Ricketts Glen State Park is a Pennsylvania state park on 13,050 acres (5,280 ha) in Columbia, Luzerne, and Sullivan counties in Pennsylvania in the United States. Ricketts Glen is a National Natural Landmark known for its old-growth forest and 24 named waterfalls along Kitchen Creek, which flows down the Allegheny Front escarpment from the Allegheny Plateau to the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. The park is near the borough of Benton on Pennsylvania Route 118 and Pennsylvania Route 487, and is in five townships: Sugarloaf in Columbia County, Fairmount and Ross in Luzerne County, and Colley and Davidson in Sullivan County.
Ricketts Glen's land was once home to Native Americans. From 1822 to 1827, a turnpike was built along the course of PA 487 in what is now the park, where two squatters harvested cherry trees to make bed frames from about 1830 to 1860. The park's waterfalls were one of the main attractions for a hotel from 1873 to 1903; the park is named for the hotel's proprietor, R. Bruce Ricketts, who built the trail along the waterfalls. By the 1890s Ricketts owned or controlled over 80,000 acres (320 km2; 120 sq mi) and made his fortune clearcutting almost all of that land, including much of what is now the park; however he preserved about 2,000 acres (810 ha) of virgin forest in the creek's three glens. The sawmill was at the village of Ricketts, which was mostly north of the park. After his death in 1918, Ricketts' heirs began selling land to the state for Pennsylvania State Game Lands.
The park offers hiking, ten cabins, camping (one of the two camping areas is on a peninsula in the lake), horseback riding, and hunting. Lake Jean is used for swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. In winter there is cross-country skiing, ice fishing on the lake, and ice climbing on the frozen falls. The Glens Natural Area has eight named waterfalls in Glen Leigh and ten in Ganoga Glen, these come together at Waters Meet; downstream in Ricketts Glen there are four to six named waterfalls. The park has four rock formations from the Devonian and Carboniferous periods, and is home to a wide variety of plants and animals.
It was named an Important Bird Area by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society and is an Important Mammal Area too. Ricketts Glen State Park was chosen by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and its Bureau of State Parks as one of "Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks".
Geology and climate:
Ricketts Glen State Park covers two different physiographic provinces: the Allegheny Plateau in the north, and the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians in the south. The boundary between these is a steep escarpment known as the Allegheny Front, which rises up to 1,200 feet (370 m) above the land to the south. Within the park, Kitchen Creek has its headwaters on the dissected plateau, then drops approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) down the Allegheny Front in 2.25 miles (3.62 km). Much of this drop occurs in Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen, two narrow valleys carved by branches of Kitchen Creek, which come together at Waters Meet. Ricketts Glen lies south of and downstream from Waters Meet, and here the terrain becomes less steep. There are 24 named waterfalls in the three glens.
The rocks exposed in the park were formed in the Devonian and Carboniferous periods between 370 and 340 million years ago, when the land was part of the coastline of a shallow sea that covered a great portion of what is now North America. The high mountains to the east of the sea gradually eroded, causing a build-up of sediment made up primarily of clay, sand and gravel. Tremendous pressure caused the formation of the sedimentary rocks that are found in the park and in the Kitchen Creek drainage basin: sandstone, shale, siltstone, and conglomerates.
Ricketts Glen State Park is on the Allegheny Plateau, which has a continental climate with occasional severe low temperatures in winter and average daily temperature ranges (the difference between the daily high and low) of 20 °F (11 °C) in winter and 26 °F (14 °C) in summer. The park is in the Huntington Creek watershed, where the mean annual precipitation is 40 to 48 inches (1016 to 1219 mm). Weather records for Ricketts Glen State Park show that the highest recorded temperature at the park was 103 °F (39 °C) in 1988, and the record low was −17 °F (−27 °C) in 1984. On average, January is the coldest month, July is the hottest month, and June is the wettest month.
