A salamander moves through grass.
Red-backed Salamander A red-backed salamander at the Forest Pools Preserve in Pennsylvania. © The Nature Conservancy/Shawn Hickey

Places We Protect

Forest Pools Preserve at Kings Gap

Pennsylvania

This preserve provides a snapshot of why wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts seek out South Mountain’s lands, waters and natural beauty.

This treasured pocket of the South Mountain landscape, adjacent to Kings Gap State Park and Environmental Education Center, serves as a demonstration site for The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to conserve the area’s unique natural heritage, especially vernal pools—temporary springtime wetlands that host and nourish globally rare salamanders, frogs and other woodland species before drying up by summertime. Using science, TNC, together with our partners at the state park and several local landowners, are working to safeguard these habitats that are so vital to the health and natural heritage of this Central Pennsylvania landscape.

Location

Carlisle, Pennsylvania in Cumberland County, 45 miles southwest of the city of Harrisburg

Threats

Lost or and compromised habitat, invasive species and illegal trespassing activities such as trash dumping and ATVs. Also, while soil pH has remained steady for more than two decades, acid rain or any other source of additional alkalinity could jeopardize the area’s fragile habitat.

What’s At Stake

Species unique to vernal pool habitats, including wood frogs and Jefferson, spotted and marbled salamanders. Other common amphibians found at the preserve include red-spotted newts, spring peepers, American toad and Fowler's toad. Fairy shrimp, an unusual crustacean species and rare plants such as the pink lady's slipper can also be found here. The South Mountain landscape also boasts hardwood and coniferous forest and suitable habitat for a variety of reptiles, including the box turtle, the five-lined skink (one of Pennsylvania’s few lizards), the northern copperhead and the timber rattlesnake.

Milestones

In the 1970’s, TNC acquired the land that was eventually transferred to the state of Pennsylvania to become the current Kings Gap State Park and Environmental Education Center. Later, in 2007, the Conservancy acquired an adjacent parcel that today comprises the Forest Pools Preserve. Since then, TNC has worked closely with the state park and other partners to identify vernal pools for protection and restoration, and implement additional conservation strategies to benefit the health of the surrounding forest.

The preserve is open throughout the year, for cross-country skiing, bird watching, photography and a self-guided tour of the vernal pool restoration sites. Visitors are also encouraged to visit the adjacent Kings Gap State Park and Environmental Education Center for public events and workshops taking place throughout the year. Note that camping, hunting, motorized vehicles, bicycles and horses are prohibited.

A salamander moves in grass.
Forest Pools Preserve at Kings Gap
This preserve provides a snapshot of why wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts seek out South Mountain’s lands, waters and natural beauty..

Support Pennsylvania Nature

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