McConnells Mill State Park
McConnells Mill State Park, in Lawrence County, encompasses 2,546 acres of the spectacular Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. Created by the draining of glacial lakes thousands of years ago, the gorge has steep sides and the valley floor is littered with huge boulders and is a national natural landmark. A gristmill built in the 1800s is open for tours. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, year-round.
Seasons and Hours: The park is open every day of the year, sunrise to sunset. Day use areas close at dusk. Contact the Moraine State Park office for facility seasons and hours.
Picnicking: The Kildoo Picnic Area is adjacent to the parking area at the northern end of the gorge near the Old Mill. A steep trail leads down to the Old Mill. Charcoal grills and restrooms are available. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Located in the Kildoo Picnic Area, the ADA accessible Kildoo Pavilion can accommodate up to 40 people. It can be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. If unreserved, the pavilion is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
A playfield is across the road from the Kildoo Picnic Area. This field may be used for softball and other activities during the summer and for sledding during the winter months.
No Swimming! Slippery Rock Creek is a very swift and dangerous whitewater creek. Many people have drowned in this dangerous creek. Nearby Moraine State Park has two swimming beaches.
Danger - White Water - Slippery Rocks Visitors entering McConnells Mill State Park should be aware of the natural hazards and steep terrain of the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. This area contains smooth rocks that are often damp and slippery, and varying degrees of whitewater conditions, including deep pools, rapids and swift currents. Adults should be aware of these features and exercise caution to protect themselves and children from accidents. Numerous accidents here have resulted in injury and death.
PLEASE EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION AND STAY ON TRAILS.
Fishing: Fishing is permitted anywhere along Slippery Rock Creek with the exception of the dam structures. The best fishing is for trout and bass. Trout are stocked several times throughout the season. There is a fly fishing only, catch and release area by Armstrong Bridge.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply. Complete information on fishing rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Hunting and Firearms: Many acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are grouse, deer, turkey, 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 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.
Pets: Pets are permitted in the park and must be controlled and attended at all times and on a leash. Please pick up pet wastes and dispose of them properly.
Climbing and Rappelling: Two climbing and rappelling areas are available to properly equipped and experienced climbers. The Rim Road Climbing Area is across the creek from the Old Mill. The more advanced and rugged area is in the vicinity of Breakneck Bridge.
Numerous accidents have occurred in this area resulting in serious injuries. Please exercise extreme caution when climbing or hiking in these areas. Rappelling is prohibited from the bridges, rock areas along park roads, or any other areas outside of the two designated climbing areas.
Hiking: 9 miles of trails
Alpha Pass: 1.5-mile, blue blazes, moderate hiking
Hells Hollow: 0.5-mile, easy hiking
Kildoo: 2-mile loop, moderate hiking
Slippery Rock Gorge: 6.2 miles, blue blazes, moderate to difficult hiking
Hikers should allow a minimum of six hours to hike to Eckert Bridge and back. This is not a loop trail. If you only plan a one-way trip, please set up a shuttle.
For a Safe Hike
Slippery Rock Creek is a Class II to IV river, depending on water level. Spring and fall are the best times for boating. Boaters generally start from Rose Point (US 422 bridge), outside of the park boundary, and boat to Eckert Bridge, covering 2.5 miles with a portage around the dam at the Old Mill. It is illegal to “run” the dam. Boaters must stay at least 50 feet from the boil at the base of the dam. An additional 3.5 miles of whitewater from Eckert Bridge to Harris Bridge can extend the run for boaters to 6 miles. Rafts, canoes and kayaks are not available for rent in the park.
Non-powered boats launched in a state park must display one of the following: boat registration from any state; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks that are available at most state park offices; launch use permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
All whitewater boaters on Slippery Rock Creek must learn to recognize natural dangers and understand that injury and death are a possibility when boating Slippery Rock Creek.
