History of Pennsylvania State Parks

From one park in 1893, to 121 parks in 2015, the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks has blossomed into one of the largest state park systems. Inspired leaders and a concerned citizenry turned the Pennsylvania Desert back into a forest wonderland.

Tree stumps and brush form the landscape in the black-and-white photo from the early history of Pennsylvania State Parks.

The First Park

Valley Forge became the first Pennsylvania State Park in 1879.

This black-and-white photo of an oil well is from Creek State Park, Pennsylvania.

National Register of Historic Places

Pennsylvania State Parks has two National Historic Landmarks and many locations on the Register of Historic Places.


In this black-and-white photo a family camps at Clear Creek State Park in the 1950s.

The Early Years

Led by Joseph Rothrock, the Commonwealth began acquiring land for parks and forests.

This is Joseph T. Rothrock.

Life of Joseph T. Rothrock

This pioneer of conservation is the "Father of Pennsylvania Forests."


Men stand at attention at a CCC camp.

The CCC Years

The Civilian Conservation Corps built many state parks and fought forest fires. Also on this page are links to the PA CCC Online Archive and the Interactive GIS Map of  CCC Camps in Pa.

This distinguished gentleman is Gifford Pinchot.

Life of Gifford Pinchot

The man who coined the word "conservationist" pioneered forest management in the world.


n this black-and-white photo a family camps at Clear Creek State Park in the 1950s.

The Goddard Era

Maurice K. Goddard did more for Pennsylvania State Parks than anyone.

This is Maurice K. Goddard.

Life of Maurice K. Goddard

Doc Goddard strived to make a state park within 25 miles of every resident of Pennsylvania.


People bird watch from the porch of the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park, Pennsylvania.

The Modern Era

In recent years the bueau has modernized facilities to the tastes of current visitors.

A man smiles in this black-and-white photo from Greenwood Furnace State Park, Pennsylvania.

Video and Short Version

This is a condensed version of the history of the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks.