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Ricketts Glen State Park
Pennsylvania State Park
Natural Monument (IUCN III)
Harrison Wright Falls (27 feet (8.2 m)) at Ricketts Glen State Park
Named for: Robert Bruce Ricketts
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
Counties Columbia, Luzerne, Sullivan
Location [1]
 - coordinates 41°19′34″N 76°16′46″W / 41.32611°N 76.27944°W / 41.32611; -76.27944Coordinates: 41°19′34″N 76°16′46″W / 41.32611°N 76.27944°W / 41.32611; -76.27944
 - elevation 2,198 ft (670 m) [1]
Area 13,050 acres (5,281 ha) [2]
Founded 1942 [2]
Managed by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Locator Red.svg
Location of Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania
Location of Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania
Website : Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park is a Pennsylvania state park on 13,050 acres (5,281 ha) in Sugarloaf Township in Columbia County, Fairmount and Ross townships in Luzerne County, and Colley and Davidson townships in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania in the United States. The park is near Benton and offers hiking, camping (one of the two camping areas is on a peninsula extending into the lake), horseback riding (horses not provided in the park), hunting, swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking on 245-acre (99 ha) Lake Jean, as well as cross-country skiing and ice fishing in the winter.

The park contains the Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark; the Falls Trail passes twenty-two named waterfalls along Kitchen Creek, the highest being 94-foot (29 m) Ganoga Falls. Ricketts Glen State Park was chosen by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and its Bureau of Parks as one of "Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks".[3]



Native American pot found along Kitchen Creek circa 1890.

Ricketts Glen State Park is in the Susquehanna River drainage basin, the earliest recorded inhabitants of which were the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannocks. Their 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 lands of the Susquehanna valley were under the nominal control of the Iroquois, who encouraged displaced tribes from the east to settle there, including the Shawnee and Lenape (or Delaware).[4]

On November 5, 1768, the British acquired land, known in Pennsylvania as the New Purchase, from the Iroquois in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix; this included what is now Ricketts Glen State Park.[5] After the American Revolutionary War, Native Americans almost entirely left Pennsylvania.[6] Luzerne County was formed in 1786 from part of Northumberland County, and Fairmount Township, where the waterfalls are, was settled in 1792 and incorporated in 1834.[7] About 1890 a Native American pot, decorated in the style of "the peoples of the Susquehanna region", was found under a rock ledge on Kitchen Creek by Murray Reynolds, for whom a waterfall is named.[8]

The Ricketts family began acquiring land in and around what became the park in 1851, when Elijah Ricketts and his brother Clemuel bought about 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) on North Mountain around what is now known as Ganoga Lake.[9][10] Elijah's son Robert Bruce Ricketts, for whom the park is named, joined the Union Army as a private at the outbreak of the American Civil War and rose through the ranks to become a colonel. After the war, R. Bruce Ricketts returned to Pennsylvania and began purchasing the land around the lake from his father in 1869; eventually he controlled or owned more than 80,000 acres (32,000 ha), including the glens and waterfalls.[10][2]

Waters Meet is the heart of the park, where Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh meet.

Ricketts and the other settlers living in the area were not aware of the glens and their waterfalls until about 1865, when they were discovered by two of the Ricketts' house guests who went fishing and wandered down Kitchen Creek.[9] Ricketts gave most of the waterfalls Native American names, and named others for relatives and friends.[11] Ricketts renamed Long Pond as Ganoga Lake in 1881, based on a suggestion by Pennsylvania senator Charles R. Buckalew. Ganoga is an Iroquoian word which Buckalew said meant "water on the mountain" in the Seneca language.[12] Donehoo's A History of the Indian Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania identifies it as a Cayuga language word meaning "place of floating oil" and the name of a Cayuga village in New York.[13] Whatever the meaning, also Ricketts named the largest waterfall in the park and one of the glens "Ganoga". In 1889 Ricketts hired Matt Hirlinger and five other men to build the trails along the waterfalls. It took them four years to complete the trails and stone steps through the glens.[11]

Ricketts was a lumberman who made his fortune clearcutting nearly all his land, but the forests in the glens were "saved from the lumberman's axe through the foresight of the Ricketts family".[14] After Ricketts died in 1918, the Pennsylvania Game Commission bought 48,000 acres (19,000 ha) from his heirs, via the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company, between 1920 and 1924. This became most of Pennsylvania State Game Lands Number 13, west of the park in Sullivan County.[15] These sales left the Ricketts heirs with over 12,000 acres (4,900 ha) surrounding Ganoga Lake, Lake Jean and the Glens area. The area was approved as a national park site in the 1930s,[2] and the National Park Service operated a Civilian Conservation Corps camp at "Ricketts Glynn" (sic).[16][17] World War II brought an end to this plan for development.[2]

Bridge at Waters Meet, with the National Natural Landmark plaque on the rock at right.

