The ancient forests which covered this region before the arrival of European settlers were cleared for various forest products including lumber, bark, tannin for leather, chemical wood, and paper pulp. Ultimately, uncontrolled wildfires burned most of the cut-over forest, accelerating erosion and sedimentation which, in turn, caused degradation of watersheds and streams. Concern about potable water was one catalyst which led to the creation of the state forest system.
In 1898, the first purchase of land for Sproul State Forest occurred near Bull Run on Young Woman's Creek. The location is marked with a suitable monument. Since then, Sproul State Forest has grown to 305,000 acres—the largest in the Pennsylvania’s state forest system. The southern tract of Sproul State Forest is bounded on three sides by the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Within this area are about 450 square miles where there is no electricity, permanent homes, or commercial telephone service. For the Eastern United States, this is certainly a remote area. The south-side is bisected by PA 144 from Snow Shoe to Renovo. The northern tract of Sproul State Forest is bounded by the West Branch of the Susquehanna River on the south and PA Route 44 on the north.