The 968-acre Parker Dam State Park offers old-fashioned charm and character. A scenic lake, rustic cabins, quaint campground and unbounded forest make Parker Dam an ideal spot for a relaxing vacation. For wilderness explorers, Parker Dam is a gateway to the vast expanses of Moshannon State Forest. You can walk through recovering tornado ravaged woods, backpack into the 50,000-acre Quehanna Wilderness, mountain bike to your heart’s content or enjoy quiet solitude searching for elusive Pennsylvania elk.
Many picnic tables, with charcoal grills, restrooms and drinking fountains, are scattered through a mostly wooded area. Of the seven picnic pavilions, five have lights and electric outlets. Choose from modern, open pavilions or cozy, stone, CCC-built pavilions. Each picnic pavilion holds about 75 people. Picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
The beautiful sand beach is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset. Swim at your own risk. Please read and follow posted rules. The maximum water depth is five feet at the buoy line.
A food and refreshment concession and camp store are open daily, weather permitting, during the summer season, Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Boating: electric motors only
The 20-acre Parker Lake has courtesy mooring spaces are available for overnight guests. A seasonal boat concession rents paddleboats, canoes and rowboats from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The 20-acre Parker Lake and many trout streams are popular with anglers throughout the year. Brook trout are stocked in the spring, fall and winter. Anglers also can catch largemouth bass, bluegills and brown bullhead.
Hiking: 16 miles of trails
Many hiking trails begin or pass through Parker Dam State Park and continue into the surrounding Moshannon State Forest. Some trails travel through the tornado blowdown, while others follow along streams or through hardwood forests. Hike the Trail of New Giants and then Souder Trail to compare a young forest to a mature forest.
Abbot Hollow Trail: 1.7 miles, yellow blazes, easiest hiking
Explore a wilderness valley ravished by a tornado in 1985, then salvage-logged in 1986. The varying habitats caused by the blowdown, the logging roads, gas well sites and beaver dams give the hiker many opportunities to view wildlife.
Beaver Dam Trail: 2.3 miles, blue blazes, easiest hiking
This trail along Mud Run traverses good beaver habitat. Be on the lookout for signs of this amazing creature. Cuttings, tracks, lodges and dams are clues to its presence.
Laurel Run Trail: 1 mile, yellow blazes, more difficult hiking
Long used by fishermen and more recently by loggers, this trail starts near the campground bridge, follows Laurel Run and winds through the tornado blowdown area.
Logslide Trail: 0.5 mile, orange blazes, easiest hiking
By the trailhead is an authentic reproduction of a logslide, used in the 1870s to haul logs out of the forest. A display shows other logging tools. Look along the trail for places where the Civilian Conservation Corps cut stone in the 1930s to build Parker Dam. The trail connects with the Stumpfield Trail via a gas line and is part of the Quehanna Trail, which is blazed in orange and blue.
Skunk Trail: 1.4 miles, blue blazes, easiest hiking
This trail winds through hardwood trees. It connects Souder Trail with Mud Run Road.
Snow Trail: 1.6 miles, orange diamonds, easiest hiking
The trail starts on Beaver Dam Trail and connects with Moose Grade Road. Popular with snowmobilers, hunters and cross-country skiers, it offers a pleasant hike in the wilderness.
Souders Trail: 0.75 mile, yellow blazes, easiest hiking
This scenic loop trail features Laurel Run, lush meadows and large hardwood and evergreen trees.
Spurline Trail: 3.5 miles, orange or blue blazes and blue diamonds, more difficult hiking
Start beyond Montgomery Field on the Fairview Road and follow the old railroad spur used from 1910 to 1913 to log the area.
Stumpfield Trail: 0.5 mile, no blazes, easiest hiking
Begin at the campground amphitheater and traverse a meadow that was once a forest of pine and hemlock. Look for large stumps left from logging at the turn of the 20th century. Stunted trees and thick shrubs are evidence of repeated wildfires that destroyed topsoil and slowed forest regrowth. This trail connects with Logslide Trail via a gas line.
Sullivan Ridge Trail: 1.4 miles, blue blazes, more difficult hiking
This trail follows logging roads along the top of Sullivan Mountain, offering scenic overlooks of Moose Run Valley. Sullivan Ridge Trail connects Snow Trail with Abbot Hollow Trail. This trail is not for cross-country skiing.
Tornado Alley Trail: 0.5 mile, yellow blazes, easiest hiking
This logging road connects Sullivan Ridge Trail with the cabin area. It offers a panoramic view of the tornado damage in Abbot Hollow.
Trail of New Giants: 1 mile, yellow blazes, more difficult hiking
On May 31, 1985, one of Pennsylvania’s largest and strongest tornadoes roared through the park and destroyed the towering forest of ash, oak, beech and sugar maple trees. The Trail of New Giants cuts through the blowdown and the 250-acre Windstorm Preserve. Walk the trail and see the forest regenerating. A spur trail leads to a beautiful vista of the park and surrounding forest.
