Archbald Pothole State Park
Archbald Pothole State Park is a 150-acre park in northeastern Pennsylvania. The park is named for Archbald Pothole, a geologic feature that formed during the Wisconsin Glacial Period, around 15,000 years ago. The pothole is 38 feet deep and has an elliptical shape. The diameter of the pothole decreases downward. The largest diameter is 42 feet by 24 feet. At the bottom it is 17 feet by 14 feet. The pothole has a volume of about 18,600 cubic feet, so could hold about 140,000 gallons. It would take 35 fire truck tankers to fill the pothole.
The eastern side of the park has undergone strip mine reclamation and has athletic fields in Ed Staback Park.
Seasons and Hours: The park closes the third Saturday of November and reopens the second Friday of April. Day use areas close at dusk. Contact the Lackawanna State Park office for facility seasons and hours.
Hunting and Firearms: Over 100 acres are open to limited hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are deer, squirrel and turkey.
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for ADA accessible hunting information.
Use extreme caution with firearms at all times. Other visitors use the park during hunting seasons. Firearms and archery equipment used for hunting may be uncased and ready for use only in authorized hunting areas during hunting seasons. In areas not open to hunting or during non-hunting seasons, firearms and archery equipment shall be kept in the owner’s vehicle or enclosed trailer. Exceptions include: law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms are authorized to carry a firearm concealed on their person while they are within a state park.
Complete information on hunting rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Game Commission Web site.
Hiking: A small loop trail starting at the wayside follows an old coal mine tram road passed rock ledges and through a forest.
Access for People with Disabilities
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.
The Ice Ages
At least four ice advances, often called ice ages, have moved south into Pennsylvania. They are the Nebraskan, Kansan, Illinoian and the Wisconsin. Most of the evidence of glaciers in Pennsylvania is from the most recent advance, the Wisconsin Glacial Period. About 30,000 years ago, North America had a similar climate to modern time. Familiar animals lived here, but so did unique animals like saber-toothed tigers, giant ground sloths, beavers the size of wolves, deer the size of horses and other prehistoric animals.
For unknown reasons, the climate of the earth began to cool. Ice sheets in the arctic regions began slowly spreading in all directions. In the Northern Hemisphere, this glacier was called the Laurentide Continental Glacier and was several miles thick in the center while the edges were around 500 feet thick. The glacier moved very slowly, sometimes only several feet a year. The edge of the glacier often advanced in the winter, only to partially melt back in the summer. Like a giant bulldozer, the glacier scraped the land, removing vegetation and soil, and flattening hills and ridges. On the top, edges and underneath the glacier, ice melted and flowed in rivers carrying sand, pebbles and boulders.
Near the glacier, the climate was very cold. Winter lasted for six months and the annual temperature was 20 to 25 F cooler than the current climate.
About 13,000 years ago, the Laurentide Continental Glacier was at its greatest size, and covered two-thirds of North America, including the northeast and northwest corners of Pennsylvania.
Again the climate changed, becoming warmer, and the giant blanket of ice quickly melted and retreated. Animals and plants slowly repopulated the warming lands, but many of the prehistoric animals became extinct.
Formation of the Pothole
A pothole usually is a hole that is worn into the bedrock of a stream at the base of waterfalls or in strong rapids. The moving water spins sand, gravel and rock fragments in any small indentation in the bedrock. After enough time, the sand and stones carve out an elliptical hole. Potholes may also form under or near the edge of glaciers by the action of glacial meltwater.
Archbald Pothole was formed during the Wisconsin Glacial Period between 30,000 and 11,000 years ago. A meltwater stream flowing on top of the glacier probably broke through a crevasse (a crack in the glacier) and fell to the bedrock hundreds of feet below. There was enough force generated by the falling water to begin a whirling motion of rock fragments in a small depression. As the rock fragments swirled and bumped each other, they carved the bedrock, making the depression deeper and larger. The rock fragments eventually were reduced to tiny particles, but new rock fragments continually tumbled into the hole, enabling the grinding process to continue. As the glacier moved, so did the crevasse and the waterfall. Sand, gravel and rounded stones filled in Archbald Pothole and the waterfall moved off to make new potholes.
