Open to the Public
Situated within the Pennsylvania Wilds Region and in the heart of the High Allegheny Plateau, the West Branch Research and Demonstration Forest has much tooffer. Adjoined by state forest land and in close proximity to Hyner View State Park, a popular hang gliding area, this region is a recreational paradise. An extensive network of old logging roads and trails provides ample opportunity to experience this working forest landscape.
Visit unspoiled scenic views that stretch nearly 40 miles across mountains to the northwest and southeast. Take part in celebrating the tradition and preserving the legacy of white-tailed deer hunting on the property or become acquainted with the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps era by visiting the historic hand-crafted, stone built Whetham Cabin.
Deep forested ravines and associated high quality native brook trout streams course through the property making their way to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Rugged mountainous hillsides support a diversity of wildlife and recreational opportunities. Take part in exploring portions of this vast forested region by participating in the annual Keystone Trails Association event, Prowl the Sproul, which includes West Branch Forest, or train to compete in the Hyner View Trail Challenge. This 25K hike/run course crosses through a portion of the Conservancy’s West Branch Forest and makes for an exciting event.
Johnson and Ritchie Runs, two "high quality-cold water fishery" streams that course through the property, have been rated "Class A Wild Trout Waters" by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Bureau of Fisheries. True wilderness trout streams, Johnson and Ritchie Runs support healthy populations of naturally reproducing native brook trout. Both streams also contribute high quality water to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
The ecologic value of the best remaining forests on the property were threatened by a logging contract for trees below 1,500 feet, located within the deep ravines and riparian buffer, which would have degraded the two high quality trout waters. Also, an existing offer on the property would have subdivided the acreage into private recreational retreats, including the potential construction of numerous cabins and associated outbuildings throughout the property. Nearby natural gas drilling and gas transmission ROW expansion threaten to fragment area forests and compromise water quality. Illegal ATV trespass has been observed on some parts of the property.
The Nature Conservancy purchased the 3,034-acre West Branch tract from a private owner bridging two existing 7,500-acre state-owned holdings in the Sproul State Forest and Bucktail Natural Area, connecting a total of 18,000 acres. The conservation effort at West Branch Forest continues. Estimated acquisition and associated costs: $2.5 million. If you would like to contribute to this project, please call us at 800-75-NATURE.
Gallagher and Grugan Townships, Clinton County
What You’ll See
The Preserve, and the neighboring Sproul State Forest, is home to white-tailed deer, black bear, wild turkey, grouse, timber rattlesnake, bobcat, numerous warblers and birds of prey, and native brook trout. The area also boasts abundant wildlife, including river otter, fisher and a recently reintroduced elk herd.
The Conservancy's West Branch Forest Preserve is used extensively for developing and demonstrating sustainable forestry techniques. In 2008, West Branch Forest was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, the global gold standard for certified forest management. Conservancy foresters and conservation staff have implemented many activities designed to restore degraded forest conditions and to develop high quality early and late-successional forests at the Preserve. Visitors may view many of these activities, including understory competing vegetation control, mowing, prescribed fire, public access hunting, herbicide, warm season grasses, enrichment plantings, wood biomass harvests and a one-acre hybrid American chestnut research orchard.
At West Branch Forest, the Conservancy encourages recreation such as hiking, birding, hunting and photography. All of the many scenic vistas on the property may be accessed by trail. A historic depression-era stone craftsman cabin built by the Civil Conservation Corps serves as the property’s base camp. Certain activities are prohibited, including trapping, horseback riding, camping, fires and off-road vehicle (ATV or snowmobile) use.
The property is enrolled in the Pennsylvania Game Commission's (PGC) Forest Game and Deer Management Assistance Program and is an active participant in the Quality Deer Management Association. Public access hunting is permitted and encouraged at West Branch Forest in accordance with the regulations of the PGC. Fishing is also permitted in accordance with the regulations of the PA Fish and Boat Commission. An informational kiosk is located on Ritchie Road at the north entrance to the property.
The Conservancy's Williamsport Field Office sponsors numerous volunteer work days, camping opportunities, and occasional workshops and field tours at the Preserve, including the popular staff-led Volunteer Camping Weekends each May and October.
For more information on visiting West Branch Forest, or to make a courtesy call about using the property for hunting (please provide your name, number, what you plan to hunt and when), call the Conservancy's Williamsport Field Office at (570) 322-4132.
Take Interstate 80 West to Lock Haven Exit/Route 220. Take Route 220 North. Exit at Pine Creek/Route 44 North. Turn left off the exit ramp onto Route 44 North. Go approximately 10 miles, to the town of Waterville. Continue on 44 North another 7 miles to the junction of 664 & 44. Continue on 44 North past the Fin, Fur & Feather on the right. Go another 4 miles.
You will pass under power lines, and a sub-station will be off to the left. Take your next left on Hyner Mountain Road towards Hyner View State Park. Go one mile, and turn left on Ritchie Road (gravel road) just before the steep grade sign — you will see a sign and parking area for the "Hiding Bear Ski Trail."
Go 2.2 miles to a fork in the road which goes right and straight. There will be a metal building on the right. Continue straight. Go 0.5 mile, until you pass the pipeline corridor. Go another 1.5 miles onto our property (look for the yellow signs), to the green gate on the left. Just past the gate is a pull-off on the left, by the Sugar Camp Road sign. The cabin sits back behind the spruce trees on the left side of the road.