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Natural Resources and Wildlife Watching

Old Growth Timber Areas

From the area of Cook Forest State Park came the famous Pennsylvania cork pine, so named because of the white pine's thick, cork-like bark.

There are eleven old growth areas in the park, totaling over 2,300 acres. Most stands are dominated by ancient hemlock and white pine, but also contain ancient under-story trees like:

  • White and chestnut oak
  • Black cherry
  • Red maple
  • Cucumber tree

Many white pine and hemlock trees in these areas approach 350 years old.

Scientists believe these old growth areas began following a large forest fire in 1644. Some trees survived the fire and date back to the early 1500s.

Forest Cathedral Natural Area

The Forest Cathedral Natural Area is home to the finest stand of tall white pine and hemlock in the entire Northeastern U.S. Many of these magnificent pine and hemlock trees exceed three feet in diameter with the tallest pines approaching 200 ft.

It is fitting that this forest remains in the midst of the area that saw the greatest logging boom in the history of Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s, thousands of acres of old growth forests were cut for the shipbuilding and construction industries.

The Forest Cathedral is a National Natural Landmark and has been set aside for protection as a state park natural area.

Clarion River

Thirteen miles of the Clarion River flows through the park. The river corridor contains plants such as:

  • Cardinal flower
  • Mountain laurel
  • Rhododendron
  • Many species of old growth trees

Possible wildlife sightings include:

  • Bald eagle
  • Black bear
  • Deer
  • Great blue heron
  • Kingfisher
  • Merganser
  • Muskrat
  • Porcupine
  • River otter
  • Ruffed grouse
  • Wild turkey

The bird checklist is a comprehensive listing of all birds found in the park, their season, their habitat, and the likelihood of being seen:

Bird Checklist of Cook Forest State Park (PDF)

The Clarion River is designated a National Wild and Scenic River for its scenic beauty, water quality, and archaeological significance.

Sections of the river provide a glimpse into the past. The river was used as a transportation route and signs of settlements are located along the river banks. The most prevalent signs that can be seen are bracket dams and log landings from the logging era.

Geologic History

The bedrock of Cook Forest is mainly sedimentary rock, deposited by an ocean that once covered western Pennsylvania. Heavy erosion of the mountains to the east deposited thick layers of sand, resulting in massive, coarse beds of sandstone. Movements in the earth’s crust eventually lifted this ocean floor to an elevation of 1,200 to 1,600 feet.

Sandstone is unusual because it has few cracks. When the sandstone is exposed, like at Seneca Point, it cracks in large pieces, some as large as a house.