Wildlife Watching at Leonard Harrison State Park
The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania
Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks are on opposite sides of Pine Creek Gorge, also called the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.” Many scenic vistas offer spectacular views into the 800-foot-deep, glacial floodwater-carved canyon.
The scenery at these parks is superb in every season of the year and is especially stunning in late September through mid-October. The large abundance of deciduous hardwood trees display beautiful autumn shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple. Pockets of evergreen trees provide a dash of green year round.
Pine Creek Gorge begins just south of Ansonia, along US 6 and continues south for about 47 miles. At its deepest point, the gorge is 1,450 feet deep and nearly one mile wide. At Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks, the depth of the gorge is about 800 feet and these parks have the most spectacular scenic overlooks.
Many recreational opportunities are available in the gorge. Some of these activities are regulated by the Bureau of State Parks or by the Bureau of Forestry, which have slightly different rules and regulations. Visitors can hike, mountain bike, ride horses, fish, birdwatch, hunt, camp, and seasonally whitewater boat.
Formation of the Canyon
Until about 20,000 years ago, Pine Creek flowed northeasterly. Then the Laurentide Continental Glacier, which covered most of northern North America, moved into the area, pushing rocks, soil, and other debris, which dammed Pine Creek, forming a lake near Ansonia.
The abundant glacial meltwater eventually overflowed the debris dam, reversing the flow of Pine Creek to its current southerly flow. The meltwater swiftly carved a deep channel. Thousands of years of erosion by Pine Creek has continued to carve the spectacular Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.
Detailed information about the geology of the Pine Creek Gorge is available in the:
Trail of Geology 5 - Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks (PDF)
Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks offer outstanding opportunities for fall leaf viewing. Shortening daylight, cool nights and warm days, wind, and adequate moisture through the preceding seasons factor in the brilliance of the fall foliage. These factors also determine when the leaves will change in the gorge.
Droughts, wind, and cold temperatures can cause leaves to drop early in the fall. The timing of the fall foliage varies from year to year. However, the first three weeks in October provide a spectrum of fall foliage.
The overlooks at Leonard Harrison offer the best view of the entire gorge. The drive up Colton Road to Colton Point State Park and the four overlooks offer spectacular fall foliage viewing opportunities.
General Fall Foliage Colors of Trees
Red: red maple, red oak, black cherry, sumac, sassafras
Yellow/Orange: sugar maple, hickories, sycamore, basswood, aspen, tulip poplar, birches, chestnut oak, serviceberry, black walnut
Brown: white oak, black oak, beech