Tag Archives: NPC

Elk Country and the NPC Legacy

Each year thousands of people make the trip to Elk Country – home to the largest free-roaming elk herd in the northeastern United States – for the opportunity to catch sight of this magnificent animal in its natural habitat. Located in the northcentral region of Pennsylvania, as many as 1,400 elk roam wild across 3,000 square miles.

Photo credit: Tim Holladay

One of the most popular times of year to view the elk is during the “fall rut,” which typically begins in September and carries through October.  Keep your eyes and ears open during this time, for a chance to see bull elk locking antlers as they compete for a mate or hear the distinct “elk bugle” mating call!  The area also boasts several world class visitor and education centers, an abundance of other wildlife viewing opportunities, and a 127-mile scenic drive that loops through Elk Country.  Visit PA Wilds to help plan your trip and learn to be ELK SMART to help preserve the wild nature of the herd during your visit!

Elk History in PA

Eastern elk once roamed freely throughout their native Pennsylvania range.  However, colonization and unregulated hunting wiped out the native herd by the mid-1800s.  In 1913, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) began reintroducing elk imported from the western United States into the Pennsylvania wild.  Since then, PGC, along with other state agencies and organizations – including the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy – have worked to help conserve and protect the elk and their habitat.

NPC and Partners Expand Elk Habitat in Clinton County 

By the late 1990’s, NPC was on the cusp of its 10th anniversary and was a testament for what the power of partnerships and community-driven conservation efforts could achieve.  So, when a large parcel of land on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in the Sproul State Forest District was rumored for sale, NPC and the community rallied! 

You see, for generations, the community had accessed the land for hiking, hunting and picnicking; and feared private purchase would cut them off from the land they loved.  While at the same time, the PGC was searching for areas to expand the elk herd’s conserved habitat.

Partnerships formed quickly between NPC, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. At a West Keating Township meeting, NPC worked with the community to understand their needs. The heirs of the over 4,000 acres agreed to sell the property for conservation. Additionally, contributions came from large foundations, as well as sportsmen’s groups and individual donors. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources awarded funding through the Keystone Fund and the land was purchased!

In the end, 1,110 acres of new state forest was secured with public access to the river, and 3,330 acres of new elk habitat and hunting ground created as State Game Lands 321.

This piece of the NPC legacy, known as the Kelly-New Garden project, not only helped restore the elk herd to what it is today, but also ensured that these awe-inspiring animals will have a habitat to roam wild in Pennsylvania for generations yet to come. 

Underfoot: Jewelweed & Soapwort

Find out what’s underfoot with NPC member and environmental educator, Susan Sprout! Catch up on past issues of Underfoot: Introduction & BloodrootTrout Lily & ColtsfootBlue Cohosh & Dutchman’s BreechesGround Ivy & Forget-Me-NotsGoldthread & Wild GingerCommon Mullein & Sweet WoodruffAniseroot & Butterfly Weed, Myself .

Jewelweed
A pale yellow earring on a thin wire dangling under light green leaves. That may be an apt description of a pale jewelweed blossom during the summer and right up until the first frost. This native annual reproduces solely from seed each spring, breaking ground close together and just about all at once. Its two larger succulent leaves stand out brightly against the winter duff.

Jewelweed seedlings

Then the juicy stems filled with watery sap begin to grow. Coarsely-toothed leaves covered with microscopic hairs that hold beads of rainwater like jewels pop out alternately along the stems.

Jewelweed young plant

Soon the lovely pendulous flowers appear: yellow for pale jewelweed and orange-spotted for spotted jewelweed. Both species occur in our area, liking wet woods and meadows.

Jewelweed blossom

Now the fun begins. The fertilized flowers morph into bumpy pods – AND – when they are ready, just a breeze or a slight finger tap on them will release the seeds and throw them a good four feet from the parent plant. That is where this plant’s other common name comes from: Touch me not. But do, please! What fun to touch all of the pods and create a seed storm.

Help plant a lot of jewelweed because this is a great plant for squishing up the stems and leaves, then slathering that sap on itchy nettle stings and poison ivy!

Jewelweed seed pod

Soapwort
Soapwort is a plant brought to this country from Western Asia and Europe, having been in use there probably back to the Assyrians. A member of the Pink Family, it is a perennial that likes moist but well-drained soil and spreads by underground stems. I always find this plant growing along Muncy Creek at the Rocks. Easily recognizable by smooth stems thickened at its nodes where the leaves grow, its scalloped five-petaled flowers can be white to light pink.

You may know Soapwort by another name, Bouncing Bet, the old name for a washerwoman whose whole upper torso would move up and down as she scrubbed clothes on a washboard probably using this plant! Why? It contains saponins, substances that produce soapy lather.

Soapwort lather

It was a must that textile workers would use for cleaning newly woven cloth, especially wool. A gentle astringent cleaner can be made by boiling the leaves and roots to extract the saponins. Museums have used this for cleaning old and delicate tapestries. I like to grind the stems and leaves on a wet rock, adding a little water before squeezing out the bubbly suds. A great trick if you’ve gotten into poison ivy on your walk. Use soapwort to thoroughly clean the essential oils of the poison from your skin. No worries…the green washes off!

Susan Sprout is a retired school teacher who continued teaching after retirement at Montour Preserve helping teachers of  handicapped students with nature walks, at the National Shell Museum as a curator of the fossil collection, and as teacher of Shell Studies at the local school on Sanibel Island. Based on her love and study of plants, she does living history presentations of medicinal plants used by Native Americans, colonial immigrants, and people living during the Civil War. Both she and her husband, Richard, serve as cannoneers  with Thompson’s Independent Battery C PA Light Artillery.  Sue has served on the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy board in the past. The Sprouts have been Conservancy members for 29 years.

