History of Promised Land State Park
The land that became Promised Land State Park was once hunting grounds for the Minsi Tribe of the Wolf Clan of the Lenni Lenape American Indians (Delaware).
The Shakers, a religious group, purchased land in the area. They tried to farm and build a life on the rocky land. Their attempt to build a partnership to log the land was unsuccessful. After finally contracting the forests to be timbered, the Shakers left the area. According to legend, the Shakers sarcastically named the area “the Promised Land.”
The Shakers and other early settlers of the area erected sawmills to process the large stands of conifer and hardwood trees. The land was repeatedly clear-cut. By 1903, the area was almost completely bare of trees. With the loss of trees came erosion, forest fires, and migration of wildlife from the area.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the land from 1902-1904. The purchase price ranged from $0.18 to $2.00 per acre. During 1905, Promised Land became the fourth Pennsylvania state park.
Between 1902 and 1933, the commonwealth planted more than 370,000 trees. During 1905, the first campground was established in the pine plantation between Bear Wallow Road and the stream flowing into Lower Lake; however, it closed in 1925 and a new one was built in what is now the main beach picnic area. During 1911, the original (1890) earthen crib dam on Promised Land Lake was re-built for $1,000.
Civilian Conservation Corps
During 1933, to relieve the rampant unemployment of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The young men in the CCC received food, clothes, and a small paycheck, in return for:
Building roads, trails, recreational facilities
Performing many other conservation activities
CCC camps were built throughout the United States, with Pennsylvania’s 151 camps coming in second only to California.
Promised Land’s Camp S-139-PA opened in May 1933 and closed in July 1941. It was located in what is now Deerfield and Pickerel Point Campgrounds. The hard working young men transformed the land in and around Promised Land State Park. CCC boys:
Built Pickerel Point campground, the Bear Wallow cabins, most of North Shore road by hand, and Egypt Meadow Dam
Planted over one million trees
Fought forest fires
Each August, the park celebrates this legacy with a CCC festival.
On Sunday evening, May 31, 1998, an F-2 tornado with winds of 113-157 mph passed through Promised Land State Park. It cut a northeasterly path through the park and crossed Lower Lake Road, PA 390 and North Shore Road near Sucker Brook. More than 500 people were trapped overnight in the park, but no one was seriously hurt. The park office has copies of “After the Wind Died Down,” a booklet about the tornado and its aftermath.