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History of Bald Eagle State Park

Chief Bald Eagle

The valley, creek, mountain, and state park are named for the American Indian chief Woapalanne, [wopo lonnie] which means “bald eagle.” In the mid-1700s, the Munsee Lenni Lenape chief briefly dwelled at Bald Eagles Nest, near Milesburg. The village was along the Bald Eagle Creek Path, a portion of a warriors' path from New York to the Carolinas, which now is PA 150.

The Land

As one of the few navigable tributaries of the West Branch Susquehanna River, Bald Eagle Creek became a branch of the Pennsylvania Canal in the mid-1800s. Flooding destroyed the short-lived canal system and newly developed railroads replaced the canal.

These transportation systems and abundant local resources led to the building of the nearby Curtin Ironworks. Loggers cut trees from steep-sided Bald Eagle Mountain and colliers made charcoal from the wood to feed the hungry furnace.

When the demand for wood products soared in the 1800s, once plentiful pine, chestnut, oak, and hickory were cleared from the valley and plateaus. Farmland replaced the forest. The fertile valley continues to be cultivated. The forests of Bald Eagle Mountain have regenerated.

The Reservoir

To reduce flood damage downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the 100-foot-high and 1.3-mile long Foster Joseph Sayers Dam in 1969. Bald Eagle State Park opened to the public July 4, 1971.

Private Foster Joseph Sayers

The dam and reservoir were named in honor of Foster Joseph Sayers, a private first class in World War II. Nineteen-year-old Sayers, a resident of Centre County, lost his life while displaying gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in combat on November 12, 1944, near Thionville, France.

Private First Class Foster Joseph Sayers Portrait   
During an attack on hostile forces entrenched on a hill, Sayers ran up the steep approach and set up his machine gun 20 yards from the enemy. Realizing it was necessary to attract the full attention of the dug-in Germans while his company crossed an open area and flanked the enemy, he picked up his gun, charged through withering gun fire to the very edge of the German encampment and killed 12 German soldiers with devastating close-range fire.

He then engaged the enemy from the flank in a heroic attempt to distract attention from his comrades as they reached the crest of the hill. He was killed by a heavy concentration of return fire, but his fearless assault enabled his company to sweep the hill with minimum casualties, killing or capturing every enemy solider. Sayers received the Congressional Medal of Honor.