View of Cove Mountain across the Susquehannah River. The rising sun is reflected in the water as the river eddys and pools around the large rocks at its edges and middle.
Cove Mountain Cove Mountain emerges from the Susquehanna River. © Shawn Hickey/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Cove Mountain Preserve

Pennsylvania

Creating a 14-mile corridor of protected lands along the Kittatinny Ridge, one of Pennsylvania's most treasured landscapes.

The Last Piece of the Puzzle

In 2017, The Nature Conservancy purchased roughly 350 acres of Cove Mountain, right on the Susquehanna River water gap. TNC manages the Cove Mountain Preserve to provide recreational opportunities for both locals and visitors, and to support forest health and native wildlife.

Today, TNC has the opportunity to purchase the roughly 1,100-acre parcel adjacent to the existing Cove Mountain Preserve, which would quadruple the size of the property, and complete a 14-mile corridor of protected lands along the Kittatinny Ridge, connecting the preserve to state game lands and legacy TNC easements.

This once in a generation opportunity will create a model for landscape scale land protection and management in the Central Appalachians and will preserve habitat in one of the most important wildlife corridors in the northeastern United States.

To support this campaign, please contact pa_chapter@tnc.org

Illustrated map of mountains, valleys and river showing the outline of Cove Mountain Preserve and adjacent land parcel TNC is planning to purchase.
Last Piece of the Puzzle TNC's purchase of an 1,100-acre parcel adjacent to PA's existing Cove Mountain Preserve would complete a 14-mile corridor of protected lands along the Kittatinny Ridge. © TNC
× Illustrated map of mountains, valleys and river showing the outline of Cove Mountain Preserve and adjacent land parcel TNC is planning to purchase.
View from a rock outcropping of thick white mist rising up from the green forest in the valleyl below.
Kittatinny Ridge A view of Sherman's Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River located in Perry County, from the Hawk Rock overlook in Duncannon, Pennsylvania. © Eric Krukowski
× View from a rock outcropping of thick white mist rising up from the green forest in the valleyl below.
Last Piece of the Puzzle TNC's purchase of an 1,100-acre parcel adjacent to PA's existing Cove Mountain Preserve would complete a 14-mile corridor of protected lands along the Kittatinny Ridge. © TNC
Kittatinny Ridge A view of Sherman's Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River located in Perry County, from the Hawk Rock overlook in Duncannon, Pennsylvania. © Eric Krukowski

Kittatinny Ridge

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.

The Kittatinny represents a vast corridor of connected natural habitats—an incredibly biodiverse superhighway for wildlife, including birds and raptors migrating along the Atlantic flyway. It has been identified by scientists as critical to the future of hundreds of animal and bird species amid a changing climate.

TNC is a lead partner in the Kittatinny Ridge Partnership, a coalition of NGOs, county, state and federal partners, local conservation groups, education partners and local recreation clubs and chapters. The coalition exists to combine resources, set collective goals and create a shared vision for a rugged and protected Kittatinny Ridge corridor for both people and nature. TNC’s primary role in the coalition is to protect priority parcels of land along the Ridge through direct acquisition and easements.

A deer stands at the far end of a two-track trail that winds through a forest of tall trees with green leaves.
Cove Mountain Expansion A deer on a trail in the Cove Mountain Preserve expansion area. TNC has the opportunity to complete a 14-mile corridor of protected lands along PA's Kittatinny Ridge. © Kelly O'Neill
× A deer stands at the far end of a two-track trail that winds through a forest of tall trees with green leaves.
Graphic of a map showing the outline of the state of Pennsylvania with a red pin marking a spot north of Harrisburg along the green Kittatinny Ridge mountain range.
Cove Mountain Expansion The 1,100-acre Cove Mountain expansion area is just a few miles up the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, PA. Outdoor recreation plays a critical role in local economies. © TNC
× Graphic of a map showing the outline of the state of Pennsylvania with a red pin marking a spot north of Harrisburg along the green Kittatinny Ridge mountain range.
Cove Mountain Expansion A deer on a trail in the Cove Mountain Preserve expansion area. TNC has the opportunity to complete a 14-mile corridor of protected lands along PA's Kittatinny Ridge. © Kelly O'Neill
Cove Mountain Expansion The 1,100-acre Cove Mountain expansion area is just a few miles up the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, PA. Outdoor recreation plays a critical role in local economies. © TNC

Perry County Economic Benefits

The Cove Mountain Preserve is located in Perry County, just a few miles up the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, PA. In this part of Pennsylvania, land protection plays a critical role in local economies that depend on outdoor recreation as a major draw for tourism revenue.

In fact, a 2019 report found that the county’s natural, open spaces provided more than $900 million in natural system services, property value benefits and outdoor recreation opportunities—an important, growing industry in Perry County. The same 2019 report found that outdoor recreation brought in nearly $60 million annually in tourist dollars, and that demand was outpacing the ability of local businesses to meet it.

Early morning view of Cove Mountain across the glassy, still Susquehannah River.
COVE MOUNTAIN Morning light shines on Cove Mountain during autumn. © Shawn Hickey

Indigenous History of the Kittatinny Ridge

The word "Kittatinny" comes from a corruption of the Leni Lenape Nation’s words Kit, meaning "great" or "endless," and Atin, meaning "mountain."  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’ family. 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.