At Archbald Pothole, the water first wore away the top layer of bedrock, which is sandstone. Next the swirling water and rock carved through gray shale leaving a particularly smooth and polished surface that shows a typical, well-rounded, wavelike surface. This feature is especially noticeable in the lower half of the northern side of the pothole. The bottom layer of bedrock is black anthracite coal.
The southern and western sides of the pothole are nearly vertical, while the other two sides are deeply terraced. This is evidence that the waterfall that formed the pothole moved in a northeast and southwest direction. It is unknown whether the pothole formed during an advance or retreat of the glacier.
Preserved underground by nature for around 13,000 years, the pothole was uncovered in 1884 and has been exposed to weathering. The sides of the pothole are slowly eroding and are covered in ferns and lichens.
Please help preserve this signature of Pennsylvanias glacial history. If you observe someone vandalizing park property, please contact a park official.
For detailed information on Archbald Pothole, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey created the brochure Trail of Geology 3 Park Guide.
Archbald Pothole was discovered in 1884 by coal miner Patrick Mahon while extending a mine shaft. Mr. Mahon fired a blast of explosives and water and stones came rushing out. The miners fled fearing that the mountain was falling on them. Edward Jones, the manager of the mining company, investigated and ordered the area cleared of debris. About 800 to 1,000 tons of small rounded stones were removed and Mr. Jones realized that the vertical tunnel was a large pothole.
About 1,000 feet north of Archbald Pothole, another pothole was found, but it was thought to be larger than the first pothole and was not excavated because of the excessive cost.
Archbald Pothole was briefly used as a ventilation shaft for the mine. A large fire kept burning in the bottom made the pothole function like a chimney, drawing air out of the mine. In 1887, Colonel Hackley, the landowner, built a fence and retaining wall around the hole. Edward Jones gave many tours of the pothole to local citizens and to noted geologists. The pothole became a popular tourist attraction. In 1914, the widow of Colonel Hackley donated a one-acre deed, which included the pothole, to the reformed Lackawanna Historical Society.
With the addition of 150 acres, Archbald Pothole became a Lackawanna County park in 1940. The county deeded the property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 1961, and after improvements, Archbald Pothole State Park was dedicated in 1964.
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Archbald Pothole State Park
Information on nearby attractions is available from the Northeast Pennsylvania Convention andVisitors Bureau. www.visitnepa.org
Lackawanna Heritage Valley: Pennsylvanias first heritage park tells the story of the important role that the Lackawanna Valley played in Americas Industrial Revolution--supplying over 80 percent of the nations anthracite coal that fueled the growth of American industry. www.lhva.org
Nearby Points of Glacial Interest
Hickory Run State Park: Boulder Field is 14 acres of jumbled stone caused by severe weather of the last glacial period. The glacier end moraine crosses the park. Hickory Run State Park can be reached at Exit 274 off of I-80. Follow PA 534 east to the park. 570-443-0400
Seven Tubs Natural Area: Glacial meltwater eroded the bedrock and created a series of potholes in an area now called Whirlpool Valley. Owned by Luzerne County, Seven Tubs can be reached at Exit 164 off of I-81. Follow PA 115 south for 2.5 miles. The park is on the right. 570-477-5467
Tannersville Cranberry Bog: This 150-acre wetland is the southernmost low altitude boreal bog on the eastern seaboard. It contains carnivorous plants, rare orchids and other plants. The bog is owned by the Nature Conservancy and can only be visited during scheduled tours. 570-629-3061
Maps and Downloadables
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Interactive GIS Map
The Interactive GIS Map uses Geographic Information Systems to create a map that does not need to be downloaded and features driving directions, searchable park amenities and customizable maps. Please note that the background maps are maintained by a variety of public sources and driving directions usually go to the nearest large road.
Archbald Pothole is in Lackawanna County, nine miles north of Scranton. The park is easily reached from Interstate 81. Take Exit 191A to Business US 6 east towards Carbondale. The park entrance is six miles on the right.
GPS DD: Lat. 41.51305 Long. -75.5757
Driving Directions: The Interactive GIS Map has turn-by-turn driving directions to the park office from the Park Information Window. Please note that the background maps are maintained by a variety of public sources and driving directions usually go to the nearest large road.
Archbald Pothole State Park