Oil Creek State Park
The Oil Creek Valley is the site of the world’s first commercial oil well. Oil Creek State Park tells the story of the early petroleum industry by interpreting oil boomtowns, oil wells and early transportation. Scenic Oil Creek carves a valley of deep hollows, steep hillsides and wetlands.
The primary purpose of Oil Creek State Park is to tell the story of the changing landscape. The early petroleum industry’s oil boom towns and important oil well sites are in contrast with clean trout streams and forested hillsides seen today throughout the park. The events of the exciting 1860s, the time of the original oil boom, receive special emphasis.
Train Station Visitor Center
Displays and programs are at Petroleum Centre, the focal point of the early oil boom. “A Contrast in Time” slideshow takes you on a six-minute journey through time. The din of pumping wells and shouting men in the 1860s contrasts with the rustling leaves in a gentle breeze in present day Oil Creek. The train station is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Visit the Train Station Visitor Center for historical displays, an exciting diorama and an interactive computer information center.
A train still chugs through the valley and stops at the Train Station in Petroleum Centre, just as it did over 100 years ago!
These full-scale, three-dimensional landscapes contain buildings, machinery, equipment and materials that replicate the historic landscape. Similar to a movie set, the buildings are empty and the machinery does not work, but the tableaus give an idea of historic periods at Oil Creek.
Hunt Farm Tableau
Benninghoff Farm Tableau
Along Oil Creek, just south of Titusville, Colonel Edwin Drake struck oil at a depth of 69.5 feet in August 1859. Three words-‘They’ve struck oil!’ thundered triumphantly throughout the valley. This statement changed the world forever and marks the birth of the world’s oil industry. The New York Tribune stated, “The excitement attendant on the discovery of this vast source of oil was fully equal to what I saw in California when a large lump of gold was accidentally turned out. When California 49ers came into the valley they claimed conditions here were crazier than any they’d ever seen.”
Drake’s discovery caused thousands of people to pour into the valley in search of liquid gold. Boomtowns sprang up instantly as derricks replaced trees and the valley filled with people. "The boomtowns spring up as of from the touch of a magician’s wand, are swept away by fire, or disappear only to reappear miles in advance of their last location."
Oil and mud soon mixed together throughout the valley. Roads were impassable. As noted getting off the train at Petroleum Centre from writer J.H.A. Bone "...pull up your legs when they disappear from sight, remembering that if you descend deep enough, you may strike oil." Other quotes as noted arriving in Petroleum Centre from the train, "The creek was covered with oil, the air was full of oil…we could see, hear, smell, nothing but oil." "Mud divided our attention with oil, wagons, men and animals were submerged in mud."
By the time 1871 rolled around, production in most boomtowns was dwindling. Drillers, speculators and others went to other areas in their endless search for oil, ‘black as a stack of ebony cats,’ and the valley was allowed to return slowly to the state it is today. Scattered ruins dot the landscape of Oil Creek valley. Remnants of old refineries can still be seen, old wells abound, and crumbling stone walls that once protected wells still stick up in the middle of Oil Creek.
The wooded hills of Oil Creek Gorge look almost as they did before the boom. A few wells are still active in the park, pulling the last bits of oil and natural gas from the earth which nature laid down years ago.
"The oil rush changed the pace of the world, and greased the wheels of the machine age. It lit up the future, fueled wars, speeded peace and is still flowing strong."
References: Unless stated otherwise, the above quotes are from Paul Giddon's book "Early Days of Oil."
Picnicking: Blood Farm Day Use Area and Egbert Farm Day Use Area are on the southern side of the park and are ideal settings for an enjoyable outing. The day use areas have picnic tables, charcoal grills, drinking fountains, restrooms, playfields, and picnic pavilions that may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 888-PA-PARKS for reservations. Picnic tables and restrooms are at key points along the bicycle trail.
Make a reservation.