A hiking trail covered with autumn leaves beckons ahead into a forest of tall thin trees.
COVE MOUNTAIN TRAIL Hiking trail at the Cove Mountain Preserve. © Shawn Hickey/The Nature Conservancy
× A hiking trail covered with autumn leaves beckons ahead into a forest of tall thin trees.
A wooden trail kiosk with a narrow overhangs shades two large information areas showing trial maps and information about the preserve.
Cove Mountain Preserve Trail kiosk welcomes visitors to Cove Mountain Preserve. © TNC
× A wooden trail kiosk with a narrow overhangs shades two large information areas showing trial maps and information about the preserve.
COVE MOUNTAIN TRAIL Hiking trail at the Cove Mountain Preserve. © Shawn Hickey/The Nature Conservancy
Cove Mountain Preserve Trail kiosk welcomes visitors to Cove Mountain Preserve. © TNC

Future Plans: Recreation and Sightseeing

The Cove Mountain preserve sits alongside the Susquehanna River, just opposite a scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The purchase of this tract will protect the southern viewshed from Peter’s Mountain; a very popular viewshed with hikers along the Appalachian Trail.

The expanded preserve will connect existing Cove Mountain preserve trails to Pennsylvania State Game Lands, which in turn connect to the Appalachian Trail and the town of Duncannon.

The property will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, birding and other passive recreation, and TNC will work with stakeholders and neighboring landowners to develop long-term plans.

Colorful lines show the migration routes of mammals, birds and amphibians across the United States, represented as a large black land mass.
Migration Routes An interactive migration map shows mammal paths in pink, birds in blue, and amphibians in yellow. © Dan Majka/The Nature Conservancy (adapted for print by Nicholas Rapp)
× Colorful lines show the migration routes of mammals, birds and amphibians across the United States, represented as a large black land mass.
A black and yellow butterfly spreads its wings while resting on a green leaf.
Eastern Tiger Butterfly An eastern tiger butterfly at the Cove Mountain Preserve © Shawn Hickey/The Nature Conservancy
× A black and yellow butterfly spreads its wings while resting on a green leaf.
Migration Routes An interactive migration map shows mammal paths in pink, birds in blue, and amphibians in yellow. © Dan Majka/The Nature Conservancy (adapted for print by Nicholas Rapp)
Eastern Tiger Butterfly An eastern tiger butterfly at the Cove Mountain Preserve © Shawn Hickey/The Nature Conservancy

Resilient and Connected Landscapes

Founded in the early 1950s as a private land trust focused on protecting ecologically significant areas, TNC has been in the land protection business for more than 60 years. Today, science guides our land protection efforts so that we have an outsized impact, protecting entire ecosystems that are critical to the health and wellbeing of people and nature.

TNC’s Resilient and Connected Landscapes project is the first study to comprehensively map resilient lands and significant climate corridors across North America. Released in October 2016, the study took eight years to complete, involved 60 scientists, and developed innovative new techniques for mapping climate-driven species migrations.

The study now drives conservation strategies at both TNC and with myriad partners who are working to conserve lands and waters at a continental scale. The forested Appalachian mountain range, stretching from Alabama to Quebec, has been identified by TNC as a priority landscape for land protection and restoration, and the Kittatinny Ridge is a crucial link in the chain.   

In 2017, The Nature Conservancy purchased roughly 350 acres of Cove Mountain, right on the Susquehanna River water gap. Cove Mountain represents TNC’s first nature preserve in central Pennsylvania along the Kittatinny Ridge.

TNC manages the Cove Mountain Preserve to provide recreational opportunities for both locals and visitors, and to support forest health and native wildlife, including migrating raptors and songbirds.

Kittatinny Ridge

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.

The Kittatinny represents a vast corridor of connected natural habitats—an incredibly biodiverse superhighway for wildlife, including birds and raptors migrating along the Atlantic flyway. It has been identified by scientists as critical to the future of hundreds of animal and bird species amid a changing climate.

TNC is lead partner in the Kittatinny Ridge Partnership, a coalition of NGOs, county, state and federal partners, local conservation groups, education partners and local recreation clubs and chapters. The coalition exists to combine resources, set collective goals and create a shared vision for a rugged and protected Kittatinny Ridge corridor for both people and nature. TNC’s primary role in the coalition is to protect priority parcels of land along the Ridge through direct acquisition and easements.

What to See: Animals

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.

Access

The preserve is open daily for public recreation via a series of restored former logging roads.  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. 

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

A mountain covered in green trees rises behind a river.
Cove Mountain Preserve
Creating a 14-mile corridor of protected lands along the Kittatinny Ridge, one of Pennsylvania's most treasured landscapes.

This once in a generation opportunity will create a model for landscape scale land protection and management in the Central Appalachians.

Resources: Maps & Trail Guides

Watch: Protecting the Kittatinny Ridge

Cove Mountain The Nature Conservancy's Pennsylvania staff and partners speak out about why it is so important to protect this nature preserve located along the Kittatinny Ridge.

Support Pennsylvania Nature

Help TNC and partners sustain a vibrant future for the communities and wildlife that share Pennsylvania’s diverse landscape.