In 1942 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania bought 1,261 acres (510 ha), including the Glens and their waterfalls, from the heirs for $82,000. Ricketts Glen State Park first opened in 1944. The state bought a total of 16,000 acres (6,500 ha) more from the heirs in 1945 and 1950 for $68,000; the park today has about 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) from the Ricketts family and about 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) acquired from others.[2][15] A 1947 newspaper article estimated that the new park would have 50,000 visitors that year, and detailed the work the state had done since acquiring the land. The Falls Trail through the glens was rebuilt, all the stone steps were replaced, and signs were added. Out of concern for greater safety, footbridges with handrails replaced those made from hewn logs, overhanging rock ledges were removed in places, and the trail was rerouted near some falls. The new Evergreen Trail past Adams Falls was built at this time.[14]

In 1969 the Glens Natural Area and its waterfalls was named a National Natural Landmark, and it became a Pennsylvania State Park Natural Area in 1993, which guarantees it "will be protected and maintained in a natural state".[2] In 1996 heavy rains washed out two bridges on the Falls Trail; because of the difficulty of transporting materials on the trail, an Army National Guard helicopter dropped 36 feet (11 m) poles into the glens to rebuild the bridges in early 1997.[18] In the winter of 1997 ice climbing was allowed in the Ganoga Glen section of the park for the first time.[19] That same year local fire companies trained to rescue people injured in the park when icy conditions make reaching and transporting them especially treacherous..[20] In 1998 a four-year project to "repair and improve the Falls Trail" began, with three park employees carrying materials in on foot to stabilize the trail, fix steps, cut down on erosion, and repair some bridges.[21] In 2001, John Young in Hike Pennsylvania: An Atlas of Pennsylvania's Greatest Hiking Adventures wrote of the Falls Trail: "This is not only the most magnificent hike in the state, but it ranks up there with the top hikes in the East."[22]

The Glens Natural Area

Ganoga Falls, tallest in the park at 94 feet (29 m), in winter

The Glens Natural Area, a registered National Natural Landmark since October 12, 1969, is the main scenic attraction in the park. Among perhaps 2,000 acres (810 ha) [23] of old-growth forest including giant Eastern White Pines, Eastern Hemlocks, and oaks, 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. Many of the magnificent trees in this area are over 500 years old, and ring counts on fallen trees have revealed ages as high as 900 years. Diameters of almost 4 feet (1.2 m) are common, and many trees tower to 100 feet (30 m) in height. The area is the meeting ground of the southern and northern hardwood types, creating an extensive variety of trees. In 1993, the Glens Natural Area became a State Park Natural Area and will be protected and maintained in a natural state.[2]

Whitetailed Deer Fawn at Ricketts Glen
Bald Eagle at Lake Jean

A series of trails, covering a total of 5 miles (8 km) parallels the streams as they course down the Glens. Glen Leigh features eight waterfalls. Ganoga Glen has ten named falls, including the 94-foot (29 m) Ganoga Fall, plus another good-sized unnamed waterfall on a side tributary. Ricketts Glen has three waterfalls just below Waters Meet, and two more 2 miles (3.2 km) farther downstream at PA route 118. One of these two, Kitchen Creek Fall, is directly below the highway bridge, which obscures much of the view. The farthest downstream, Adams Fall, is one of the most scenic falls in the park, and is just 0.1 miles (160 m) south of Pennsylvania Route 118, via an easy stroll along a trail from the parking lot.[2]

The Glen hikes described here also include the 1-mile (1.6 km) Highland Trail, which connects the top ends of Glens Ganoga and Leigh to form a triangle; this trail features the "Midway Crevasse," a formation of large rocks. A map is available at the park office near the lake.[2]

Hiking the entire Glens area beginning and ending at PA 118 yields a 7-mile (11 km) hike that includes the Highland Trail. For a shorter hike, one may park at Lake Rose, near the junction of Ganoga Glen and the Highland Trail. It is possible to see all of the waterfalls except the two near the highway by hiking around the triangular area: Highland Trail / Glen Leigh / Ganoga Glen. The distance around the triangle is 3 miles (4.8 km). An optional side trip from Waters Meet along the three falls in the top of Ricketts Glen, then back to Waters Meet, adds 0.5 miles (800 m).[2]

In addition to the above, for those wishing an easy walk to the largest fall, there is a longer but more gradual side trail that leads from the bridge at the top of Ganoga Glen on a winding path through the woods to a point near 94-foot (29 m) Ganoga fall. There are other hiking trails along the lake and nearby in the forest, and several more trails pass through more isolated areas of the park.[2]

