Lehigh Gorge State Park: Wikis


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Lehigh Gorge State Park
Pennsylvania State Park
Natural Monument (IUCN III)
At Lehigh Gorge State Park, Pennsylvania; Rockport access.
Named for: Lehigh Gorge
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
Counties Carbon, Luzerne
Location Rockport [1]
 - coordinates 40°57′58″N 75°45′31″W / 40.96611°N 75.75861°W / 40.96611; -75.75861Coordinates: 40°57′58″N 75°45′31″W / 40.96611°N 75.75861°W / 40.96611; -75.75861
 - elevation 1,027 ft (313 m) [1]
Area 4,548 acres (1,841 ha)
Northern terminus
 - location Kidder Township
 - coordinates 41°06′21″N 75°43′30″W / 41.10583°N 75.725°W / 41.10583; -75.725
 - elevation 1,514 ft (461 m)
Southern terminus
 - location Jim Thorpe
 - coordinates 40°52′21″N 75°44′18″W / 40.8725°N 75.73833°W / 40.8725; -75.73833
 - elevation 559 ft (170 m)
Founded 1980
Managed by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Nearest city Hazelton, Pennsylvania
Location of Lehigh Gorge State Park in Pennsylvania
Location of Lehigh Gorge State Park in Pennsylvania
Website : Lehigh Gorge State Park

Lehigh Gorge State Park is a 4,548 acres (1,841 ha) Pennsylvania state park in Luzerne and Carbon Counties, Pennsylvania in the United States. The park encompasses the Lehigh Gorge, which stretches along the Lehigh River from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control dam in Luzerne County to Jim Thorpe in Carbon County. The primary recreational activity at Lehigh Gorge State Park is white water rafting.[2]


Park access

There are three primary access areas for the park. The northern access point is at White Haven, just off exit 273 of Interstate 80 on Pennsylvania Route 940. The central access point is near Rockport, a few miles off Pennsylvania Route 93 near the borough of Weatherly. The southern access point is just off exit 74 of Interstate 476 near Glen Onoko and Pennsylvania Route 903.[2]


The Lehigh River forms the border between Carbon and Luzerne counties in the northern part of the park. The northern end of Lehigh Gorge State Park is just below the US Army Corps of Engineers Francis E. Walter Dam, in Bear Creek Township on the right bank (Luzerne County) and Kidder Township on the left bank (Carbon County). The Lehigh River flows generally south and enters Dennison Township, then the borough of White Haven, the northern access point, on the right (Luzerne) bank. It enters the borough of East Side, opposite White Haven, on the left (Carbon) bank. Leaving the boroughs, the river enters Foster Township on the right (Luzerne) bank, and returns to Kidder Township, passing Hickory Run State Park on the left (Carbon) bank.[3][4]

A section of the cascade waterfalls downstream from the Glen Onoko Falls

The river and park then leave Luzerne County, with the southern part of the park entirely within Carbon County. Lehigh Township is on the right bank, with the river entering Penn Forest Township soon after on the left bank. The river veers west here and makes a large, tight bend at Rockport and the central access point (right bank), before heading back east, then south, west, and then generally south again. Some of the land bordering the river here is Pennsylvania State Game Lands Number 141. The park then enters the borough of Jim Thorpe on the left bank, then the borough of Nesquehoning on the right bank, with the Glen Onoko southern access point on the right bank in Lehigh Township, just before Nesquehoning. Soon both banks of the river are within the borough of Jim Thorpe, and shortly after this the park ends, just above the Pennsylvania Route 903 bridge.[3]

The Lehigh Gorge Trail, a multi-use rail trail, follows the right bank of the Lehigh River south through the park from the village of Port Jenkins in Dennison Township in Luzerne County to Glen Onoko in Lehigh Township in Carbon County.[5]



The history of Lehigh Gorge State Park is tied into the development of anthracite coal mining, which was once the center of the economy of northeastern Pennsylvania. Coal was discovered near Summit Hill in 1791, leading to rapid development of the area to mine the coal from the mountains and ship it to the cities of the east coast of the United States. However, Lehigh Gorge and its rapid waters stood in the way as barges could not pass the rapids. This problem was solved by Josiah White and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, which built a canal through the gorge by reshaping the river. Twenty dams and twenty nine locks were built between what was then known as Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) and White Haven. The Upper Grand Section of the Lehigh Canal was destroyed by severe flooding in the mid-1800s and was eventually replaced by railroads.