Canoeing: Oil Creek offers a scenic float and is classed as a beginner’s creek under normal conditions. Water levels can change rapidly and canoeists should call the park office for current water conditions. Generally, the canoeing season is from March to June.
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: Oil Creek is known for its bass and trout. Boughton Run, Toy Run and Jones Run provide brook trout fishing. Two delayed harvest-artificial lure only areas cover 2.5 miles of Oil Creek. 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: Hunting and Firearms: About 6,250 acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are rabbit, deer, squirrel, turkey and ruffed grouse.
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: 52 miles of trails
No mountain bikes are permitted on hiking trails.
If you find yourself lost, travel downhill to the bicycle trail or Oil Creek and follow either upstream to Drake Well or downstream to the park office at Petroleum Centre.
The railroad running along Oil Creek is an active line. Caution: Stay off of the tracks at all times.
Changes Through Time, Delzell Trail: Change is constant in the natural environment. The Oil Creek Valley has seen more than most other areas. Along the 0.7-mile long trail, discover how these changes have created, eliminated and again changed the face of the valley. Pick up a self-guiding brochure in the park office or at the trailhead.
Blood Farm Interpretive Trail: Spend 30 minutes walking a 0.5-mile trail through the 440-acre Blood Farm oil lease. This farm produced more oil than all of the other farms in the oil region in 1861 and 1862. Learn of 15 years of frantic drilling, gushing oil and devastating fires. Interpretive signs throughout the trail will guide your tour.
Petroleum Centre Walking Tour: Petroleum Centre flourished from 1863 to 1870 on its twin livelihoods of oil and entertainment. This company town had no government, law enforcement, sanitation or public works. It was reputed to the "wickedest town east of the Mississippi!" Start at the Petroleum Centre Amphitheater for this 45-minute self-guiding tour.
Gerard Hiking Trail
This 36-mile long trail encompasses the entire park. The main trail is marked with yellow paint blazes. For shorter day hikes, use the five connecting loops blazed in white. Parking areas are available at several access points. Scenic vistas, waterfalls and historic sites are prevalent along the trail.
Biking: 9.7 miles of trails
Picnic tables, benches, rain shelters and restrooms are at key points along the trail. Historical markers detail special events of the 1860s oil boom era.
The trail is open to two-way bicycle traffic. Stay to the right while riding. When passing another cyclist, first ensure that there are no oncoming riders, then call out to the cyclist that you are passing. Bicycles should be parked off of the trail to avoid obstructing traffic.
Caution: Park maintenance and emergency vehicles may be on the trail.
Backpacking: The 36-mile long Gerard Hiking Trail encompasses the entire park. The main trail is marked with yellow paint blazes. For shorter day hikes, use the five connecting loops blazed in white. Parking areas are available at several access points. Scenic vistas, waterfalls and historic sites are prevalent along the trail.
Two overnight hike-in shelter areas (Cow Run and Wolfkiel Run) are along the trail. Each area contains tent sites, six adirondack-type shelters with fireplaces, restrooms and water supply. A fee and reservations are mandatory for use of these areas and overnight usage is limited to one night per shelter site. Fires are only permitted in camp stoves, fireplaces or designated locations and must be extinguished when unattended. Standing timber and shrubs must not be defaced. Camping is permitted in shelter areas only. Other special regulations pertain to these areas. Contact the park office for further information. Pets are permitted on designated sites.
Organized Group Tenting: There is one group camping area available for organized groups; located behind the Ski Warming Hut. This primitive camp has a parking area, picnic tables, fire circle, portable toilets and water, but no showers. Advance reservations are required. Can accommodate up to 25 people however, larger groups may be accommodated by calling the park office.