Only those properly equipped, trained and experienced should consider whitewater boating. Whitewater boating is permitted in rubber rafts, whitewater canoes and kayaks. Rafts must be at least eight feet long and have at least two air chambers in the gunnels with a minimum outside diameter tube of 14 inches. Non-inflatable canoes and kayaks must be of a design intended for whitewater use. Boating must be in accordance with the American Whitewater Affiliation Safety Code. All boaters enter the water at their own risk. Inner tubes and air mattresses are prohibited.
All boaters must wear U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices at all times. Helmets are strongly recommended.
For complete information on boating rules and regulations in Pennsylvania, visit the
Visit the Safety Code of American Whitewater for useful safety information.
International Scale of River Difficulty
The classes below are the American version of the rating system used throughout the world. This system is not exact. Rivers do not always fit easily into one category and there may be regional interpretations. This information is from American Whitewater.
Class I: Easy - Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Self-rescue is easy.
Class II: Novice - Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers.
Class III: Intermediate - Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges is often required. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can occur.
Class IV: Advanced - Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. May be large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. Rapids require “must” moves above dangerous hazards. Self-rescue is difficult.
Historical and Environmental Education and Interpretation
A park naturalist is available several days a week on a seasonal basis to conduct guided hikes, night programs and school group activities. Please contact Moraine State Park for more information or to schedule a program.
Explore the Calendar of Events for a listing of upcoming events.
Explore environmental education and interpretation for more information.
The Old Mill
The 19th century gristmill is the centerpiece of McConnells Mill State Park. The historic gristmill at McConnells Mill State Park is open Memorial Day through late September on Wednesdays through Sundays from 10:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Park at the Kildoo Picnic Area and hike down the stone stairs to the mill. Limited parking, for people with disabilities, may be available beside the mill.
Interpretive tours of the historic mill, given by staff or volunteer docents, are available at 1:00 and 2:00 PM. Interpretive tours for groups may be scheduled by calling the Moraine Park office 724 368-8811.
Trail of Geology
The natural character of McConnells Mill State Park, the scenic gorge, waterfalls, rugged hiking trails and whitewater creek, are all directly caused by the geology of the area. The bedrock formed over 300 million years ago as layers of sand, mud and peat in what was a coastal area. After becoming rock, these different layers were lifted to the surface in several mountain-building events. The different strengths of these rocks cause them to erode differently, helping to make the varied landscape of the park. The gorge and the dramatic topography of the park were created by glaciers over the past two million years.
To learn more about the geology of the park, pick up a copy of the Trail of Geology brochure at the park office, or visit the interactive web site. This driving tour brochure corresponds to numbered posts throughout the park and surrounding area.
McConnells Mill Heritage Festival is held on the last full weekend in September. The festival celebrates the operational era of the Old Mill (1852-1928). Visitors can witness artisans and crafts people making art and try old-time games and crafts. Other activities include mill tours, corn grinding demonstrations, musical entertainment, a Civil War encampment and food vendors.
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.
If you stood at the Cleland Rock Vista (see the map for location and below for a photograph) 200,000 years ago, you would be standing on a ridge at a drainage divide. Water to the north flowed north and water to the south flowed south.
If you stood at the same location about 140,000 years ago, you would be standing at the edge of a small lake dammed by several hundred feet of ice. The ice was the edge of a continental glacier that covered most of North America north of Cleland Rock. The glacier dam created small Lake Prouty by Cleland Rock. To the north was larger Lake Watts (modern Lake Arthur is a small re-creation of Lake Watts) and further north was giant Lake Edmund.
Eventually Lake Prouty spilled over the ridge near Cleland Rock and began carving Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. As the glacier retreated, Lake Watts drained into the channel, enlarging and deepening the gorge. Lake Edmund swiftly poured into the channel, scouring the gorge to over 400 feet deep. When the glacier finally retreated back to the north, Slippery Rock Creek Gorge was so deep that streams that normally flowed north, now flowed south, as the streams do today. The rapid erosion of the gorge created its swift water and exposed the many boulders that offer great challenges to modern whitewater boaters.
