Places We Protect

Cove Mountain Preserve

Pennsylvania

View of Cove Mountain from the east bank of the Susquehanna River. A large boulder is in the foreground. There are ripples on the surface of the water.
Cove Mountain Early morning view of Cove Mountain across the Susquehanna River. © Matt Kane/TNC

A 14-mile corridor protects land along the Kittatinny Ridge, one of Pennsylvania’s most treasured landscapes.

Overview

Description

Running through Pennsylvania for 185 miles, the Kittatinny Ridge is the first prominent landscape feature visitors encounter when moving north or west from Philadelphia. It is one of the commonwealth’s most treasured landscapes.

In 2017, The Nature Conservancy purchased roughly 350 acres of Cove Mountain, representing TNC’s first nature preserve in central Pennsylvania along the Kittatinny Ridge. In February 2021, the PA/DE chapter closed on a land deal to expand Cove Mountain. The purchase of 1,200 acres of land adjacent to the existing preserve quadruples its size and—most importantly—fills a gap between existing conservation lands, creating a 14-mile stretch of protected land along the Kittatinny Ridge, helping to ensure this chain of forests in one of the most important landscapes for climate adaptation in Pennsylvania and the Appalachians will remain connected, healthy and more climate resilient into the future.

This once in a generation opportunity creates a model for landscape scale land protection and management in the Central Appalachians while simultaneously protecting critical wildlife habitat, clean water for the Susquehanna River and an iconic Pennsylvania viewshed as well as expanding local recreation and tourism opportunities just outside of Harrisburg.

This is all thanks to critical support TNC has received from our generous donors and partners like the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Perry County.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Please keep your pets under control when visiting the preserve.

Hours

Daily, from dawn to dusk

Highlights

Hiking, bird watching, photography, hunting (seasonal)

Size

1,411 acres

Explore our work in Pennsylvania

Cove Mountain: Thank You The Cove Mountain expansion and protection of a 14-mile corridor along the Kittatinny Ridge is all thanks to the critical support we have received from our generous donors and partners. Thank you.

Visit

  • What to Do

    Cove Mountain Preserve is open daily for public recreation. More than two miles of hiking trails lead to scenic views of the Susquehanna River, surrounding ridges and the historic Rockville Bridge—a railroad bridge built in 1902 and the longest of its kind in the world.

    Thanks to efforts by the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club (SATC) visitors to Cove Mountain can now enjoy both new and enhanced trails. In February 2021, SATC volunteers began improvements on the Yellow Trail to address run off issues that threatened to wash away the trail. A new SATC designed trail winds through the woods, passing incredible big trees and boulders and following the ridge west until it joins the Red Trail to create a loop.

    The property is also open to public hunting through the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Public Access Cooperator Program.

    In addition to its location along the Kittatinny Ridge, Cove Mountain falls within the Susquehanna Water Gaps, one of 28 National Natural Landmarks in Pennsylvania recognized by the National Park Service, and is part of the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area, the Middle Susquehanna River Water Trail and the Susquehanna Birding and Wildlife Trail. It has also been identified as a conservation priority by the Perry County Greenway Plan.

  • What to See

    Migratory birds use corridors like the Kittatinny Ridge as stopover habitat while they travel up and down the continent. The Ridge is used by tens of thousands of migrating raptors including hawks, eagles and falcons each fall.

    In addition to raptors, other important species use the Kittatinny migration corridor, including ruby-throated hummingbirds and monarch butterflies.

    Many mammal species native to the Kittatinny Ridge need wide ranges of intact forest to provide territory and habitat, including black bear, bobcat and fisher. Cove Mountain is also home to at least nine species of bats, as well as the Allegheny woodrat, which was once widespread throughout the region but is now listed as threatened by the state of Pennsylvania.

  • Citizen Science: iNaturalist

    We are creating a citizen science database of all kinds of life—from lichens to ants, mushrooms to plants, birds to mammals and everything in between for our preserves in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

    TNC's roots began with local citizens and scientists concerned about special places and species. That legacy continues today. Across our lands, we are utilizing iNaturalist—a digital platform that gives users an opportunity to share and discuss their findings.

    Our 14 preserve projects in iNaturalist currently have 2,709 observations of 1,219 species made by 47 observers. Of the 14 preserve projects, nine have observations recorded; help us increase that number and our understanding of the species—good and bad, native as well as invasive—that can be found on TNC lands across the state. This information can also help guide and inform our conservation staff's management and monitoring decisions.

  • Preserve Guidelines

    When visiting Cove Mountain Preserve please DO:

    • Take precautions against ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers and sunburn
    • Wear sturdy footwear
    • Pants are recommended, even during warmer months, when ticks are active and poison ivy is present
    • Apply insect repellant and sun protection
    • Bring drinking water
    • Stay on marked trails
    • Remove all litter. This is a “carry-in, carry-out” preserve. Don’t forget bags for dog waste if you’re bringing Fido.
    • Show respect for the people and property at Wesley United Methodist Church of Marysville (whose parking lot they generously allow the public to use for accessing the trails). Please take your trash with you.
    • Enjoy nature!