Falls Trail Loop

The January 2009 issue of Backpacker Magazine named the Falls Trail Loop as the best hike in Pennsylvania. The trail was rated best in the state as part of the magazine's Reader's Choice Awards, according to a press release from the Columbia Montour Visitors Bureau. The Falls Trail boasts a series of wild, free-flowing water falls, each cascading though rock-strewn clefts. The full loop is 7.2 miles if hiking both the upper and lower sections. [24]


Ricketts Glen State Park is on the Allegheny Plateau and Allegheny Front. The plateau 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.[25] Ganoga Lake is part of the Huntington Creek watershed, where the mean annual precipitation is 40 to 48 inches (1016 to 1219 mm).[26] Weather records for Ricketts Glen State Park show that the highest recorded temperature was 103 °F (39 °C) in 1988, and the record low was −17 °F (−27.2 °C) in 1984. On average, January is the coldest month at the park, July is the hottest month, and June is the wettest month.[27]

Climate data for Ricketts Glen State Park
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high °F (°C) 33
Average low °F (°C) 15
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.76
Source: The Weather Channel[27]

Nearby state parks

The following state parks are within 30 miles (48 km) of Ricketts Glen State Park:[28][29][30][31]

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There are 24 named waterfalls in the park


  1. ^ a b ""Ricketts Glen State Park"". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. August 2, 1979. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Ricketts Glen State Park". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2005-07-01. 
  3. ^ "Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2007-08-08.  Note: Despite the title, there are twenty-one parks in the list, with Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks treated as one.
  4. ^ Richter, pp. 3–46.
  5. ^ Wallace, p. 159.
  6. ^ Wallace, pp. 136–141.
  7. ^ "Luzerne County 3rd class" (PDF). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved December 7, 2009. 
  8. ^ Wren, p. 56, Plate No. 7.
  9. ^ a b William Reynolds Ricketts (1936). "William R. Ricketts House, North Mountain Colley, Ganoga Lake, Sullivan County, PA". Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record. Library of Congress. Retrieved December 18, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Petrillo, p. 40–41.
  11. ^ a b Petrillo, p. 43.
  12. ^ Petrillo, p. 42.
  13. ^ Donehoo, pp. 63–64.
  14. ^ a b (No author) (September 4, 1947). "50,000 will see Rickett's Glen Charms". Williamsport Sun: p. 12. 
  15. ^ a b Petrillo, p. 69.
  16. ^ "Camp Information for SP-9-PA". Pennsylvania CCC Archive. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  17. ^ Paige, John C. (1985). "Appendix C, Table C-1: Directory of CCC Camps Supervised by the NPS (updated to December 31, 1941).". The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1933-1942: An Administrative History. National Park Service, Department of the Interior. OCLC 12072830. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Army drops poles into Ricketts Glen". The Resource, Vol. 1 No. 3. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. January 7, 1997. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Winter fun awaits visitors". The Resource, Vol. 2, Issue 1. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. January 1998. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Ricketts Glen practices for rescues on ice". The Resource, Vol. 1 No. 7. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. March 7, 1997. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Ricketts Glen State Park begins project to shore up trail". The Resource, Vol. 2, Issue 8. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. December 1998. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  22. ^ Young, p. 66.
  23. ^ Mary Byrd Davis (23 January 2008). "Old Growth in the East: A Survey. Pennsylvania". 
  24. ^ Press Enterprise Staff (2009.01.28), "Magazine names trail at Ricketts Glen best hike in Pennsylvania", Press Enterprise: Page 5, 
  25. ^ "Climate of Pennsylvania" (PDF). Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State Climatologist. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  26. ^ Shaw, Lewis C. (June 1984). Pennsylvania Gazetteer of Streams Part II (Water Resources Bulletin No. 16). Prepared in Cooperation with the United States Department of the Interior Geological Survey (1st ed.). Harrisburg, PA: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources. p. 129. OCLC 17150333. 
  27. ^ a b "Monthly Averages for Ricketts Glen State Park". The Weather Channel Interactive, Inc. Retrieved February 16, 2010. 
  28. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Planning and Research, Geographic Information Division. 2007 General Highway Map Columbia County Pennsylvania [map], 1:65,000. Retrieved on 2007-07-27. Note: shows Ricketts Glen State Park
  29. ^ Michels, Chris (1997). ""Latitude/Longitude Distance Calculation"". Northern Arizona University. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  30. ^ 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 Ricketts Glen State Park
  31. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Planning and Research, Geographic Information Division. 2007 General Highway Map Sullivan County Pennsylvania [map], 1:65,000. Retrieved on 2007-07-27. Note: shows Ricketts Glen State Park

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