
Sugar Maple             8'8"         122.7'

Rucker Index = 130.62

I think it is getting to the point where it is going to flatten out, unless
I stumble on another walnut flats type of area with a bunch of taller trees.
I kinda think this isn't going to happen. I'm still hoping for a taller
Red Oak. I found one on Walnut Flats on my way out last time, but didn't
have time to measure it. I haven't seen very many hemlocks that I thing
will top the one you found, but I think there is still some hope there.

I'm also hoping that some of the other 135+ ashes that I found will turn out
to be a different species that the one on the list, which I now think might
be a black ash and not a white one like I'd first thought. The leaves on
them were not far enough out for me to tell. Hopefully, they will be next
time. Another 135+ft tree would be a good boost for the Rucker, probably
the last big one we'll see, though. I am confidient that it will eventually
pass 131 and hope that it will break 132, but I doubt it will go higher than
that barring some extraordinary find in a new area.

I was hoping to put all of this together for a post to the ENTS list, but
I'd like to wait till I get some surer measurements of the elm and a few
other trees that I only have rough straight up shots of. Maybe next week.

There's some really bad news for the park in general. A mining company has
started work strip mining right up to the park property and the gorge's rim.
It will go about 1/2 mile or more down along the rim from the Rim Road
climing area clear down to Eckert Bridge. An entire waterfall will be lost.
Who knows what kind of damage will result, but the EPA, nevertheless,
approved the whole thing.

The land that borders right on the big woods old-growth area is also for
sale I noticed. If I could afford it, I would jump at the chance to buy it.
Not possible, though.   I just hope that the strip miners don't get ahold of
it. It would spell the end of the buffer for that area. What type of
damage the loss of water drainage to the trees in the big woods would cause
I shutter to think about.


I'm thinking we'd better get those trees on the map and fast. I think that
keeping them a secret is probably no longer the best option.

Looking forward to the 7th.

RE: North-Central PA old growth areas
   May 24, 2006 10:41 PDT 


Super!!! McConnells Mill breaks the 130 RI mark! That's the 3rd 130 RI site
for PA, and a solid 5th place in the RI standings for the Northeast.

If your ~126ft slippery elm measurement stands, it could be the next tallest
known for the northeast! The tallest we have right now is a 6.7ft CBH x
124.6ft specimen located in the Walnut Creek Gorge in Erie County, PA.

Definitely looking forward to getting out of the office on 6/7!


RE: North-Central PA old growth areas    Anthony Kelly
   May 24, 2006 11:34 PDT 

Bob, ENTS,

Oops. My last post was intended to be just a quick update to Dale. I
didn't realize that it was the ENTS address in the "to:" window. No big

I started to write up an ENTS post last week, but thought I'd wait until I
had a chance to go back to McConnells Mill and get some more accurate
measurements of a lot of trees that I've recently found. There are also a
few questions as to the species of certain trees, some ashes and hickories
in particular, that need to be cleared up. I'm still waiting for leaves on
a few trees.

Most of my recent trips to the park and the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge,
including one with Carl Harting a couple weeks ago, have been broad-sweep
exploratory trips to new areas. I did careful double sine measurements of
only the biggest trees and made just quick straight-up laser shot
measurements of a lot of others. (The measurements of the trees in the
Rucker Index are all double sines.) When I get back to certain trees and
get proper double sine measurements and good identifications, I'll make
another more thorough post.

Anthony Kelly

RE: North-Central PA old growth areas   Ernie Ostuno
  May 26, 2006 15:37 PDT 


I would estimate heights at Dutlinger N.A. weren't that great for
hemlocks, with most in the 100-110 foot range. You could be the first
person to actually measure heights there. All I had was a tape measure
and got some girths.

Johnson Run N.A. is nice for a couple reasons. First, it's easy to get
to, with just a hike of a few hundred feet up a power line clearing off
Route 120. Also, they have some old growth sycamores there, which are
pretty rare in PA. Again, like Dale said, heights weren't that
impressive, although there are quite a few fat white pine.

Here's my notes for Wykoff Run:
There are small pockets of old growth here. I found an area along a
stream that had three old growth hemlock and one large white pine.
Several other areas had large white pine, though they probably could not
be counted as old growth. Big old stumps are everywhere, most of them
with black burn marks on them. Stands of younger white pine and hemlock
are scattered throughout the area.

Nothing too impressive there as it was almost completely cutover back in
the logging era from what I saw.

Here's a couple suggestions for your list in additon to the ones that
Dale suggested:

Hemlock Trail Natural Area in Laurel Hill State Park:

Schall's Gap:

I plan on returning to this place this year to get a photo of the
ancient hemlock which was cored to 540 years old back in 2000. As far as
I know this was the oldest ring count for any currently living cored
hemlock in the eastern U.S. (someone correct me if I'm wrong). It is a
very easy hike as it is located right near the PSU agricultural research
area at Rock Springs, PA, right off Route 45 a few miles south of State


RE: Forest Dutlinger Natural Area, PA   Ernie Ostuno
  Jun 02, 2006 23:54 PDT 


Years ago I entertained the idea of using an ultra-light to fly over the
ridges and identify old growth stands, but alas, technology now allows
us to do the flyovers from our easychairs. Many times during the winter
months I would spot a patch of evergreens on the ridges of central PA
while driving through the valleys and wonder how old they were. Several
times I would look at them through a pair of binoculars and see the
conical tops of what appeared to be mature, if not old growth hemlocks.
Only once did I actually hike up the ridge to check them out and in that
case they did indeed turn out to be old growth.

Check out this view of part of Potter County:

It's amazing at how thorough the cutting of hemlock in the stream
valleys was back in the logging era through the Hammersley area, but you
have to think that in an area as big as this a few stands of trees may
have survived. Yet I have never seen any mention of there being old
growth in all of Potter County. Let's zoom in on a couple interesting
locations here:

There's a few dark patches here, let's go closer in:

Definitely intact stands of evergreens on the valley sides and near the
ridge tops but is there any way to discern the age or species of these

Here's another interesting area:

Zoom in of the evergreens:

At least these seem like they could be observed from a car, as there are
roads nearby. This seems like it would be an interesting endeavor for
those with the time and inclination.