Naturalist and painter John James Audubon visited the Lehigh Gorge in 1829 and spent over a month painting the birds of the area. At this time the gorge was largely untouched by human hands, but Audubon could see that this was not to last. The demand for lumber was intense during the mid to late 1800s and the forests of much of Pennsylvania were stripped bare. Lehigh Gorge was no exception, its old-growth forests of white pine and hemlock were harvested and sent down the Lehigh River. The wood was used for lumber and the bark was used in tanneries to make leather. The second largest tannery in the United States was along the Lehigh River at the small town of Lehigh Tannery. By 1875 most of the saleable timber had been clear-cut,with many acres of dried treetops and other wooden debris left on the ground. That same year a spark from a passing coal-fired steam locomotive ignited a massive forest fire that burned the debris, the remaining standing timber, the sawmills, and their lumber stockpiles. This forest fire brought about the end of the lumber era in the Lehigh Gorge.

From a 1907 postcard

From resort to state park

Lehigh Gorge was a resort area for a brief time at the turn of the twentieth century. Railroads operated tourist lines that led to a resort area at Glen Onoko. The resort hotel there had 47 rooms, tennis courts, a dance pavilion, and trails that led to the scenic Glen Onoko Falls. This area was very popular with people seeking to get away from the polluted cities in the northeastern United States. The hotel and surrounding forests were destroyed by fire in the 1910s and the Lehigh Gorge area was largely forgotten until the 1970s. The abandonment of the main line of the Central Railroad of New Jersey through the Gorge (in 1972) provided the necessary real estate for the trail. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased this right of way from the Reading Company, leading to the establishment of Lehigh Gorge State Park in 1980.


An overlook on the Glen Onoko Falls Trail.

The primary recreational use of Lehigh Gorge State Park is on the whitewater of the gorge. Other uses are hiking, bicycling, sight seeing and animal/bird watching along the abandoned railroad grade of the Lehigh Gorge Trail. The park is also open to hunting and fishing.


Rafting is very popular in Lehigh Gorge State Park. The Lehigh River is rated a Class III river on the International Scale of River Difficulty, although this depends on the water conditions, which are generally best in the spring. The conditions are controlled by the amount of rainfall in the area and by the amount of water released from the Francis E. Walter Dam at White Haven by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. All boaters must wear life jackets that are in compliance with the rules and regulations of the United States Coast Guard. Several licensed commercial outfitters currently operate on the Lehigh River.

The Lehigh River in Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Hunting and fishing

Hunting is permitted in much of Lehigh Gorge State Park. Hunters are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The common game species are Ruffed Grouse, squirrels, turkey, white-tailed deer, black bear and rabbits. The hunting of groundhogs is not permitted at the park. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission assures that anglers will have plenty of chances to catch fish by stocking trout in the waters of the Lehigh River.

Nearby state parks

The following state parks are within 30 miles (48 km) of Lehigh Gorge State Park:[6][7]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Lehigh Gorge State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. August 30, 1990. http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/f?p=gnispq:3:::NO::P3_FID:1196530. Retrieved 2008-06-04.  
  2. ^ a b "Lehigh Gorge State Park". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/lehighgorge.aspx. Retrieved 2007-01-13.  
  3. ^ a b Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Planning and Research, Geographic Information Division. 2007 General Highway Map Carbon County Pennsylvania [map], 1:65,000. Retrieved on 2007-07-27. Note: shows Lehigh Gorge State Park
  4. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Planning and Research, Geographic Information Division. 2007 General Highway Map Luzerne County Pennsylvania [map], 1:65,000. Retrieved on 2007-07-27. Note: shows Lehigh Gorge State Park
  5. ^ "Lehigh Gorge State Park Map". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/STATEPARKS/PARKS/lehighgorge/lehighgorge_mini.pdf. Retrieved 2007-09-03.  </ref
  6. ^ Michels, Chris (1997). "Latitude/Longitude Distance Calculation". Northern Arizona University. http://www2.nau.edu/~cvm/latlongdist.html. Retrieved 2008-04-23.  
  7. ^ "Find a Park Northeast Pennsylvania Mountains". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/region_northeast.aspx. Retrieved 2007-01-13.  

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