For detailed information on the glacial geology of the area, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey created the brochure Trail of Geology 4 Park Guide, Moraine and McConnells Mill State Parks. This driving tour brochure corresponds to numbered posts throughout the park and surrounding area.
Which Rock is Slippery Rock?
Slippery Rock Creek is 49 miles long and full of slippery rocks, yet is named for one exceptionally slick rock below the Armstrong Bridge. It is believed that an Indian trail forded the creek at a shelf of sandstone near a natural oil seep, which made the rock exceptionally slippery, and gave its name to the creek, a town, a university, a rock formation and many local businesses. In the late 1800s, oil wells briefly flourished in the valley, but the oil was swiftly invaded by groundwater and the wells were abandoned. The oil wells drained the oil seep and the Slippery Rock is no longer covered in oil.
Slippery Rock Gorge Natural Area
The 930-acre Slippery Rock Gorge was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1974 and became a State Park Natural Area in 1998. The steep-sided gorge contains numerous rocky outcrops, boulders, old growth forest, waterfalls and rare plants. Cleland Rock Vista is a great place to view the gorge.
Also part of the natural area, Hells Hollow has a wide array of wildflowers, waterfalls and habitats in addition to what can be found in the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. A one-half-mile hiking trail leads to a cascading waterfall and an old limekiln.
Explore natural areas for more information.
History of the Old Mill
In 1852, Daniel Kennedy built the first gristmill on Slippery Rock Creek. Fire destroyed the mill so he rebuilt it in 1868. Thomas McConnell bought the mill in 1875, and improved it by replacing the waterwheel with water turbines and the grinding stones with rolling mills. One of the first rolling mills in the country, it processed corn, oats, wheat and buckwheat for local customers. Sagging profits and antiquated equipment closed the mill in 1928.
In 1946, the mill and surrounding property was conveyed from Thomas H. Hartman to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and later to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with the wish that it be preserved for future generations. McConnells Mill State Park was formally dedicated in October of 1957.
McConnells Mill Covered Bridge
One of two covered bridges in Lawrence County, it was built in 1874 and is of Howe Truss design. The bridge is on state park land but is the property of Lawrence County.
Keep in Touch
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Becoming a Conservation Volunteer is easy.
Join a Friends Group
The Friends of McConnells Mill State Park is a non-profit group that works to further the goals of McConnells Mill State Park. www.fmmsp.org
Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation
Believing that each generation is responsible for leaving behind a better legacy of good conservation, the Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation (PPFF) was created in 1999 to give supporters and users of Pennsylvania's parks and forests a positive way to contribute to the conservation of our publicly-owned properties. The Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation welcomes the support of individuals and businesses who share a commitment to conserving, protecting, and enhancing the natural, scenic, and recreational areas of this commonwealth. www.paparksandforests.org
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We love when young people ask us how to get involved!
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.
Come Work with Us
Pennsylvania State Parks and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources offer a wide range of civil service and non-civil service jobs, from foresters, to rangers, to engineers, to educators, to botanists and so much more. Learn what is currently available.
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McConnells Mill State Park
Information on nearby attractions is available from the Lawrence County Tourist Promotion Agency. www.visitlawrencecounty.com
Moraine State Park: A few miles to the east on US 422, this large park offers boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, hunting, bicycling and other outdoor activities.
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.
You must have the free Adobe Reader to view the maps and brochures that are in pdf format (.pdf).
Alternate versions of the text of the brochures are in rich text and text formats. Click on the files to view them. To download (.rtf) files:
McConnells Mill State Park Map (.pdf) (1,863 kb, 2/12)
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.
North Country Trail Mileage Map
North Country Trail Mileage Map(.pdf) (2, 402 kb, 3/12)
The park is about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, via I-79, near the intersection of PA 19 and US 422.
For GPS devices use the following address:
GPS DD: Lat. 40.96674 Long. -80.16918
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.
McConnells Mill State Park