Quehanna Wild Area is a wildlife area within parts of Cameron, Clearfield, and Elk counties in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania; with a total area of 48,186 acres (75 sq mi; 195 km2), it covers parts of Elk and Moshannon State Forests. Founded in the 1950s as a nuclear research center, Quehanna has a legacy of radioactive and toxic waste contamination, while also being the largest state forest wild area in Pennsylvania, with herds of native elk. The wild area is bisected by the Quehanna Highway and is home to second growth forest with mixed hardwoods and evergreens.
Clear cut wasteland known as the “Pennsylvania Desert” in Pennsylvania, USA
Quehanna has two state forest natural areas: the 1,215-acre (492 ha) Wykoff Run Natural Area, and the 917-acre (371 ha) Marion Brooks Natural Area. The latter has the largest stand of white birch in Pennsylvania and the eastern United States. Quick facts: Country, State … The land that became Quehanna Wild Area was home to Native Americans, including the Susquehannock and Iroquois, before it was purchased by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1784. Settlers soon moved into the region and, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the logging industry cut the virgin forests; clearcutting and forest fires transformed the once verdant land into the “Pennsylvania Desert”.
Men of Civilian Conservation Corps Camp S118-PA, from the Medix Run Camp in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, USA. Truck is labeled ECW (Emergency Conservation Work, original name of the CCC) above the windshield, and “S-118 F-101” on the door.
Pennsylvania bought this land for its state forests and in the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps worked to improve them. In 1955 the Curtiss-Wright Corporation bought 80 square miles (210 km2) of state forest for a nuclear research and manufacturing facility. They named their facility Quehanna for the nearby West Branch Susquehanna River, itself named for the Susquehannocks. Curtiss-Wright left in 1960, after which a succession of tenants further contaminated the nuclear reactor facility and its hot cells with radioactive isotopes, including strontium-90 and cobalt-60. The manufacture of radiation-treated hardwood flooring continued until 2002. Pennsylvania reacquired the land in 1963 and 1967, and in 1965 established Quehanna as a wild area, albeit one with a nuclear facility and industrial complex. The cleanup of the reactor and hot cells took over eight years and cost $30 million; the facility was demolished and its nuclear license terminated in 2009. Since 1992 the industrial complex has been home to Quehanna Motivational Boot Camp, a minimum-security prison. Quehanna Wild Area has many sites where radioactive and toxic waste was buried, some of which have been cleaned up while others were dug up by black bears and white-tailed deer. In 1970 the name was officially changed to Quehanna Wild Area, and later that decade the 75-mile (121 km) Quehanna
Hoover Road Trail (the former Driftwood Pike) in Wykoff Run Natural Area in Quehanna Wild Area, Cameron County, Pennsylvania, USA.
Trail System was built through the wild area and surrounding state forests. Primitive camping by hikers is allowed, but the area has no permanent residents. The trails are open to cross-country skiing in the winter, but closed to vehicles. Quehanna is on the Allegheny Plateau and was struck by a tornado in 1985. Defoliating insects have further damaged the forests. Quehanna Wild Area was named an Important Bird Area by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society, and is home to many species of birds and animals. Eco-tourists come to see the birds and elk, and hunters come for the elk, coyote, and other game. History Native Americans The Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannocks were the earliest recorded inhabitants of the West Branch Susquehanna River basin, which includes Quehanna Wild Area. They were a matriarchal society that lived in stockaded villages of large long houses. The Susquehannocks’ numbers were greatly reduced by disease and warfare with the Five Nations of the Iroquois, and by 1675 they had died out, moved away, or been assimilated into other tribes. After this, the Iroquois exercised nominal control of the lands of the West Branch Susquehanna River valley. They also lived in long houses, primarily in what is now New York, and had a strong confederacy which gave them power beyond their numbers. To fill the void left by the demise of the Susquehannocks, the Iroquois encouraged such displaced eastern tribes as the Shawnee and Lenape (or Delaware) to settle in the West Branch watershed. The Seneca tribe of the Iroquois hunted in much of Pennsylvania and the Quehanna area. The Iroquois and other tribes used the Great Shamokin Path, the major native east–west path connecting the Susquehanna and Allegheny River basins, which passed south of what is now the wild area. The native village of Chinklacamoose (or Chingleclamouche) was on this path