Bucktail State Park Natural Area
Bucktail State Park Natural Area provides a beautiful 75-mile scenic drive along PA 120 from Emporium, through Renovo, to Lock Haven. It stretches through a narrow valley which has for years been called the Bucktail Trail, named after the famous American Civil War regiment of Woodsmen, the Bucktails or Bucktail Rangers. This is the old Sinnemahoning Trail used by American Indians on their way to and from the eastern continental divide between the Susquehanna and Allegheny rivers. Aside from the three towns named above, the valley is mostly forested land with an occasional small village or isolated farm.
This beautiful area has also been called the Bucktail Canyon because of the steep mountains that form beautiful forested walls along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Sinnemahoning Creek.
Visitors should note that most of the land within the “legislative” park boundary is privately owned. Please obtain permission from landowners before entering private property.
All along the road are unspoiled forest lands, beautiful hills and deep valleys. In the fall, the colors are breath-taking and people drive many miles to attend the Flaming Foliage Festival at Renovo in October. In the spring, mountain laurel and the fresh green foliage are worth the trip.
Scenic Driving: The 75-mile scenic drive along PA 120 from Emporium, through Renovo, to Lock Haven is through steep mountains that form beautiful forested walls along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Sinnemahoning Creek.
Canoeing and Kayaking: Sinnemahoning Creek and the West Branch Susquehanna River are shallow waterways and are popular for canoeing and kayaking.
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.
Complete information on boating rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Fishing: Many trout streams flow into Bucktail State Park from the surrounding mountains.
Complete information on fishing rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Hunting: All of Bucktail State Park is open to hunting. Common game species are white-tailed deer and turkey. Most of the land within the “legislative” park boundary is privately owned. Please obtain permission from landowners before entering private property.
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 car, trailer or leased campsite. The only exception is that law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms may carry said firearm concealed on their person while they are within the park.
Complete information on hunting rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Game Commission Web site.
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.
River valleys, like the Bucktail State Park Natural Area, are important habitats in Pennsylvania. Warmer, wet river valleys usually support more wildlife that the colder, drier surrounding mountains. River valleys are natural passageways for animals and plants. Seeds that fall into rivers are carried downstream to create new populations. Trees like river birch and sycamore naturally dwell in Bucktail State Park.
Many animals live in river valleys or follow them during migrations. Osprey, bald eagle, kingfisher, many duck species, merganser and other birds, otter, deer, mink and other animals are noteworthy river valley inhabitants and can be seen in Bucktail State Park.
An elk viewing platform is at Winslow Hill, near the town of Benezette, and in Sinnemahoning State Park. Elk are often seen along the northern portion of Bucktail State Park Natural Area. The best time to view elk is at dawn and dusk in September and October during the mating season. Please remember that elk are large, wild animals and can be dangerous. Observe elk from a safe distance.
The Bucktail Regiment
By Rich Adams, Captain, 1st PA Rifles, Company B Bucktails Reenactment Unit
Additional information is available at: www.pabucktail.com
Responding to President Lincoln’s call for volunteer troops to rise to the defense of the Union, following the Confederate bombing of Fort Sumpter, in April, 1861, Thomas Leiper Kane began recruiting young men from the northern tier counties of Pennsylvania. Mr. Kane, an influential businessman in McKean County, and his lieutenants, were successful in recruiting enough young men to fill 7 companies (approximately 700 men). Many of these men were lumberjacks, raftsmen, and farmers accustomed to living in the rugged mountainous areas of the “Wildcat” district (Elk, McKean, Tioga, and Cameron counties).
Prior to leaving for Harrisburg, the men adopted the tail of a buck as their “regimental badge of honor.” The deer tails were placed on each recruits cap and they became known as the Bucktails. En route to Camp Curtin, a bucktail also adorned the top of the mast on one of the rafts the men built to travel to Lock Haven where they could pick up the railroad. Once at Camp Curtin, another company from northern Pennsylvania, a company from Chester County and a company from Perry County joined Kane’s group to complete the required 10 company regiment, and became the 13th regiment-the Rifle (sharpshooter) regiment-of the newly formed Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. As part of the federal army, they became the 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the Bucktail Regiment.
The regiment trained at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania until June 1861, when it was detached, along with the 5th Regiment, to the assistance of General Lew Wallace in the Cumberland, Maryland area. Upon their return from Maryland, they joined the balance of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps which had been mustered into service by the federal government and was now attached to the Army of the Potomac in and near Washington D.C.
The Bucktails served with distinction in most of the major engagements of the Army of the Potomac until May 1864, when those who did not reenlist in the 190th Pennsylvania, were mustered out of service. The Bucktails were engaged at Dranesville; the Seven Days Battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, New Market Crossroads and Malvern Hill; Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness and Spottsylvania (1864) and finally, Bethesda Church. The unit completed its service on May 31, 1864.
