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Today, Pennsylvania's only wild elk herd can usually be found in the forests from the village of Benezette eastward into the Hicks Run watershed. The old-forest in the Elk District consisted of magnificent:
  • White pine
  • Hemlock
  • Red pine
  • Mixed oaks
  • Beech
  • Sugar maple
  • Birch
  • American chestnut 
  • Black cherry

The first timber removed from the district was the white pine which was used for ship masts.  Some of the finest white pine spar trees in the country were removed from Sterling Run between 1865 and 1872. 

After white pine became scarce, tanneries that formerly only used the bark of hemlock trees began selling the logs as lumber.  Sawmills and logging camps became established throughout the region.  Logs cut from the vast stands of hemlock were floated down streams such as the First Fork, the Driftwood Branch, and the Bennett's Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek.

In 1915, the last log raft went down the Driftwood Branch, thus ending the hemlock logging era.  The cut-over areas were further altered by vast wildfires that killed the remaining young trees.  With the exception of a few virgin stands passed up by loggers, the old-growth forest in this area was gone.

The first purchase of land for the Elk State Forest was a 3,487-acre tract in Middle Jerry Run bought from D.R. Fullerton on May 31, 1900.  Originally called Forest Reservations, these lands were purchased to re-establish a forest that had been nearly eliminated by cutting and burning.