The Clear Creek State Forest, comprised of 9,089 acres in northern Jefferson County, is named after the crystal clear stream that flows through the tract.
In 1840, the first sawmill was built along Clear Creek in what is the present-day park. The water turbine that operated this early mill is on display in the park museum. During the 1870’s two larger mills were built to cut the large amount of white pine and hemlock that grew on surrounding hillsides. Much of the lumber produced at these mills was made into rafts and floated down the Clarion River to Pittsburgh.
By 1905, nearly all the virgin forest had been cut from the present day State Forest land and soon after, most of this area was burned over. The fire started near the Sigel Hotel and spread north and east, jumping the Clarion River near Heath Pump Station and spreading nearly to Lolita before it was extinguished by rain. Charred scars on old stumps still show evidence of this fire, which also burned down the large steam-powered sawmill located in the State Park.
Chestnut blight spread around 1912 and six years later most of the American Chesnut was dead. This tree made up a large percentage of the forest at that time, and when it died it was replaced by chestnut oak and red maple. Today, you can still find chestnut trees in the surrounding woods as they continue to sprout from old roots. These young trees become infected with the fungus and die within a few years.
By the turn of the century, the deer in this area were hunted to extinction. Since their reintroduction in the early 1900’s by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, their numbers have increased to the point where they have eaten most of the plants that grow in the shade of the forests. Until the number of deer decreases, the areas scheduled for regeneration must be fenced until the seedlings grow above the browse height of the deer.
The first parcel of land, 3,200 acres, was purchased by the State in 1919 for $2.15 per acre, a total of $6880.00. Many additional tracts have been purchased since then, the largest being in 1995.
The first public campsites at Clear Creek were opened in 1922. In May 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) greatly expanded the recreational facilities. By the time they departed in 1937, they had built the cabins, the swimming area, the food concession buildings, restrooms, trails, bridges, and roads.
Pennsylvania’s forest lands are a valuable resource, providing employment, clean water, wildlife habitat, and a place to escape the pressures of civilization. Please enjoy your visit to Penn’s Woods!