Exolore Organized Group Tenting for more information.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Cross-country Skiing: 11 miles of trails
If you follow the trail 1.5 miles westward or clockwise from the warming hut you will see the Benninghoff Tableau Site and the railroad bridge at Pioneer and six derricks with oil related buildings, machinery, equipment and materials. Though this is not a working site, it can give you a feel for what the area was like in the 1860's and 70's. During this period, John Benninghoff had a 240 acre farm; he rented out small parcels to oil opportunists, soon making an estimated income of $6,000 a day. The Birth of the Oil Industry, by Giddens 1938. Beyond the scenic vista the trail merges with the Gerard Hiking Trail(Yellow blazing) several times for short distances. You will want to stay with the red blazing to stay on the Red Loop. By utilizing the Red, Blue, Green loops and six White connector trails the skiing possibilities are almost endless making some very unique, exciting and challenging combinations.
Skier Responsibilities: There are elements of risk in skiing that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce.
Environmental and Historical Education and Interpretation
The park 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. Teacher workshops are available. Group programs must be arranged in advance and may be scheduled by calling the park office.
Programs are offered early spring through late fall. For more detailed information contact the park office.
Explore the Calendar of Events for a listing of events from today forward.
Wildcat Hollow Outdoor Classroom: This area is for use by school groups. Near Petroleum Centre, the area contains a bus parking lot, picnic pavilion, restrooms, activity field and four theme trails. Hike the “wickedest hollow east of the Mississippi.” Choose from one to four trails including: Wetlands Trail (one mile); Geology Trail (one mile); Oil History Trail (0.25 mile); Forestry Trail (0.25 mile).
Explore environmental education and interpretation for more information.
Access for People with Disabilities
ADA accessible picnic tables, parking spaces and restrooms are in the day use areas.
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.
Keep in Touch
Add yourself to the DCNR's online community to receive info on this park, or parks in general.
Like to spend time in the outdoors, meet friendly people and help make Pennsylvania State Parks great? Volunteering at a park might be for you.
Becoming a Conservation Volunteer is easy.
Scouts and organized groups can earn free camping by completing service projects.
Volunteers have fun and complete satisfying projects that provide individuals, families, and community groups with the opportunity to utilize their talents and to make a real difference. Your support shows that the community really wants Oil Creek State Park to succeed.
Contact the park office: 814-676-5915
Thank-you for considering Oil Creek State Park!
Join a Firends Group
The Friends of Oil Creek State Park is a non-profit group that works to further the goals of Oil Creek State Park. www.orgsites.com/pa/focsp/index.html
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
Make a Donation
To a park - find this park's address below
To a park's friends group - see above
To a park or the Bureau of State Parks - Pennsylvania Parks and Forestry Foundation www.paparksandforests.org
Through a purchase at a park gift shop
Thank you for your support!
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 Natrual 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.
Tell us What You Think
Contact this park with compliments, concerns and issues about the park.
Oil Creek State Park
Information on nearby attractions is available from the Oil Region Alliance. www.oilregion.org
The Drake Well Museum: The museum is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and is at the north end of Oil Creek State Park near Titusville. The museum presents a full-size replica of the engine and derrick over this early oil well, plus outstanding exhibits about Pennsylvania oil country. www.drakewell.org
Pithole: Within six miles of Oil Creek Valley is Pithole, America’s largest oil boom town. Oil was discovered in Pithole in January 1865. By September 1865, Pithole had grown into a city of 15,000. For information on Drake Well and Pithole, contact: Drake Well Museum, 814-827-4888. www.drakewell.org
Excursion Train: The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad operates an excursion train on weekends and other dates from May through October. The 26-mile round trip travels through Oil Creek State Park from Titusville to Rynd Farm. Call OC&T RR at 814-676-1733 for reservations and information. www.octrr.org
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:
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.
Oil Creek State Park Bird Checklist (.pdf) (2,985 kb, 3/11)
Common Birds Brochure
Common Birds of Oil Creek State Park (.pdf) (365 kb, 3/11)
Between Drake Well Museum and Titusville to the north, and Oil City four miles to the south, the main entrance to the park is off of PA 8, one mile north of the Borough of Rouseville.
Driving Directions: The Interactive GIS Map has turn-by-turn driving directions to the park office from the Park information Window.
Oil Creek State Park