Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area
Straddling Peters Mountain, the 370-acre Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area is dominated by large hardwood trees. This large block of nearly unbroken forest is a haven for wildlife like forest warblers and other deep-woods animals. A main attraction to the conservation area is the elaborate trail system. An additional 433 woodland acres on the northern slope of Peters Mountain, called the western portion and added in April 2012, features trails that will eventually connect to the nearby Appalachian Trail.
Hunting and Firearms: About 320 acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are black bear, deer, turkey, grouse, rabbit and squirrel.
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.
Hiking: 6.6 miles of trails
Evergreen Trail: 1.1 miles, red blazes, easy hiking - This trail begins at the east gate and is a nice loop trail that is also great for cross-country skiing.
Victoria Trail: 1.8 miles, medium blue blazes, difficult hiking - This rugged footpath begins by the Education Pavilion, runs near the eastern boundary, crosses over to the west end of the park on the historic Victoria Road and meets the Appalachian Trail for a distance of 1.8 miles. From there, the trail winds down to Game Lands 211 and PA 325 for a distance of 1.2 miles. This is the most difficult trail in the Conservation Area.
Old Sawmill Trail: 0.9 miles, yellow blazes, easy hiking - The loop portion of this trail encircles the old location of Baker’s Sawmill, the last steam sawmill in Dauphin County. This is a nice trail for cross-country skiing.
Pine Trail: 0.9 mile, lime green blazes, easy hiking - This trail begins at Evergreen Trail, crosses the conservation area, and loops near the pond. Pine Trail runs through a multitude of forest habitats and is named for the many white pines along the middle section of the trail.
Turkey Foot Trail: 0.6 mile, lavender blazes, easy hiking - Access this trail from the western end of Evergreen Trail. Turkey Foot Trail is a loop trail that offers many good opportunities to view wildlife.
Rock Trail: 0.8 mile, beige blaze, moderate hiking - This trail goes through some very rocky areas. Rock Trail begins at the intersection of Evergreen, Pine, and Old Sawmill trails.
Whitetail Trail: 1.8 miles, pink blazes, difficult hiking - This trail begins at the conservation area’s west gate, crosses Victoria and Appalachian trails and the Pond, and ends by reconnecting to Victoria Trail on the south side of Peters Mountain. The mountain section is rugged and includes switchbacks and stone stairs in places. A nice view of Powells Valley can be seen from a stone bench on the north side of the mountain. This is a good trail for viewing wildlife.
Appalachian Trail: 0.5 mile, white blazes, moderate hiking - This famous, national scenic trail extends 2,000 miles from Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to Mount Katahdin in central Maine. The Appalachian Trail is reached from Victoria and Whitetail trails. Just over half of a mile of this famed trail traverses the Conservation Area.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Cross-country Skiing: All hiking trails in the Conservation Area are open for cross-country skiing. Evergreen and Old Sawmill trails are good trails for cross-country skiing.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
The Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area offers a wide variety of 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.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Group programs must be arranged in advance and may be scheduled by calling the park office at Little Buffalo State Park.
Programs are offered from April through October. Many programs feature the abundant wildlife and forest management practices that can be seen in the Conservation Area. For more detailed information on programs, contact the Little Buffalo State Park office.
Explore the Calendar of Events for a listing of events from today forward.
Explore environmental education and interpretation for more information.
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 common tree species of Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area are red, black, scarlet and chestnut oak, white, Virginia, and table mountain pine, tulip popular, eastern hemlock, black gum, basswood, black walnut, black locust, wild black cherry, black birch, red maple, sassafras, American beech and hickories. This diversity of trees produces nuts, seeds, berries and browse for wildlife like white-tailed deer, squirrels, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, black bear and many species of birds.