Quehanna Trail: 73 miles, blue and/or orange blazes, most difficult hiking
This trail travels from the park through the Quehanna Wild Area. The backpack trail loops range from one to seven days. Only experienced hikers should use these wilderness trails.
The park is the western trailhead of the Quehanna Trail System. Through a series of loops and connecting trails, this system offers over 73 miles of hiking opportunities of one to six nights in duration. There is no backpack camping in the park. Trail maps are available at the park office. After registering at the park office, backpackers should park in the second car parking lot by the campground. This lot is closed in the winter.
For more information on the Quehanna Trail, visit the Quehanna Area Trails Club Web site. www.kta-hike.org/
Geocaching, Geotours and Letterboxing:
Geocaching is a high-tech scavenger hunt. Use a GPS unit to find historic places and big trees in the park. There are several geocaches and letterboxes in the park and surrounding state forest. Brochures are available at the park office. Contact the park office for more information. New caches must be approved by the park manager.
Stay the Night
Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups
The camping area is on the eastern edge of the lake and has completely shaded sites to open grassy sites. It is open from the second Friday in April through mid-December and has a sanitary dump station. Electric hookups are available at most campsites. A seasonal camp store has camping equipment and supplies. The maximum stay is 14 days during the summer season and 21 days during the off-season. Campers must vacate the park for 48 hours between stays. Pets are permitted on designated sites.
Free Camping for Campground Hosts: 1 host positions
The campground host site has amenities that include 50-amp electric service. The host is required to assist park personnel for 40 hours per week with a minimum stay of two weeks.
Surrounded by trees, the 16 rustic cabins can be rented year-round. The cabins sleep 4, 6 or 8 people. Each cabin has a nearby modern restroom with a sink, shower and flush toilet. Cabins are heated by gas and a fireplace. Each cabin has bunk beds, mattresses, gas cooking stove, refrigerator, tables and chairs. Renters must provide their own bedding, firewood, cookware and tableware. In the summer season, cabins only rent by the week. In the off-season, the minimum rental is two days. Advance reservations are required.
Organized Group Tenting:
These open, grassy areas are in the northern end of the park at the intersection of Mud Run and Tyler roads. Two areas hold 20 people each and one area holds 60 people. The combined capacity of the three organized group tenting areas is 100 people.
These reservable, organized group tenting areas have non flush toilets, water hydrants, picnic tables and fire rings. For a fee, organized groups can use the campground showers.
This unique, octagonal log building is for rent to organized groups. Featuring electric heat, ceiling fans, stove, refrigerator, tables, chairs and a large, central, stone fireplace, it is ideal for rustic indoor camping or as a classroom. About 20 people can sleep on the wooden floor. As a classroom, it holds 25-30 people. For reservations contact the park office.
Parker Dam State Park is a haven for winter activities. A heated restroom is open in the day use area. Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Conditions permitting, groomed ski trails are maintained on Beaver Dam, Souders and Skunk trails.
Snowshoes can be used throughout the park.
A small sledding and toboggan run is near the boat rental.
Unload your registered snowmobile in the park to gain access to the extensive trail system on the adjacent state forest land. Snowmobiling is permitted only on selected trails and joint-use roads. The snowmobile trails are open daily after the end of deer season in December until April 1, conditions permitting.
Trout are stocked during late fall for anglers. There is no winter stocking through the ice. Ice thickness is not monitored. For your safety, be sure the ice is four inches thick and carry safety equipment.
Conditions permitting, an ice skating area is maintained at the swimming area. Ice thickness is monitored for safety.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Parker Dam State Park offers year-round environmental education and interpretive programs. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding, and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources. A small-scale, interpretive maple-sugaring operation runs throughout March. Apple-cidering is demonstrated each October.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and organized groups. Group programs must be arranged in advance and may be scheduled by calling the park office. Teacher workshops are available.
A small, environmental education center, attached to the park office, offers interpretive displays, games and children’s books. The Lou and Helen Adams Civilian Conservation Corps Museum near the breast of the dam educates visitors about the life and times of the corps members. It is open Sunday afternoons during the summer season or upon request. Wayside exhibits interpreting the tornado are outside of the Cabin Classroom.
Woodsy Owl Weekend: Each spring volunteers gather to do service projects like litter pick-up, painting, tree planting and trail maintenance. Volunteers receive free weekend camping.
Heldon the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, visitors compete in five events for the coveted titles of Woodhick and Woodchick of the Year. Established in 1984 to celebrate the logging history of the park, visitors can roll logs, crosscut saw, or try other events to discover the lives and recreation of early loggers. Logging demonstrations are also held.
The eastern shoreline of this 20-acre lake has a mix of maples, cherries, oaks and eastern hemlocks, which makes the fall foliage gorgeous. A pathway from the campground to the swimming area travels over the breast of the earthen dam.
The tornado of 1985 blew a swath of destruction across Parker Dam State Park. The forest to the west of Mud Run Road has been left in a natural state. Note the large, bare tree trunks still standing in testimony to the power of the storm. The Trail of New Giants runs through this area. On the east side of Mud Run Road fallen trees have been salvaged and removed. Explore the two areas to see if the forest is regrowing differently in the two areas.
