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Places We Protect

Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain

Pennsylvania

Colorful shrubs surround a rocky landscape. Low, bright red bushes grow in between the flat gray rocks of an open plateau. The tops of trees leafed out in bright orange line the background.
Moosic Mountain Barrens Autumn in the barrens at the Dick and Nancy Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain. © George C. Gress/TNC

Easily accessible from Harrisburg, Philadelphia and New York City, Moosic Mountain is packed with outdoor opportunities.

Please Note: The O'Connor Reservoir Dam and the area immediately surrounding the dam at Eales Preserve is closed to visitors until further notice. Additional signage has also been posted, informing accidental visitors to please stay off the dam.

Overview

Description

The Dick & Nancy Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain provides sweeping views of Pennsylvania’s northeastern corner and represents one of the best locations in the northeastern U.S. for ridge-top heath barrens.

Contrary to its name, the Moosic Mountain “barrens” comprise a healthy mosaic of stunted pine and oak forest dominated by huckleberry, blueberry, rhodora and other low-lying shrubs that attract a broad array of birds, butterflies and moths—including the globally rare sallow moth and barrens buckmoth.

In 2001, TNC purchased 1,200 acres in the heart of Moosic Mountain that were slated for development, protecting sensitive mountaintop habitat and reducing impacts to water quality.

In 2009, TNC named the preserve after Dick and Nancy Eales, whose generosity has enabled us to continue to expand the preserve, which today encompasses about 2,250 acres, and to conduct the robust prescribed burning necessary to maintain the fire-dependent natural community.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Hours

Daily, from dawn to dusk

Highlights

Hiking, hunting (in cooperation with Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations), birding and biking.

Size

2,250 acres. The number grows to approximately 15,000 acres when the preserve is combined with adjacent protected lands owned by the Pennsylvania State Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.

Explore our work in Pennsylvania

Using buckets to draw down water from behind a dam.
O'Connor Dam Draw Down In September 2020, TNC began the process of drawing down the water level behind the dam located on Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain. © Matt Kane / TNC

Update: November 24, 2021

O'Connor Reservoir Dam

Please Note: The breach and removal of the O’Conner Reservoir Dam will begin on December 1, 2021. During the construction phase, the dam and the area immediately surrounding the dam will be closed to visitors.

Background: Since TNC has taken ownership, the O’Conner Reservoir Dam located on Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain has been regularly monitored by TNC and the State of Pennsylvania. 

Please Note: The breach and removal of the O’Conner Reservoir Dam will begin on December 1, 2021. During the construction phase, the dam and the area immediately surrounding the dam will be closed to visitors.

Background: Since TNC has taken ownership, the O’Conner Reservoir Dam located on Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain has been regularly monitored by TNC and the State of Pennsylvania. 

Signs of erosion and water moving through the dam were noted in 2020; in September 2020, TNC began the process of drawing down the water level behind the dam. Given its age and declining structural integrity, lowering the water level enough to take pressure off the face of the more than 100-year-old dam was determined to be the best course of action following consultation with professional engineers, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections’ Division of Dam Safety and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. 

After three tropical storms passed through northeast Pennsylvania in the summer of 2021, it became apparent that the removal of the 128-year-old dam had become a necessary next step. The removal of the impaired and aging O’Conner Reservoir Dam provides an opportunity to restore a headwater stream of the Susquehanna River, which will help improve water quality and wildlife habitats.

Will you help support this work? By making an unrestricted gift to the PA/DE chapter, your money will go towards our highest priority needs related to this critical project. We want to honor your wishes for how your gifts are used. If you wish to designate your gift toward a specific aspect of this dam removal and stream restoration project, please contact PA/DE Deputy Executive Director Donna Bowers at dbowers@tnc.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will you be taking the dam down? Yes, the construction phase of the dam breach will begin on December 1, 2021.
  • Will this harm the wildlife? The water draw down is not anticipated to have any significant impact on local wildlife. Our long-term goal is to restore healthy wildlife habitat and we will take any necessary measures to protect local wildlife and the ecosystem throughout the process.
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Moosic Mountain

TNC works with state government and local partners to foster compatible uses and a sense of ownership among bird watchers, mountain bikers, sportsmen and other community groups interested in protecting Moosic Mountain’s ecological resources.

Low shrubs with brilliant red leaves dominate the foreground, obscuring the view of a narrow foot path that curves behind them into the woods.
A person wearing a yellow shirt and blue helmet navigates a mountain bike over rocky terrain following a line of short trees.
A cluster of bright pink flowers with thin curving petals bloom at the end of a thin branch.
Two dozen people wearing yellow fire gear pose together in a group in an open field at the end of a controlled burn.
White cup shaped flowers with pink edges bloom on a green leafed bush.
A man using a motorized wheelchair enters a preserve.
Improving Accessibility Scott Wilson and Joseph Salva from Individual Abilities in Motion enter TNC’s Dick and Nancy Eales Preserve through a wheelchair-accessible gate installed in 2021. © Joseph Salva

Connect with Nature

Improving Accessibility

In early 2021, avid outdoorsman Scott Wilson set out to visit Eales Preserve—a place he has enjoyed many times over the years—but came up against an obstacle right at the start. An entrance gate installed to deter ATV use on the preserve was making it impassable for people who use wheelchairs or similar mobility equipment. So, Scott—who now use...