at the West Branch Susquehanna River, at what is now Clearfield to the southwest of Quehanna. The Sinnemahoning Path along Sinnemahoning Creek ran north of Quehanna; as the path with the gentlest grade, it may have been the route the first Paleo-Indians took entering this part of Pennsylvania from the west. The French and Indian War (1754–1763) and the subsequent colonial expansion encouraged the migration of many Native Americans westward to the Ohio River basin. In October 1784, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired a large tract of land, including what is now Quehanna Wild Area, from the Iroquois in the Second Treaty of Fort Stanwix; this acquisition is known as the Last Purchase as it completed the series of purchases from the resident Native American tribes of lands within the boundaries of Pennsylvania, initiated by William Penn and continued by his heirs. Although most of the Native Americans left this area of Pennsylvania, the state’s Native American heritage can be found in many of its place names. The Susquehannocks were also known as the Susquehanna, from which the Susquehanna River and its West Branch obtained their names. In the 1950s the Curtiss-Wright Corporation coined the name “Quehanna” for its nuclear reservation, which it derived from the last three syllables of “Susquehanna”, “in honor of the river that drained the entire region”. Part of Quehanna Wild Area lies in the Moshannon State Forest, named for Moshannon Creek, which means “moose stream” or “elk stream” in the Lenape language. Sinnemahoning Creek’s name means “stony salt lick” in Lenape. Lumber era Prior to the arrival of William Penn and his Quaker colonists in 1682, forests covered up to 90 percent of what is now Pennsylvania: more than 31,000 square miles (80,000 km2) of eastern white pine, eastern hemlock, and a mix of hardwoods. Scull’s 1770 map of the Province of Pennsylvania showed the colonists’ ignorance of the land north of the West Branch Susquehanna River; Sinnemahoning Creek was missing and the region that includes Quehanna was labeled “Buffaloe Swamp”. This began to change when the land was purchased from the Iroquois in 1784, and became part of Northumberland County. In 1795 it became part of Lycoming County; as the new county was divided into more townships, Quehanna became part of Chingleclamouche Township (named for the native village). Chingleclamouche Township was included in Clearfield County when it was established in 1804. Later it was divided between at least three counties and many townships, and no longer exists under that name. A splash dam discharging water and logs in the West Branch Susquehanna River basin The southern part of Quehanna Wild Area is now in parts of Covington, Girard, and Karthaus townships in Clearfield County; they were incorporated in 1817, 1832, and 1841. The northwest part of Quehanna is in Benezette Township in Elk County, established in 1843. The northeast part of Quehanna is in Cameron County (incorporated in 1860) in Gibson Township, which was formed in 1804 while part of Clearfield County. The first European American settlers arrived in Chingleclamouche Township in about 1793, and the first sawmill in Clearfield County began operating in 1805. Settlers initially occupied land along the river and creeks, as these provided a means of transportation. Some settlers would harvest timber and float it downstream once a year to make money for items they could not produce themselves, but by 1820 the first full-time lumbering operations began in the region. The white pine was the most sought after tree, yielding spars for ships and timber for buildings. Hardwoods were also harvested, and eventually hemlocks were cut for their wood and their bark, which contained tannins used in tanning leather. A logging train of the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Co., which clearcut the Quehanna plateau from 1907 to 1911. As lumber became an industry in Pennsylvania, the rivers and creeks were declared public highways by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. This permitted their use to float logs to sawmills and markets. Log booms were placed on the West Branch Susquehanna River to catch the floating timber; Lock Haven built a boom in 1849, and Williamsport’s Susquehanna Boom opened in 1851. Businesses purchased vast tracts of land and built splash dams on the creeks; these dams controlled water in small streams that would otherwise be unable to carry logs and rafts. For example, in 1871 a single splash dam on the Bennett Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek could release enough water to produce a wave 2 feet (0.6 m) high on the main stem for two hours. Mosquito Creek, which drains much of the southern part of Quehanna Wild Area, had at least nine splash dams in its watershed. This was the predominant lumber transport system in the Quehanna region from 1865 to 1885 and after 1850, five different kinds of lumber rafts could be found on its streams and river.
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