It has been estimated that before the arrival of William Penn and his Quaker colonists in 1682, up to 90 percent of what is now Pennsylvania was covered with woods: over 31,000 square miles (80,000 km2) of Eastern White Pine, Eastern Hemlock, and a mix of hardwoods. By 1890, Ricketts' land was the largest tract of old-growth forest remaining in the state, and though he made his fortune clearcutting nearly all his land, the forests in the glens of Ricketts Glen State Park were "saved from the lumberman's axe through the foresight of the Ricketts family". The rough terrain of the glens made it difficult to harvest timber from the area. Many of the old-growth trees are believed to be over 500 years old, and ring counts on fallen trees have revealed ages of over 900 years.
Glens Natural Area:
A registered National Natural Landmark since 1969, the Glens Natural Area is the main scenic attraction in the park and covers 2,845 acres (1,151 ha). Among perhaps 2,000 acres (810 ha) of old-growth forest, two branches of Kitchen Creek cut through the deep gorges of Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh and unite at Waters Meet; then flow through Ricketts Glen. These old trees are commonly up to 100 feet (30 m) tall, with diameters of almost 4 feet (1.2 m).
The park has a great variety of trees as it lies at the boundary between the northern and southern types of hardwoods. In 1993, the state designated the Glens Natural Area a State Park Natural Area, which means that it "will be protected and maintained in a natural state". No buildings or latrines are allowed in the natural area, and the bridges in it are built with wood, not steel or concrete.
Ricketts Glen State Park was named part of an Important Mammal Area because it "support critical habitat for a wide range of mammals"; Pennsylvania has 64 wild mammal species. The park has an extensive forest cover of hemlock-filled valleys and hardwood tree-covered mountains, which makes it a habitat for big woods wildlife. Animals such as White-tailed Deer, Black Bear, Wild Turkey, Red and Gray Squirrels, Porcupine, and Raccoon are seen fairly regularly. Less common creatures include Beaver, Bobcat, Coyote, Fisher, Mink, Muskrat, Red Fox, River Otter, and Timber Rattlesnake. Ricketts Glen is also known for its wild flowers, butterflies, and dragonflies.
Glens Natural Area:
A registered National Natural Landmark since 1969, the Glens Natural Area is the main scenic attraction in the park and covers 2,845 acres (1,151 ha). Among perhaps 2,000 acres (810 ha) of old-growth forest, two branches of Kitchen Creek cut through the deep gorges of Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh and unite at Waters Meet; then flow through Ricketts Glen. These old trees are commonly up to 100 feet (30 m) tall, with diameters of almost 4 feet (1.2 m). The park has a great variety of trees as it lies at the boundary between the northern and southern types of hardwoods. In 1993, the state designated the Glens Natural Area a State Park Natural Area, which means that it "will be protected and maintained in a natural state". No buildings or latrines are allowed in the natural area, and the bridges in it are built with wood, not steel or concrete.
Important Bird Area:
Pennsylvania Important Bird Area (IBA) #48 , also known as the North Mountain IBA, encompasses 114,978 acres (46,530 ha), including all 13,047 acres (5,280 ha) of the state park and Pennsylvania State Game Lands Numbers 13, 57, and 66. The Pennsylvania Audubon Society designated the IBA, which is defined as a globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations. Ricketts Glen State Park is featured in the Audubon Society's Susquehanna River Birding and Wildlife Trail Guide.
Hunting, fishing and boating:
10,144 acres (4,105 ha) of the park are open to hunting and trapping. Common game animals include Black Bear, Gray Squirrel, Ring-necked Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, and White-tailed Deer. The common fur-bearing animals in Ricketts Glen State Park are Beaver, Bobcat, Coyote, Mink, Muskrat, and Raccoon.
Cabins, camping, swimming, and picnics:
Ricketts Glen State Park has 10 modern cabins that are available to rent on a year-round basis. All cabins are furnished with electric heat, two or three bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and bath. Cabin renters must bring their own household items such as linens and cookware. One cabin is ADA accessible. There are 120 campsites at Ricketts Glen State Park.
Each campsite has access to washhouses with flush toilets, showers, and laundry tubs. The campsites also have fire rings and picnic tables. There are two camping areas on the shores of Lake Jean, with one of the campgrounds on a peninsula. There is also an organized group tenting area, which can accommodate six groups of up to 40 persons.