These trees species are just the latest species to grow here. The original forest, before settlers arrived, was probably large white pine and eastern hemlocks. This dark, quiet forest quickly fell to the logger’s ax. The forest that regrew was probably similar to the forest of today, with the addition of the American chestnut. This impressive tree dominated some of the forests of Pennsylvania until a blight killed most of the trees. Occasional American chestnuts still survive long enough to produce nuts, but the blight eventually kills them.
Drastic changes like forest fires have probably altered this forest several times. Another change is happening right now. Thousands of white pine seedlings are growing under the taller deciduous trees. For years the mature pines along Pine Trail and other locations deposited seeds throughout the forest, but the seeds never germinated. Two successive years of defoliation of the deciduous trees by gypsy moths allowed sunlight to strike the forest floor, which caused the white pine seeds to germinate. It will be interesting to see if the white pines will replace the deciduous trees, making this forest resemble the original dark, quiet forest.
The conservation area is in the Ridge and Valley Province of the Appalachian Mountains, which is characterized by long parallel mountain ridges and wide, flat valleys. These mountains were raised up by the collisions of the continents of North America and Africa. These mountain building events, called orogenies, folded and bent the rock layers and lifted them up. The Appalachian Mountains were once very tall, but 220 million years of erosion have worn away the tops of the mountains, leaving behind wide, flat valleys and short, steep mountains of hard rock.
Most of the bedrock of Peters Mountain is composed of hard sandstone tilted at a steep angle. Much of Powells Valley is underlain by a combination of soft rocks like shales, siltstones and sandstones. Due to the rich valley soils, this area is often called the ‘bread basket of Dauphin County.’
The land of the conservation area has been inhabited for over 11,000 years. The nearby Shoop Site is one of the largest and oldest Paleo-Indian sites in eastern North America. The Shoop Site is unusual in that it is near a hilltop and not like most Paleo-Indian sites in the floodplain. Archaeologists theorize that the Paleo-Indians were hunting migrating caribou. It is interesting that most of the stone tools found at the site were made from stone found 250 miles north in New York.
Subsequent inhabitants used the Shoop Site as a temporary shelter or hunting camp. Other Indians occupying or passing through the area were the Shawnee, Nanticoke, Lenni Lenape and Iroquois League of Six Nations. The Susquehannock Indians claimed the land at the time European settlers arrived at Peters Mountain and Powells Valley.
Thousands of artifacts from the Shoop site are exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution and the Pennsylvania State Museum. The Shoop Site is on private land and is not open to the collecting of artifacts.
In 1726, Peter Allen built a stone home on the south side of the mountain, which has since been called Peters Mountain. North of the conservation area is Powells Creek and Powells Valley, named for Margaret Powell who owned the land at the creek mouth in the 1760s. South of the conservation area is Clarks Valley, named for early landowner William Clark. Clark owned 585 acres that later became the Stackpole Farms at the intersection of PA 225 and PA 325.
The Augusta Road, now PA 225, was an alternate route north to avoid passing too close to the Susquehanna River. The river route was a travel route often used by American Indians and could be dangerous when there were strained relations with the American Indians. The Peter Allen House, the stone house at the intersection of PA 225 and PA 325, was built in 1726 by Peter Allen. It is the oldest house in Dauphin County. It was a tollhouse, hotel and stagecoach stop. The house is currently privately owned.
A second very old house is along the Augusta Road, north of Peters Mountain by Powells Creek, at the intersection of PA 225 and Back Road. This tollhouse and stagecoach stop was a safe place to stop before or after crossing Peters Mountain. William and Alice Zeider now own and occupy the house.
A portion of the Victoria Trail passes through the southeastern corner of the conservation area and intersects the Appalachian Trail. The Victoria Trail connected the nearby Victoria Iron Furnace to some of its timber supply. The furnace was on the south side of Peters Mountain in Clarks Valley and was in operation from 1830 to 1857. The land was repeatedly logged to supply wood for charcoal for the furnace. The last steam sawmill in Dauphin County, Baker’s Sawmill, was within the land of the conservation area.
