Susquehannock State Park
The 224-acre Susquehannock State Park is on a wooded plateau overlooking the Susquehanna River in southern Lancaster County. Besides the awesome view, the park offers a variety of recreational opportunities for year-round fun.
Scenic Views: Among the park's primary attractions are the river overlooks, which afford panoramic views of the lower reaches of the Susquehanna River. Hawk Point, the park’s main overlook, provides a spectacular view of the upper reaches of the Conowingo Reservoir, the first and largest of several hydroelectric impoundments on the lower Susquehanna. The actual dam is in northern Maryland but the reservoir straddles both Pennsylvania and Maryland providing hydroelectric power generation and cooling water for the Peach Bottom nuclear reactors, as well as, countless hours of recreational boating and fishing for area visitors.
Many islands are in view from Hawk Point including Mt. Johnson Island, the world's first bald eagle sanctuary. This island is to the left of the overlook and featured a pair of nesting bald eagles for many years. More recently, eagles have been nesting on the island just upstream from the overlook. Use the available optical viewer or your own binoculars and see if you can spot an eagle, osprey or the more common turkey and black vultures that regularly patrol the airways by this overlook.
Just to the right and down the hill from Hawk Point Overlook is Wisslers Run Overlook. This overlook gives an excellent view of the original rocky nature of the Susquehanna's natural riverbed and the Muddy Run pump storage hydroelectric plant with the well-known Norman Wood Bridge in the background. Look for osprey nesting on the large power line towers in front of this overlook.
The 380-foot high cliffs that overlook the river make these views possible. Visitors should stay well back from these drop-off areas and children should be closely supervised to prevent accidental injury or death.
Picnicking: Shaded picnic spots are available throughout much of this aesthetically pleasing park. There are more than 100 tables including some with paved paths and pads. A number of picnic sites have grills and all have parking, water and restrooms nearby. For groups or special occasions there are two large picnic pavilions with large cooking grills, water, electric outlets and lighting. The accessible picnic pavilions 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 toll-free, 888-PA-PARKS for reservations. There are also two softball fields with backstops and benches as well as play areas and trailheads nearby.
Make a reservation.
Horseback Riding: The many trails throughout the park offer a beautiful setting for horseback riding in the river hills. Horseback riding is prohibited at the overlooks and on Rhododendron Trail. Five hitching rails are placed throughout the park to accommodate equestrian use. Trailer parking is available in the large upper lot.
Hiking: 5 miles of trails
Native holly, rhododendron, spring and summer wildflowers and a variety of other plant life await your discovery. Walk or sit quietly along a trail to observe deer, songbirds, lizards or many other forms of wildlife. From the overlooks, watch for vultures, hawks, osprey and, if you are lucky, you may spot a bald eagle. Old homestead sites are also evident along a number of the trails.
The most popular trail is the Overlook Trail as this leads to the two scenic vistas that overlook the Susquehanna River. This 0.55-mile trail leads to both Hawk Point and Wissler’s Run overlooks and offers the visitor panoramic views for the lower and upper reaches of the river.
At 1.2-mile, Rhododendron Trail is the longest and most difficult of the park’s trails traversing some steep and rocky terrain but well worth the extra effort. The trail’s namesake blooms in late June and early July. The remains of the homestead of Thomas Neel, a revolutionary war veteran, is along this trail.
The Pine Tree Trail is short but also steep and rocky as it winds its way down to Wissler’s Run.
The 0.7-mile Five Points Trail is moderately difficult and features rhododendron and views of creek valleys.
The remainder of the trails are either moderate or easy walking.
Holly Trail is 0.5-mile of easy walking and features native holly trees and Christmas ferns.
Fire Trail is a short logging road with a nice stand of poplar trees.
Pawpaw trees can be found along the 0.4-mile, easy walking Spring Trail.
Nature Trail features a nice group of mature hardwood trees and is an easy 0.3-mile walk.
Walk along the short Phites Eddy Trail and imagine what this area was like over a hundred years ago when loggers, ate, drank, and slept at the Phites Eddy Inn along the river.
