Saving Pennsylvania’s Vernal Pools

Vernal or seasonal pools are extremely important to the wildlife that depend on them.

Explore Vernal Pools

See the plants and animals that make their home in vernal pools.

Each spring, the sounds of wood frogs clacking resonate across the chilly waters of shallow woodland pools. The large and secretive mole salamanders of Pennsylvania’s forests emerge from their underground tunnels and begin navigating towards springtime pools to find a mate and breed. These springtime pools, also called vernal or seasonal pools, are unique wetlands that are extremely important to the wildlife that depend upon them. Vernal pools are depressions in the forest that, during wet periods, fill with water from precipitation, runoff or snowmelt, and/or ground water, and then dry during the summer months. To learn more about vernal pools and associated wildlife, download the Pennsylvania Vernal Pool Identification Guide and poster.

Come Join Us

The Nature Conservancy leads vernal pool hikes on several of its preserves. For this spring’s schedule, visit our events listing.

Protecting Pennsylvania’s seasonal pools requires cooperation. We’re working with lawmakers, landowners and other conservation groups to ensure that these special places are protected.

Vernal Pool Restoration

Five vernal pools at our 70-acre Forest Pools Preserve in Carlisle, PA were recently restored. These pools were not holding water well compared to others in the area. The goal of restoration is to increase water retention so that vernal pool indicator animals (refer to identification guide and/or poster mentioned above) can successfully reproduce in these pools.

Touring the Forest Pools Preserve

If you would like to learn more about vernal pool restoration techniques, consider doing a self-guided tour of the Forest Pools Preserve (see directions below). Posters located at kiosks throughout the preserve provide visitors with an overview of vernal pool restoration and describe the different techniques used. Click the heading for each kiosk to download the poster.

Kiosk 1 - Field Guide to Vernal Pool Restoration
At the preserve’s entrance, visit Kiosk 1 to get a general overview of vernal pool communities and vernal pool restoration. A trail map is also provided at this kiosk.

Kiosk 2 - Wetland Restoration using the Liner Technique
At Kiosk 2, located at Pool 1, discover how the Liner Technique restores wetlands where a high water table and clay soils are absent. This kiosk also provides information on how to start a vernal pool restoration.

Kiosk 3 - Wetland Restoration using the Ground Water Technique

Next, visit Kiosk 3 (Pools 2 and 3), where the Ground Water Technique takes advantage of a high water table. At this kiosk you will also find information about the wetland and upland habitats vernal pool species need to survive.

Kiosk 4 - Wetland Restoration using the Surface Water Technique
At Kiosk 4 (Pool 7), learn more about the Surface Water Technique that makes use of clayey soils.

Ending your tour

Before leaving the preserve, visit Pool 4 which was restored using the Liner Technique, and Pools 5 and 6 which were designated as control sites (i.e., no alterations were made).


The Forest Pools Preserve is located on Kings Gap Road in Carlisle, PA. From Interstate 81, take exit #37. Travel south on Route 233 for about 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Pine Road and continue 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Kings Gap Road. Turn left into the Pine Plantation parking lot to park. The entrance to the preserve is across the road from the parking lot.

For more information about the restoration project contact the Chapter Office at, or 717-232-6001.

Go Deeper

For More Information


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