In early 2021, avid outdoorsman Scott Wilson set out to visit Eales Preserve—a place he has enjoyed many times over the years—but came up against an obstacle right at the start. An entrance gate installed to deter ATV use on the preserve was making it impassable for people who use wheelchairs or similar mobility equipment. So, Scott—who now uses a wheelchair and is a member of the organization Individual Abilities in Motion (I AM)—reached out to TNC’s Pennsylvania team to see if changes could be made.

That first contact kicked off a working relationship between the two groups to look at how accessibility could be improved at local TNC preserves, with Scott and others from I AM providing firsthand feedback. The first of those changes is a new gate at the Eales preserve that allows wheelchairs, recumbent hand bikes and other mobility equipment to access the trailhead.

“Making places like nature preserves accessible opens up a lot of opportunities for people. It’s important to improve accessibility wherever we can to allow the broadest range of individuals to experience what nature has to offer,” says I AM president Joe Salva. “Just because an individual has a mobility impairment does not mean that they have less desire to enjoy the same places as everyone else does and experience all the beauty this area has to offer.”

I AM focuses on helping people with mobility impairments celebrate and develop their personal abilities so they can more fully engage with the world, making them a perfect partner in making TNC preserves in Pennsylvania and Delaware more accessible for all.

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A smiling man wearing glasses and a baseball cap.
Volunteer Spotlight Mike Krauson has devoted the annual volunteer day provided by his employer to Eales Preserve, picking up trash in and around the preserve. © Mike Krauson

Volunteer Spotlight

Mike Krauson

For the last two years, Mike Krauson has devoted the annual volunteer day provided by his employer to Eales Preserve. In October 2021 Mike went above and beyond, collecting 11 garbage bags of trash, one bin of recyclables, a broken desk, wooden pallets and concrete beams from access points across the preserve. When he realized he had collected ...

For the last two years, Mike Krauson has devoted the annual volunteer day provided by his employer to Eales Preserve. In October 2021 Mike went above and beyond, collecting 11 garbage bags of trash, one bin of recyclables, a broken desk, wooden pallets and concrete beams from access points across the preserve. When he realized he had collected more than his car could haul, Mike called the local township who dispatched a member of the DPW with a truck to remove all the debris off site. Our thanks to Mike for his time and hard work!

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Visit

  • What to See: Plants and Animals

    The preserve boasts one of the best and largest ridge-top heath barrens in Pennsylvania. Color abounds in spring and fall. Look for painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) in late spring on the forested ridges. This low plant has a small white flower with a crimson heart nestled in the center of three dark-green leaves. 

    Moosic Mountain also harbors an array of birds, butterflies and moths—including the globally-rare sallow moth and barrens buckmoth (Hemileuca maia maia). You'll see the moth with its distinctive black bands only when it emerges from underground pupae in the fall. Throughout the spring and early summer, its showy larvae, a spiny black and yellow caterpillar with irritating spines that look like neon anemones, feed almost exclusively on scrub oaks. 

    Visit the preserve during spring to witness songbird migration. Documented breeding birds at Eales include prairie warbler, black-and-white warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, hermit thrush, northern harrier and broad-winged hawk. 

    The small, zebra-striped songbird black and white warbler (Mniotilta varia) breeds in Pennsylvania's forests each summer and spends its winters as far south as Colombia and Venezuela. You may see it creeping along branches searching for insects, but are more likely to hear its very high-pitched two­note song, which some describe as a squeaky wheel. 

    With its flute-like song, the hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) has been lauded by Walt Whitman and is, to many, the voice of Moosic Mountain. The hermit thrush breeds and forages for insects and berries in northeast Pennsylvania's forests after a long journey from its wintering grounds in the southern United States and south to Central America. 

    The northern harrier hawk (Circus cyaneus) can often be seen gliding on the thermals, currents that flow across the mountain ridges. Its feathers are streaky brown, but this low-flying hunter is most recognizable by its long tail, white rump and slightly rounded wings. 

    Game species such as white tail deer, black bear, turkey, ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare and coyote can also be found at the preserve.

    Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is Pennsylvania's state bird. At the peak of the spring mating season, at dawn, you might see a male fanning his tail and drumming-beating the air with his wings to attract a female. Some say it sounds like a car engine starting up. 

    Whether wearing its tawny summer coat or pure white winter fur, the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) can be recognized by the black tips of its ears. The Central Appalachians mark the southern end of the hare's range, so its large, furry feet equip it well for the snowiest of Pocono winters. 

    Contact TNC’s Hauser Nature Center in Long Pond for information about hunting on or near the preserve.

  • Citizen Science: iNaturalist

    Become a citizen scientist!

    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.

    Of the 14 preserve projects in iNaturalist, 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

    While visiting Eales Preserve please DO:

    • Take precautions against ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers and sunburn.
    • Wear sturdy footwear.
    • Tuck pant legs into socks/shoes.
    • Apply insect repellant and sun protection.
    • Bring drinking water.
    • Watch for poison ivy.
    • Stay on marked trails.
    • Remove all litter. 
    • Enjoy nature!

    DO NOT:

    • Feed or disturb wildlife.
    • Release animals or introduce plants.
    • Trap, fish, dig, pick or remove plants or other artifacts from the preserve.
    • Bring motorized vehicles, ATVs, bicycles or horses.
    • Bring alcohol.
    • Camp (NO fires allowed!)
    • Smoke.
    • Swim in the pond.

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