In May, 1862, four companies of Bucktails—companies C, G, H, and I were detached from the regiment, under the command of Lt. Col. Thomas L. Kane, and sent to participate in the Valley Campaign against the renowned Stonewall Jackson. This detachment was engaged in the battles of Harrisonburg, Cross Keys, Catlett’s Station, 2nd Bull Run, and Chantilly. At Harrisonburg, the Bucktails were credited with killing confederate general Turner Ashby. The detached companies joined the regiment after the Battle of 2nd Bull Run.
History of Bucktail State Park Natural Area
Public support and the Pennsylvania legislature created Bucktail State Park.
Act No. 301 of June 2, 1933, P.L. 1415, created “Bucktail State Park.” The Act says: “That the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby dedicates to the public, for use as a park and pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people, all that area of land extending in length from the western city line of Lock Haven, in Clinton County, to the eastern borough line of Emporium, in the County of Cameron, and along the course of the western branch of the Susquehanna River, and its tributary, Sinnemahoning Creek, in Clinton and Cameron counties, an estimated distance of 75 miles, and in width from mountain rim to mountain rim across the valley.
“The said park shall be called and known as the ‘Bucktail State Park,’ in commemoration of the Bucktail Regiment which embarked from Driftwood, in Cameron County, in April, 1861, upon rafts of their own construction to hasten their arrival at the imperiled State Capitol.”
Most of the land within the “legislative” park boundary is privately owned. The Bureau of State Parks and the Bureau of Forestry own some of the land in the valley.
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Bucktail State Park Natural Area
Nearby State Parks
Hyner Run State Park: East of Renovo on PA 120 and north of the village of Hyner on Hyner Run Road. It has camping, hiking and a cabin.
Hyner View State Park: East of Renovo on PA 120 and north of the village of Hyner. It has a panoramic view of the Bucktail State Park and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
Kettle Creek State Park: Seven miles north of the village of Westport and PA 120. It has camping, hiking, swimming, fishing and boating.
Ole Bull State Park: Along the Kettle Creek Valley on PA 144, 26 miles north of Renovo and PA 120. It has camping, swimming, hiking and a cabin.
Sinnemahoning State Park: Along PA 872 north of the village of Sinnemahoning and PA 120. It has camping, hiking, boating, fishing and elk watching.
Sizerville: Off of PA 155 north of Emporium and PA 120. It has camping, fishing, hiking and swimming.
Nearby State Forests
Bucktail State Park is bounded by two state forests, which join the park boundary in many sites. Elk and Sproul state forests comprise a block of almost 500,000 acres, generally known as the “Big Woods Country.” The state forests are well known for wilderness experiences, natural areas and outdoor recreation.
Elk State Forest: Located principally in Elk and Cameron counties, the 200,000-acre Elk State Forest has primitive camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, ATV use, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Of special interest is the Wayside Memorial Spring, three miles south of Emporium along PA 120. In 1938, eight Civilian Conservation Corps firefighters lost their lives when they were trapped on the steep hillsides by a fast moving forest fire.
In addition to many short hiking trails, the Bucktail Path begins near Sizerville State Park and extends southward 30 miles to the village of Sinnemahoning. The 30-mile Quehanna Trail loops though the Quehanna Wild Area and surrounding state forest land. The trail continues into the Moshannon State Forest for another 30 miles.
Sproul State Forest: The 280,000-acre state forest is in western Clinton and northern Centre counties. There is primitive camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, ATV use, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Of special interest is a canoe access parking area on PA 879, south of Karthaus. Most canoeing occurs in the Spring when there is adequate water on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
In addition to many short hiking trails, the Chuck Keiper Trail is a 50-mile double looped trail with yellow paint blazes. The 52-mile, red-blazed, Donut Hole Trail connects with the Susquehan-nock Trail System. The trail traverses Kettle Creek State Park and terminates at Hyner Run State Park.
Explore Pennsylvania Wilds
Pennsylvania Wilds is two million acres of public lands for hiking, biking, fishing, boating, hunting and exploration in northcentral Pennsylvania. Within the twelve-county region are: 29 state parks, eight state forest districts (1.3 million acres); 50 state game lands and Allegheny National Forest (500,000 acres). www.pawilds.com
Maps and Downloadables
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Bucktail State Park Map (.pdf) (270 kb, 3/11)
Interactive GIS Map
The interactive 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.
Bucktail State Park Natural Area is in northcental Pennsylvania and follows PA 120 from near Lock Haven north to Emporium.
Driving Directions: The Interactive GIS Map has turn-by-turn driving directions to the park office from the Park information Window.
Bucktail State Park Natural Area