Parker Dam State Park and the surrounding Moshannon State Forest harbor deep forests where wildlife thrives in unbroken wilderness. In conifer forests look for black-throated green and Blackburnian warblers and ravens. The shy ovenbird and American redstart make the deciduous forest their home. Look for turkey in Abbot Hollow, and along Laurel Ridge and Mud Run roads.
Evenings are great for wildlife watching. White-tailed deer feed by the park office, ball field or near picnic pavilion seven. A drive on Tyler Road might yield a coyote or fox. Look for the elusive bobcat, free ranging elk or porcupine in the tornado blowdown area in the evening. Watch for beaver on Mud Run, Abbot Run or on the campground side of the lake. Please do not feed wildlife and observe from a safe distance.
Pennsylvania Elk Herd:
Elk (Wapiti) are about four times larger than white-tailed deer. Elk may weigh from 400 to 1,000 pounds and vary from 6 to 8.5 feet in length. Adult males carry very large antlers that can be six feet long and weigh 30 pounds. September and October is the best time to see elk. Big bulls bugle a high pitched whistle to attract cow elk. Never approach elk, especially during the autumn rutting season.
The heart of the elk range is only a 50-minute drive from Parker Dam State Park. An elk-viewing platform is in State Game Land 311 between Benezette and Grant. A second population of elk lies to the east in Sproul State Forest. The Pennsylvania elk herd is over 450 animals and is expanding its range into areas in or near Parker Dam State Park.
When European settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, the Iroquois Confederacy had claimed this land and invited the uprooted Lenni Lenape (Delaware) to occupy it. Eventually loggers and homesteaders moved in, forcing the American Indians to migrate west.
In 1794, Daniel Delany surveyed the impressive forests of white pine, hemlock and scattered hardwoods. Logging began slowly as small sawmills processed the wood. The light, strong wood of the white pine made it the jewel of early lumbering. Ship builders in Baltimore prized tall white pine logs for ship masts and paid premium prices. Loggers built white pine rafts and rode them down the Susquehanna River. When all went well, loggers arrived in Baltimore to sell their highly valued logs.
Logging accelerated in 1851 because of a log boom built across the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at Williamsport. The boom stopped floating logs for sorting and cutting by sawmills. Upriver, “woodhicks” felled trees, cut off their branches and marked each log with the seal of the lumber company that employed them. Most logging occurred in winter, when a thick layer of snow and ice made hauling easier. Woodhicks built wooden log slides on hillsides to easily move logs to temporary pools called splash dams. A reproduction log slide and early lumbering tools can be seen on the Log Slide Trail.
Splash dams were released each spring to float logs down Laurel Run to Bennetts Branch, then to Sinnemahoning Creek, and then into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River for their journey to the sawmills at Williamsport.
The park takes its name from William Parker, who leased lumbering rights from John Otto. Parker built a splash dam on Laurel Run at the site of the present lake.
Full-scale lumbering in the area probably began around 1870. The forests were cut and recut, first for the white pine and later for hemlock and hardwoods.
In the early 1900s, the log boom at Williamsport became inefficient when geared locomotives moved the logs directly from the forests to the mills. By 1909, the log boom was dismantled and the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company built logging railroads and logged the land a final time. Crews loaded up to 45 railroad cars a day until logging ended in 1911. Look for old railroad grades still visible on Moose Grade Road, and Beaver Dam and Quehanna hiking trails. For nearly two decades after the last tree was felled, fires and floods plagued the area.
In 1930, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began buying land from the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company for $3 an acre. Around the same time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt started a conservation movement to help stem the Great Depression and restore the nation’s natural resources. He called it the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It employed young men in conservation work and gave them hope.
In 1933, the CCC boys set up camp at the intersection of Tyler and Mud Run roads (Camp PA S-73). The CCC planted trees, built roads and trails and constructed the current dam of native sandstone on the site of William Parker's splash dam. Their handiwork is seen in the stone pavilions and in the CCC Interpretive Center near the breast of the dam. Parker Dam was designated a recreational reserve in 1936. The CCC, and later the Works Progress Administration continued improvements, until many CCCers were drafted in 1941 for World War II.
Since the days of the CCC, Parker Dam has changed very little. New facilities have been added and seedlings planted by the CCC have grown into trees. In May of 1985, many of the majestic trees in the park were lost to a tremendous tornado. But, through it all there is a constant--the beauty and serenity of the Parker Dam State Park.
Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center
The Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center at Parker Dam State Park provides a look back in time to the 1930s and early '40s. Photos, interpretation, videos and more await to inform the visitor of the life and times of the CCC. The building itself was built by the CCC and functioned as the park office until 1984, when it began its transition to becoming a wonderful interpretive center honoring all the work completed by the men and boys of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The CCC Interpretive Center is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. during the summer season, as volunteers are available. The Center is also available for group tours by appointment by calling the park office.
28 Fairview Road, Penfield, PA 15849-9799More Info