Joseph E. Ibberson
1917 - 2011
Beginning in 1962, Joseph Ibberson began buying land to create a tree farm on which he practiced various forms of forest management.
On December 9, 1998, Joseph E. Ibberson donated the land to the Commonwealth. The stated purpose of the donation was to “recognize the need of people for healthful recreation and a place where they can learn about the environment on which they depend for quality of life.” It became the first conservation area in the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks.
After graduation from Yale in 1948, Joe was recruited and hired by the Department of Forests and Waters, Bureau of Forestry, to develop the first forest management plans for the 2,000,000 acres of Pennsylvania state forest land. By 1955, all of the forests were mapped and had management plans.
Joe then created the Division of Forests Advisory Services which further expanded the management plans and targeted the preservation of endangered species and wetlands.
From this work grew the Division of Forest Pest Management, which became a recognized leader in rearing and releasing predators and parasites to effectively control forest pests.
Joe started a forest genetics program that reorganized the tree nurseries to produce large quantities of desirable and improved species.
Joe started the service forester program and now there are foresters in many counties to aid private citizens in managing their forested land.
In 1977, Joe retired from the Bureau of Forestry but continued to actively tree farm his own property and serve as a forestry consultant. That same year, Joe received the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wildlife Conservation Award. In 1998, he received the American Forest Foundation’s Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award for Pennsylvania. In 1999, Joe received their Outstanding Management of Resources Award for the northeastern states.
To train foresters to help the state’s private woodland owners properly manage their forests, Joe endowed a chair at The Pennsylvania State University.
"I continue to search for new ideas to effectively preserve the natural resources of Pennsylvania, while sustaining recreational use and the harvesting of wood products." - Joseph E. Ibberson
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DiscoverE has programs for young people ages 4 to 17, provided by Pennsylvania State Park educators. By combining recreation and education, we hope to motivate children to learn more and return often, leading to a lifetime of outdoor enjoyment and conservation leadership.
In Watershed Education, teachers and students assess water quality of a local stream on a quarterly basis and develop strategies to solve local water quality problems.
ECO Camp - Exploring Careers Outdoors - is a week-long residential camp for a cross-section of high school youth from across Pennsylvania, sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Participate in action-packed, hands on activities and recreational adventures in Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests that expose youth to conservation, recreation and careers in natural resources. Learn how people make a living working in the outdoors.
Explore education for more information on these and other programs.
Explore the Calendar of Events to find a program near you.
Do you take conservation personally? iConservePA is a Web site managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources whose vision is to inspire citizens to value their natural resources, engage in conservation practices and experience the outdoors. Take conservation personally.
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Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area
Information on nearby attractions is available from the PA Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. www.pacapitalregions.com
Fort Hunter Mansion and Park: Along PA 443 north of Harrisburg, this 40-acre Dauphin County park was a settlement fort in the 1750s during the French and Indian war. The park has playgrounds, picnic areas and tours of the mansion. 717-599-5751 www.forthunter.org
Boyd Big Tree Conservation Area: One mountain range to the south is Boyd Big Tree Conservation Area, one of the newest Pennsylvania state parks. Large trees of numerous species are scattered throughout the area, which provides habitat for deep forests birds, especially warblers. The large field is filled with blooming butterfly weed in late-July and early-August and attracts many butterflies.
City of Harrisburg: The historic capital of Pennsylvania has many attractions, including: PA State Museum, State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, National Civil War Musuem and other attractions.
Maps and Downloadables
Below are many of the maps and publications for this park. You can read them or download them and might need special software (all free) to view the publications.
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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.
From PA 322/22, take PA 225 north for 4.5 miles. Just before entering the village of Matamoras, turn right on Camp Hebron Road and follow it for 4.5 miles. The conservation area is on the right.
Driving Directions: The Interactive GIS Map has turn-by-turn driving directions to the park office from the Park information Window.
Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area