Clear Creek State Forest
Clear Creek State Forest comprises 16,126 acres in Jefferson, Venango and forest counties. Many of its acres hug the Clarion and Allegheny rivers. Other tracts rest on the Allegheny Plateau and grow a diverse collections of trees, including red and white oak, red maple, birch, beech and tulip poplar. Clear Creek is one of eight state forests located in the PA Wilds region.
Don't Move Firewood
To help protect the forest from invasive insects that can kill trees and devastate the ecosystem, please do not transport firewood over long distances. Firewood can harbor insects such as emerald ash borer. Cut or purchase your firewood where you intend to burn it.
Logging was a major industry in this region in the early 1800's. The original forest consisted of white oak, chestnut, sugar maple, beech, hickory, birch, cherry, basswood, cucumber magnolia, poplar, butternut, sycamore, black ash, elm, pine and hemlock. The first sawmill in Heath Township was built along the river in 1833. The early mills were generally located on streams and cut mostly white pine. Most of the timbers and boards were then made into rafts and floated down the Clarion River to Pittsburgh.
In the spring of 1864, the firm of Wright and Pier began hauling logs by rail. The railroad was built of cribbing and stringers having wooden rails and wooden pins. The line ran from an area in southeastern Heath Township along Johns Run to the firm's sawmill at the mouth of Callen Run on the Clarion River near the present day Heath Pump Station, a distance of four miles. Records show that at least two other logging railroads operated on what is now the Clear Creek State Forest.
By 1905, nearly all the virgin forest had been cut. The second growth forest that followed the timbering period contained many more hardwoods than the original stands. Red, white, black, chestnut and scarlet oaks, chestnut and smaller amount of red maple, cherry, birch, beech, and tulip poplar made up most of the new growth. Soon after logging, most of this area was burned over. In 1903 a fire started near the present Sigel Hotel and spread north and east, jumping the Clarion River near Heath Pump Station, and spreading nearly to Lolita before it was extinguished by rain. Charred scars on old stumps still show evidence of this fire. In 1921 a fire tower was built at Hays Lot and was used for forest fire detection until 1994.
Chestnut blight first appeared in this area around 1912 and six years later, most of the American chestnut was dead. White oak and chestnut oak replaced the chestnut in most stands.
DCNR Bureau of Forestry manages our state forests for their long-term health and productivity while conserving native wild plants. These forests are “working forests” and provide a whole suite of uses and values to Pennsylvania citizens, all while maintaining the forest’s wild character. Our state forests are managed for pure water, recreation, scenic beauty, plant and animal habitat, sustainable timber and natural gas, and many other uses and values. The management of our state forests is guided by the State Forest Resource Management Plan.
The Bureau of Forestry has adopted “ecosystem management” as its principal strategy for managing state forests. This approach seeks to conserve the natural patterns and processes of the forest while advancing long-term sustainability. Ecosystem management promotes the conservation of plant and animal communities and the landscapes and habitats that support them. It also accounts for needs and values of people and communities. This results in a holistic, integrated approach to managing forest resources.
A Working Forest
As you travel throughout the state forest, you’ll see examples of our forests “at work.” Some of these management practices are more noticeable than others, such as active timber harvests, deer exclosure fences, natural gas drilling sites, prescribed fires and gypsy moth spraying. Others are more subtle, such as the protection of a vernal pool, the buffering of a stream from timber harvesting, or the setting aside of a special area to conserve its wild character or protect a rare plant community. Each of these management practices and activities play a vital role in the management and conservation of our state forest system.
Certified “Well Managed”
Pennsylvania’s 2.2-million-acre state forest system is one the largest certified forests in North America. The forest is certified (FSC-C017154) by the Rainforest Alliance under the Forest Stewardship Council™ standards. The FSC® is an independent organization supporting environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests.
Hiking is available throughout Jefferson County portions of the State Forest on 35 miles of trails including the Little Clear Creek Trail, Silvis Trail, Trap Run Trail, Beartown Rocks Trail and North Country Trail. A section of the North Country Trail runs through the Maple Creek tract in Forest County. Another network of trails allows hikers to explore the Kennerdell tract in Venango County and enjoy vistas above the Allegheny River. These trails are mapped on the Clear Creek State Forest Public Use Map.
Primitive backpack camping is permitted along all but the Beartown Rocks and sections of the Little Clear Creek trails. Primitive backpack campers do not need a permit if they stay no more than one night at any campsite.
Fishing & Boating
Pennsylvania’s state forest system includes dozens of special wild and natural areas set aside to protect unique or unusual biologic, geologic, scenic and historical features or to showcase outstanding examples of the state’s major forest communities. Natural areas are “managed” by nature and direct human intervention is limited. They provide places for scenic observation, protect special plant and animal communities and conserve outstanding examples of natural beauty. Wild areas are generally extensive tracts managed to protect the forest’s wild character and to provide backcountry recreational opportunities.
While Clear Creek State Forest does not have any designated wild or natural areas, it does contain areas that are specially managed. Dennison Run, in the Kennerdell Tract, is an exceptional value watershed with a reproducing native brook trout population. The Pine Run area has unique rock formations and a section of the Callen Run tract is managed as an old growth/late succession oak forest.
For more information and maps to these and other State Parks visit the "Find a Park" page.
Clear Creek State Park
Cook Forest State Park