In 1682 when William Penn arrived to develop his colony, thick forest blanketed roughly 90% of Pennsylvania’s lands. The lands to the east, nearest to the first settlements, were quickly worked into farmland, but the northwestern area of Pennsylvania offered seemingly endless miles of lumber. Today, many historic small towns, such as Brookville, Ebensburg, Ridgway, Warren and Williamsport, dot the 15-county Lumber Heritage Region. Many of these unique communities began as large sawmills-vital centers of the logging industry. Visitors can tour the homes of former lumber barons, such as thePeter Herdic House. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in Galeton gives an intimate view of this heritage region.
Wagons and Waterways
Woodsworkers, or woodhicks, used horses and oxen to tow timber-laden wagons along narrow trails. They carved logging trails to important rivers that carried timber to markets in Pittsburgh and beyond. Throughout centuries of change and harvesting, the region is still densely forested and teeming with wildlife. The elk population, once sparse, is abundant again. The ever-present woodlands are a magnet for outdoors enthusiast seeking to hike, bike, climb, kayak, camp and hunt. Allegheny National Forest, Heart’s Content National Scenic Area, Cook Forest State Park are popular destinations for rugged adventure.
Today, the heritage region can be broken down into five eras of lumber history, from the pioneers of this powerful industry to the present day efforts to sustain this bountiful habitat. Navigating the region is easier than ever and its roads and highways offer many breathtaking views. Three national arteries, I-80, I-99 and US 322, intersect at State College, also known as Happy Valley by tens of thousands of students who call Pennsylvania State University their home. Scenic Route 6 stretches across Pennsylvania’s northern tier, a favorite driving tour that includes thePennsylvania Grand Canyon where massive pine-covered mountains create expansive green vistas.