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Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania
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Introduction. With the exception of Niagara Falls in New York most people associate the countrys waterfalls with California and the Pacific Northwest. Surprisingly the entire country has beautiful and...
Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania
The abundance of soft sandstone and shale in northern Pennsylvania makes it particularly well-endowed with beautiful waterfalls, as fast moving streams have cut beautiful gorges and waterfalls across the various plateaus. Many of the state’s waterfalls are located in the northeastern part of the state and many are a day trip from most destinations in eastern Pennsylvania. Although some require hikes into the backcountry, such as Kettle Creek Falls, most are within a few hundred yards from well-traveled roads. One of these is arguably the most spectacular – the Kitchen Creek as it tumbles through Ricketts Glen off the south side of North Mountain. Easy access to these 22 named waterfalls is from Route 118 about 25 miles west of Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County. The 13,050 acre state park is free of charge.
Originally the land was owned by Robert Bruce Ricketts, a Civil War veteran who owned vast tracts of land in the northern part of the state but had little idea about the falls’ existence until a friend of the Ricketts went fishing and wandered down the glen in the 1890s. Eventually the Ricketts family sold the land to the Pennsylvania Game Commission in the 1920s. It was slated to become a national park in the 1930s as were other areas in the state, such as Blue Knob, now a state park, but this never materialized because of the outbreak of World War II. It’s worth mentioning that the 1930s saw one of the largest park building schemes in the history of the country, both nationally and state-wide. The CCC built countless structures which still populate many state and national parks and it was for this reason that Ricketts Glen was going to be developed. In 1942 the state park was formed from the Falls and Glens areas and by 1949 more land, totaling 10,000 acres, was added. Other distinctions were added such as the designation of Registered National Natural Landmark in 1969 and State Park Natural Area in 1993. The Glens Natural Area, the crown jewel of the park, is indeed worthy of these distinctions, and it also protects beautiful stands of old growth forests of Hemlock and White Pine, many over 100 feet tall and 500 years old, as well as the falls area of the Kitchen Creek.
Hiking the falls
The most accessible falls of the Kitchen Creek are just south of Route 118. If you lack time at least see Adams fall, which tumbles 36’ into a deep and clear basin. This is called the Boston Run Area and is accessed by the Evergreen Loop Trail which is about 200 yards long and very close to the car park and picnic area on Route 118. Return to the car park and proceed up the Kitchen Creek for more than a mile into the Glens Natural Area. The first three falls are Murray Reynolds (16’), Sheldon Reynolds (36’), and Harrison Wright (27’). Soon after, the trail comes to ‘Waters Meet’, where the two branches of the stream connect. Going to the left is Ganoga Glen; to the right is Glen Leigh. If you plan to see all of the falls the Highland Trail connects both glens at the top to form a hiking loop. The falls along Ganoga Glen are higher starting in order, going uphill, with Erie (47’), Tuscarora (47’), Conestoga (17’), Mohican (39’), Delaware (37’), Seneca (12’), and the highest in the park, Ganoga (94’). Continuing uphill you will hike past Cayuga (11’), Oneida (13’), and finally Mohawk (37’). Follow the Highland Trail to the east past Midway Crevasse for a total of just over a mile until you come to Glen Leigh. Going downhill the first fall is Onondaga (15’), followed by F.L. Ricketts (38’), Shawnee (30’), Huron (41’), the highest in Glen Leigh, then Ozone (20’), R.B. Ricketts (36’), B. Reynolds (40’), and finally Wyandot (15’) until you come to ‘Waters Meet’ again. Continue back to the car park along Route 118. This hike will total just over one-thousand vertical feet with some sections quite steep and slippery because of the water. From Route 118 the entire loop trail as described above is 5.2 miles. Maps of the park are available at the car park along Route 118.
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