    Please DO NOT:

    • Feed or disturb wildlife
    • No trapping or removing any other artifacts from the preserve
    • Bring motorized vehicles, ATVs, bikes or horses
    • Bring alcohol or firearms
    • Camp (NO fires allowed!)

Cove Mountain Views

Cove Mountain Preserve is located in Perry County, a region of PA where land protection plays a critical role in local economies that depend on outdoor recreation—a major draw for tourism revenue and an important, growing industry.

View of Cove Mountain from the east bank of the Susquehanna River. A large boulder is in the foreground. There are ripples on the surface of the water.
A wooden trail kiosk with a narrow overhangs shades two large information areas showing trial maps and information about the preserve.
A man walks along a hiking path that stretches into a forest, cutting between tall, slender trees that bend over the trail forming a shaded canopy.
A two-lane blacktop road stretches into the distance between green fields. A heavily forested mountain rises in the background.
Scenic view from the Appalachian Trail. The wide, smooth Susquehanna River flows below the vantage point curving to the left towards the Cove Mountain ridge line.
A man wearing waders stands hip deep in the Susquehanna River casting a fishing rod. The green forested Cove Mountain rises behind him under low white clouds.
A woman stands at a table at an outdoor visitors center. She holds a pitcher full of dirty water showing three children water a quality testing experiment.
View of the Susquehanna River from a trail on Cove Mountain. A break in the center of a stand of trees reveals a bridge crossing the wide river with buildings behind.
A path covered in leaves and pine needles curves through a forest. The leaves are just beginning to turn gold.
A walks on a hiking path. The trail cuts through a bright sunny open space in the forest. The trail disappears into the trees ahead.
A rectangular lime green blaze on a tree marks a trail.
Blazing a Trail In 2021, volunteers from the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club spent months on trail work, adding a new section that creates a loop on Cove Mountain's existing Yellow Trail. © George Garbarino

Future Plans

Recreation and Sightseeing

Cove Mountain Preserve sits alongside the Susquehanna River, just opposite a scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The expanded preserve will provide new opportunities for hiking, hunting, birding and other activities, and will also protect the southern viewshed from Peters Mountain; a view that’s particularly popular with both local hikers ...

Cove Mountain Preserve sits alongside the Susquehanna River, just opposite a scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The expanded preserve will provide new opportunities for hiking, hunting, birding and other activities, and will also protect the southern viewshed from Peters Mountain; a view that’s particularly popular with both local hikers and through hikers traveling along the Appalachian Trail.

TNC will now enter into an inclusive planning process for expanding recreational opportunities that will directly engage the local community to address issues like access points and infrastructure needs.

A separate plan will also be developed to determine management needs focused on conditions such as forest health, climate resilience and wildlife habitat. The property had been managed for timber production for the last 60 years and will undergo a comprehensive forest assessment.

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Early morning view of Cove Mountain.
Cove Mountain Morning light shines on Cove Mountain during autumn. © Shawn Hickey

Cove Mountain's Indigenous History

The word Kittatinny comes from a corruption of the Leni Lenape Nation’s words Kit, meaning great or endless, and Atin, meaning mountain. English Captain John Smith encountered the "great mountain" when he explored the Susquehanna River from the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Kittatinny Ridge remained a boundary to European settlement until the late 1720s/early 1730s. The lands north and west of the Kittatinny Ridge were recognized as indigenous lands but were slowly lost to treaties and invasion by European settlers.

The word Kittatinny comes from a corruption of the Leni Lenape Nation’s words Kit, meaning great or endless, and Atin, meaning mountain. English Captain John Smith encountered the "great mountain" when he explored the Susquehanna River from the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Kittatinny Ridge remained a boundary to European settlement until the late 1720s/early 1730s. The lands north and west of the Kittatinny Ridge were recognized as indigenous lands but were slowly lost to treaties and invasion by European settlers.

The Susquehannock Nation—interpreted as "people of the well-watered land"—lived in most of the drainage of the Susquehanna River, including along the Kittatinny Ridge. Although several tribes were present along the Susquehanna River over the course of Native American history, including Iroquois, Shawnee, Leni Lenape, Conoy, Nanticoke, Tuscarora and Tutelo, the Susquehannock were most likely present on Cove Mountain for an extended period of time.

Like the Iroquois, the Susquehannock lived in longhouses. They were a matrilineal society, meaning they traced descent through the mother’s lineage and men lived with their wives’ families. Around 1675 the Susquehannock ceased to exist as a nation. Smallpox and a long war with neighboring nations (primarily the Iroquois) over control of the beaver pelt trade in the region took its toll.

Running along the eastern shore of the Susquehanna past Cove Mountain was the Paxtang path, which connected the indigenous settlements of Shamokin to the north (modern-day Sunbury), Paxtang (modern-day Harrisburg), and Conestoga to the south. From viewpoints on Cove Mountain, you can see places where the Paxtang path would have followed the river.

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