The 0.6-mile Landis Trail was named for Lester Landis, the one time owner of the historic house across from the park office. This trail features a fine stand of Virginia bluebells that bloom in late April and early May.
Pipeline Trail is an easy 0.24-mile walk on the old, abandoned gas pipeline right-of-way that crosses the park.
Organized Group Tenting: Qualified adult and youth groups may reserve space in the organized group tenting area for overnight use. The organized group campsites can accommodate any size group up to a maximum of 300 people.
Explore organized group tenting for more information.
Access for People with Disabilities
Ballfield and Hawk Point pavilions, upper and lower restrooms, Hawk Point Overlook and the park office are fully ADA accessible.
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.
While exploring the Chesapeake Bay in 1608, Captain John Smith first encountered the Susquehannocks. In his journal, Captain Smith described them as "seemed like Giants to the English" but archeological research shows the Susquehannocks to have been of average size.
It is unknown what the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannocks called themselves, but the name that graces the river, the people and the state park is derived from the name, Sasquesahanough, given to Captain Smith by his Algonquian-speaking American Indian interpreter. The word has been translated "people at the falls" or "roily water people" referring to the Susquehannock's home by the river. This small tribe had only one village by present-day Conestoga, but controlled the important trade routes along the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.
During the Beaver Wars, 1649 to 1656, the Susquehannocks formed an alliance with Maryland to acquire rifles and successfully fought the much larger Iroquois Confederacy. A brief peace followed then the Susquehannocks again waged war with the Iroquois until suffering a major defeat in 1675.
The Susquehannocks moved to old Fort Piscataway, below present-day Washington DC. Problems on the frontiers led to the mobilization of the militias of Maryland and Virginia and in confusion, they surrounded the peaceful Susquehannock village. Five Susquehannock chiefs went to negotiate and were murdered. The Susquehannocks slipped out of the fort at night and harassed settlers in Virginia and Maryland, then eventually moved back to along the Susquehanna River. Around 1677, the Susquehannocks moved to New York and intermingled with their Iroquois relatives. In 1697, some Susquehannocks returned to the Conestoga area and built a new village. In the early 1700s, the Susquehannocks migrated to Ohio where they intermingled with other tribes and lost their identity as a distinct nation.
The remaining Susquehannocks, often called Conestogas, stayed and their village remained an important Indian village for many years where many treaties were negotiated and signed, but the population declined. In 1763, the remaining Susquehannocks at Conestoga lived under the protection of the Commonwealth. In response to Pontiacs War, begun in the western part of the state, the Paxton Boys, a group of anti-Indian vigilantes, slaughtered six Indians at Conestoga. The rest of the Indians, who had been out peddling small goods like baskets and brooms, were taken to a workhouse in Lancaster for their own protection. The governor condemned the killings and forbid further violence. Less than two weeks later, the Paxton Boys slaughtered the 14 Indians in the workhouse.
The governor gave special papers of protection to the remaining two Susquehannocks, who worked as servants on a local farm. When they died and were buried on the farm, it was the end of the once powerful Susquehannocks.
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James B. Long Home
The old stone house near the park office is known as the James B. Long Home, named for the original owner of the residence. James Buchannon Long built the house in 1850 for a sum of $200. The house is an example of the stone architecture and craftsmanship of the time. Besides the laid native stone and cement coving construction of the exterior, the house has a slate roof, horsehair and sand plaster ceilings and walls, wood plank floors and a cold cellar with a spring and fireplace for both storage and preparation of food. Jacob Schoff, the sixth owner, participated in the Underground Railroad, helping runaway slaves making their way north to freedom along the Susquehanna River. While the exterior of the structure has been stabilized the interior is not safe for public use.
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Susquehannock State Park
Information on nearby attractions is available from the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau. www.padutchcountry.com
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.
From PA 372 west of Buck, Pa., turn south on Susquehannock Drive to Park Drive.
GPS DD: Lat. 39.80607 Long. -76.28341
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.
Susquehannock State Park