The Butternut Trail

In celebration of National Trails Day on June 6th, NPC board member, Aaron Lewis, laced up his boots to take us on a virtual trek of the Butternut Trail in Worlds End State Park. Portions of the Butternut Trail traverse NPC’s Flynn acquisition. If you’ve never had the opportunity to hike this popular, loop trail, here’s a quick look at what you can expect!

Trickling brooks, a stately rock outcropping, and a wonderful view of the Loyalsock Creek can be found on the rigorous Butternut Trail Loop. Go after a rain event and expect the small trickles to transform into cascading streams.

Aaron Lewis, NPC Board Member and Forester with Dwight Lewis Lumber Company

The 2.5 mile Butternut Trail makes a circuitous loop through a northern hardwood forest. The trail originates shortly past the State Park Visitors Center on the east side of the Cabin Bridge. There’s a small parking lot on the left near the trailhead.

Now get ready to climb!  At first the trail is somewhat steep as it makes a quick ascent, but soon levels off and arrives at a split and the start of the loop.  The Upper Road to the left travels an old logging road.  The Lower Road to the right journeys parallel to and above the Loyalsock Creek.

Following the Lower Road, you’ll make a moderate incline into the woods, followed by a gradual decline to Butternut Run, a small, intermittent stream with numerous cascades.  Along the way you’ll pass several springs and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Loyalsock Creek.  When you reach Butternut Run, be prepared to cross on foot as there is no bridge.  As you’ll see below, the stream was slightly more than a trickle on Aaron’s hike, but after a heavy rain this section of the trail could be tricky!

Crossing over Butternut Run

After crossing the run, the trail ascends again, becoming rockier, and following steep switchbacks.  Enjoy the unique rock outcroppings and formations along the way!

At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the Loyalsock valley from Butternut Vista.  Worth the climb!

Butternut Vista

After soaking up your views from the top, complete the loop by following the orange blazes.  During this second half of the hike, you’ll cross back over a different section of Butternut Run, travel through several glades, passing more wildflowers and streams along the way!

Circled above, the Butternut Trail on the Worlds End State Park map.

In 1993, NPC purchased over 600 acres of prime forest land, forming the northern and eastern boundaries of Worlds End State Park. In addition to providing public access to this tract, the acquisition allowed creation of sections of the future Butternut Trail (the trail was established by longtime NPC member, Ruth Rode, after the acquisition), and helped conserve a mile of the Loyalsock Trail that would have had to be relocated if the land was not made publicly accessible.

The 600+ acres was transferred to the Bureau of Forestry and is now managed as part of the Loyalsock State Forest – ensuring that the thrill of hiking the Butternut Trail remains available for everyone to enjoy for years to come!

Aaron Lewis is a member of the NPC Board of Directors. He is currently a Forester with Dwight Lewis Lumber Company, and previously worked as a Forester with the
U. S. Forest Service. Aaron began at Penn State’s historic Mont Alto campus before graduating from the University Park campus with a degree in Forest Ecosystem Management. He has served on the Board of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association and is currently on the Board of the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association. Residing in Hillsgrove, PA he is an outdoor recreation enthusiast, and enjoys hiking, paddling, and exploring the Pennsylvania wild.

Underfoot

By: Susan Sprout

The NPC membership is made up of a diverse group of knowledgeable individuals with a shared passion for the natural world. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and kick off Environmental Education Week 2020, we’re welcoming environmental educator and longtime NPC member, Susan Sprout, as a recurring guest of the NPC blog to share her botanical knowledge. Enjoy!

Happy earth…happy us! Let’s face it, without the planet and its many components under our feet, we would not be here.  Can you wrap your brain around the fact that there are over 8.7 billion different species of organisms on earth with us?  We are so totally outnumbered! In a single handful of dirt there may be billions of individual bacteria, fungi and algae living.  Their life functions make the soil rich and alive, which benefits what grows both above and below – the plants and trees we depend upon for our lives and well-being.

I will be sharing with you from time to time some of the extraordinary plants we find underfoot as we walk the earth – roadsides, backyards, easements, parks, trails – where your feet take you. Look down! See what’s growing!

The first native plant I’d like to introduce you to is bloodroot.
While walking through moist, deciduous woods in April and early May, look for the fragile white blooms of bloodroot being held in supportive hugs by their curled leaves. The leaves will flatten to a slightly furry, lobed horseshoe shape as the weather warms. Underground, its rhizome contains an orange-red juice which gives the plant its common name. Native Americans have used bloodroot or Puccoon for hundreds of years as dye, body paint, and medicine. A member of the Poppy Family (Papaveraceae), this plant is native to North America and can range from Quebec to Florida.

Susan is a retired school teacher who continued teaching after retirement at Montour Preserve helping teachers of  handicapped students with nature walks, at the National Shell Museum as a curator of the fossil collection, and as teacher of Shell Studies at the local school on Sanibel Island. Based on her love and study of plants, she does living history presentations of medicinal plants used by Native Americans, colonial immigrants, and people living during the Civil War. Both she and her husband, Richard, serve as cannoneers  with Thompson’s Independent Battery C PA Light Artillery.  Sue has served on the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy board in the past. The Sprouts have been Conservancy members for 29 years.  

Susan leading a past ‘Plant Walk & Talk’ for NPC