Lush, forested ridges surround a misty valley in Pennsy
West Branch Forest Susquehanna River mist seen from a West Branch Forest © George C. Gress

Places We Protect

West Branch Forest Preserve

Pennsylvania

Situated in the heart of Pennsylvania’s High Allegheny Plateau, the West Branch Forest Preserve offers an unspoiled view for 50 miles.

Adjoined by state conservation lands and in close proximity to Hyner View State Park, a popular hang gliding area, The Nature Conservancy's West Branch Forest Preserve is nestled within an area many consider to be a recreational paradise. In addition to supporting opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, the preserve serves as a research and demonstration project for sustainable forestry, earning Forest Stewardship Council certification—the global gold standard for forest management—in 2008. Since then, TNC has implemented many activities designed to restore degraded forest and establish new, high-quality early and late-successional forest at the preserve.

Location

Gallagher and Grugan Townships, Clinton County

Threats

Nearby natural gas drilling and gas transmission activities threaten to fragment forests, which could compromise water quality in the area. Illegal ATV trespass has also been observed on parts of the property. New forest pests are being introduced through increased human activity, and are threatening the health of our forests.

What’s At Stake

The preserve and neighboring Sproul State Forest harbor 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.

Milestones

TNC purchased the 3,034-acre West Branch tract from a private owner because it connected with existing state-owned holdings in the Sproul State Forest and Bucktail Natural Area to connect a total of 18,000 acres.

Visitors to the West Branch Forest Preserve have an opportunity to witness all of the activities implemented at a sustainably-managed, working forest. These include vegetation control, mowing, prescribed fire, herbicide application, warm season grasses, enrichment plantings, wood biomass harvests and a one-acre hybrid American chestnut research orchard.

The preserve and its system of trails may also be used for hiking, birding, hunting, fishing and photography. The Nature Conservancy especially encourages visitors to enjoy unspoiled views that stretch for nearly 50 miles across mountains to the northwest and southeast.

A historic depression-era stone craftsman cabin serves as the property’s base camp. Certain activities are prohibited, including trapping, horseback riding, camping, fires and off-road vehicle use.

West Branch Forest 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 in accordance with PGC regulations. Additionally, fishing is permitted, in accordance with Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations, at Johnson and Ritchie runs—two streams that have been rated "Class A Wild Trout Waters" due to healthy populations of naturally reproducing native brook trout.

Another way to enjoy the preserve is to participate in the annual Keystone Trails Association event, Prowl the Sproul, or train to compete in the 25K hike/run Hyner View Trail Challenge that crosses through a portion of the preserve. The Conservancy also sponsors volunteer work days, occasional workshops and field tours, and the popular staff-led Volunteer Camping Weekends each May and October.

Resources

View of mountain ridges covered in trees.
West Branch Forest Preserve
West Branch offers an unspoiled view for 50 miles across mountains to the north and south.

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