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Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape

From Valley Forge National Historic Park to the historic City of Reading, and the surrounding six counties, the 1.2 million-acre Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape in southeastern Pennsylvania is a region of special historical, natural, recreational, and economic importance.

Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lebanon, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Montgomery counties are among the state’s most populated counties. They are also home to critical unprotected lands such as:

  • Source water
  • Head waters
  • Riparian buffers
  • Watershed lands
  • Natural areas
  • Contiguous forested lands
  • Key habitats, farmland, and greenway connectors

Within the landscape are:

  • The largest unbroken forest between Washington D.C. and New York City (12,930 acres)
  • 725 miles of exceptional value and high-quality streams
  • 73 miles of the Schuylkill River, the source of drinking water for 1.75 million people
  • Schuylkill River Bike and Water Trail, Perkiomen Bike and Water Trail, Brandywine Greenway Trail, Horse-Shoe Trail, Pennsylvania Highlands Trail, and the Appalachian Trail
  • High concentration of cultural sites
  • Three national parks, five state parks, three state forests, and 10 Important Bird Areas

The Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape is hoping to protect what is special in this region by saving high-quality lands and connecting people and communities through a network of trails and gateway communities to outdoor recreation opportunities.

Goals of the Schuylkill Highlands

The area’s importance derives from the need for water quality protection, habitat conservation, and recreational development in a region set for considerable growth over the next 20 years.

Achieving the goals of this conservation landscape will require municipalities to implement appropriate land use ordinances and practices that steward this landscape.

The goals of the Schuylkill Highlands landscape are:

  • Collaboration and engagement: Create opportunities for unique multi-partner approaches to issues, problem solving, project work, and region-wide policy that support the quality of life of residents and conservation values.

  • Recreation, trails, and interpretive experiences: Create an interconnected trail network to destinations and gateways to increase the recreational opportunities for connecting residents and visitors to the outdoors, and to heritage sites in the Schuylkill Highlands.

  • Economic vitality and nature-based tourism: Encourage sustainable practices that respect the cultural, historic, recreational, and natural resources of the Schuylkill Highlands.

  • Protect the regions land and water resources: Conserve, protect, restore, and steward lands, watersheds, greenways, and habitats of high natural resource value.

Areas of Focus

The region is at the nexus of two landscapes that have been separately identified for protection:

  • The Highlands, as defined by an Act of Congress through The Highlands Conservation Act, which declares the area to be nationally significant.

  • Schuylkill River watershed is within a National and State Heritage Area where  the preservation, interpretation, and celebration of the river’s industrial heritage and outdoor recreation are key to new economic growth.

The region also contains a number of large habitat areas that have been called out for protection.

The Hopewell Big Woods is perhaps the largest and best known, but the Oley Hills, Unami Forest, Neversink Mountain, and Swamp Creek Corridor are other well-known examples.

The trail backbone of this conservation landscape is the Schuylkill River Trail.

By completing a crucial segment in Berks County -- as well as the necessary connector spurs from many communities and destinations -- the trail will successfully link together recreational hubs and river towns from Valley Forge to Schuylkill County.

Exploring the Region

In the Schuylkill Highlands region, you can explore:

  • Trails
  • Birding sites
  • Cultural and historic areas
  • Destination farms
  • Recreational areas
  • Water-sport activities

Scenic trails form an impressive recreational network linking communities and unique resources, including:

  • French Creek State Park
  • Marsh Creek State Park
  • Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
  • Valley Forge National Historical Park
  • The 130-mile-long Schuylkill River Trail
  • Hopewell Big Woods
  • Neversink Mountain Preserve
  • Blue Marsh National Recreation Area
  • Green Lane Park
  • State Game Lands
  • William Penn State Forest -- George W. Wertz, Buck Hollow, and Gibraltar Hill