Varden Conservation Area
A gift from veterinarian Dr. Mead Shaffer, the 444-acre Varden Conservation Area is located in Wayne County. This land was a magnanimous gift in an area that was once a remote section of the state, which is now beginning to feel the pressure of development. It will be protected and used for future generations as a respite from daily life. Varden is a place to learn about Pennsylvania’s wonderful natural history. The property is managed by Promised Land State Park, which is in Pike County.
"Environmental education always has been a primary concern of mine. I trust this land will allow present and future generations to observe and study the diverse ecology found in the Varden Conservation Area." - Dr. Shaffer
Visit www.vardenconservationarea.com for more information.
Fishing: The pond in the Tannery Tract has largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish and catfish. Middle Creek provides trout fishing.
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: The Tannery Tract is open to hunting, trapping, and dog-training during established seasons. Common game species are deer, bear and turkey.
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. 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.
Hiking: The Varden Conservation Area offers a variety of short hiking trails through farm fields, forests and wetlands. Please stay on the trails and respect private property.
Tannery Tract Trails: 4.03 miles of trails
Bluebird Trail: 0.71 mile
Middle Creek Trail: 0.45 mile
Pond Loop Trail: 0.73 mile
Shortcut Trail: 0.1 mile
Steel Tower Trail: 0.27 mile
Tall Timber Trail: 0.35 mile
Tannery Trail: 0.63 mile
Wildcat Trail: 0.37 mile
Wood Tower Trail: 0.79 mile
Mid Valley Tract Trails: 3.32 miles of trails
Bear Paw Trail: 0.62 miles
Beechwood Trail: 0.15 mile
Critters Run: 0.08 mile
Deer Run: 0.12 mile
Holster Creek Trail: 0.55 mile
Overlook Ridge Trail: 1.14 miles
Pond View Trail: 0.43 mile
Shaffers Way: 0.23 mile
Cross-country-Skiing: All trails are recommended for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when conditions permit.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Varden Conservation Area offers a wide variety of environmental education programs. Through hands-on activities, guided walks, and special events, participants gain appreciation and understanding, as well as develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources. Standards-based environmental education programs are available to school and youth groups. Programs must be arranged in advance and may be scheduled by contacting environmental education specialist at the Promised Land State Park office.
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 Promised Land State Park.
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.
There are many opportunities to see wildlife in the conservation area. The forest consists of numerous planted trees, including: blue and white spruce, ash, white birch, red pine, Norway spruce, white pine, Douglas fir and balsam fir. Hemlock and red maple are also present in the conservation area. The diverse forest and wetland habitats produce ideal conditions for amphibians, mammals and birds. White-tailed deer, black bear, squirrel, wild turkey, beaver and many species of birds inhabit the area.
The land that became Varden Conservation Area was part of the frontier region under considerable turmoil during the later portion of the 18th century. The Susquehanna Company was formed to encourage settlement by the Connecticut people in an area along the east branch of the Susquehanna River. In 1754, the Onondaga tribal council deeded the greater part of this land to the Susquehanna Company. However, the French and Indian War prevented settlement until after 1760. From this time and prior to the Revolutionary War, Connecticut and Pennsylvania waged a bitter battle for the land. From 1770 to 1784, the Yankee-Pennamite Wars took part in the region. After the Revolutionary War in 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a commission to settle the dispute. The conclusion favored Pennsylvania, effectively ending land rights for Connecticut.
In the 1780’s, European-American pioneers entered the area and set up settlements along Middle Creek and it’s tributaries. The settlers engaged in farming the land and tapped into Middle Creek to supply water to power tanneries, and water powered mills of various types. Increased settlement was established because of the large degree of transportation routes established throughout the early 1800’s. The Northern Road, Belmont and Easton Turnpike, and another turnpike connecting Milford, PA and Oswego, NY were completed by 1815. Other industries were limited to lumbering, milling and tanning. The white and yellow pine, white and red beech, maple, hemlock, and birch were abundant in the area.
In the early years of settlement, many people of German descent inhabited the Varden area. One well-known family was the Shaffer’s. John Shaffer, probably born in Germany came to America sometime before the Revolutionary War. According to family tradition, John was a stowaway in a ship on its passage to America. Very little of his early life is known. John may have lived in Orange County, New York where he married. Family tradition states he was married three times. It is claimed that John served in the Orange County Militia during the Revolutionary War. After the war, John heard of land near Middle Creek. John probably came to the area sometime between 1783 and 1786. Hans Ulrich Swingle and Henry Curtis accompanied John on the trip to Pennsylvania, spending their first night sleeping under a large tree in what is now Varden. The area John settled was first known as the Dutch Settlement and later as Shaffertown, Shaffer’s Hollow, and Millville. William Rufus Shaffer, who became postmaster in 1886, chose to name the town Varden, taking the name from his favorite literary character, Dolly Varden from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. Throughout the years, Shaffer acquired land that would later become Varden Conservation Area. Here the Shaffer family has lived for over 200 hundred years. The agricultural past is evident in the area. Old foundations, stonewalls, stone piles, a barn, and the famous Shaffer chimney are still present.
Dr. Mead Shaffer
For over 200 years, the Shaffer family has been living in Northeastern Pennsylvania. First settled by John Shaffer, the Shaffer Homestead has experienced much through several generations of Shaffer families. The latest resident is Dr. Mead Shaffer of Boothwyn Township, Delaware County. Dr. Shaffer spent his childhood years living on the Shaffer Homestead. He spent two years at war, came home and became a veterinarian. Mead has planted many trees, created a pond, and preserved the superb habitat. Mead has stated that he wishes future generations would benefit from the donation of the conservation area. With the vast history of the Shaffer family in the area, and at Varden specifically, Mead’s donation greatly illustrates his devotion and admiration of the Varden area.
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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.
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Varden Conservation Area
Maps and Downloadables
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Varden Conservation Area Map (.pdf) (1,033 kb, 4/13)
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.
Varden is at the intersection of PA 196 and PA 296, in Wayne County. Tannery Road provides access to the Tannery Tract. Mid Valley Road provides access to the Mid Valley Tract.
Tannery Tract GPS DD: Lat. 41.48758 Long. -75.38254
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.
Varden Conservation Area