History of Reeds Gap State Park
Reeds Gap is a natural water gap in Hightop, also called Thick Mountain. American Indians from the village of Ohesson, today’s Lewistown, used this valley as hunting grounds. When European settlers arrived, they homesteaded and named the area the New Lancaster Valley.
During the late 1700s, Reeds Gap became a popular bush meeting ground. People packed lunches and traveled in horse-drawn wagons to the area to hear a circuit preacher and enjoy neighborhood fellowship. These bush meetings, also known as homecomings, were held through the 1920s.
During the mid-1800s, the park’s namesakes, Edward and Nancy Reed, set up a water-powered sawmill along Honey Creek just inside of the western boundary of the present park.
Part of the historic water-storage dam is still visible near Honey Creek in the southeastern corner of the park. Edward Reed’s son, George Wilbur Reed, was a sawyer at the mill. Another son, John, later moved the watermill to Virginia by horses.
Around 1900, a steam-powered sawmill operated by the park’s maintenance building. After decades of logging, the forests were gone. On January 15, 1905, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the depleted land from William Witmer and Sons Lumber Company. Eventually parts of this land became Reeds Gap and Poe Valley State Parks.
Around 1930, people sold five-cent bottles of soda pop cooled in Reeds Gap Run to attract picnickers and to improve the local economy during the Great Depression.
Electrical power came to the valley during mid-1940s.
During 1965, a major developmental phase replaced the old dam with swimming pools. A new water system, flush toilets, a modern bathhouse, snack bar, maintenance building, and parking lots were constructed. During 2009, the aging swimming pools were removed.
Civilian Conservation Corps
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a national work program established in 1933 during the Great Depression. A residential camp for more than 200 young men was built five miles east of Reeds Gap in the upper end of New Lancaster Valley.
Camp S-113 was run by the U.S. Army and the former Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters. One of their projects was to change the “jungle” around Reeds Gap to an attractive recreation facility. By the late 1930s, the park offered stone fireplaces, tables, picnic pavilions, play equipment, pit toilets, and running water.
Reeds Gap State Park officially opened during 1938. On summer Sunday afternoons, local bands entertained from a bandstand, and swimmers enjoyed a small lake formed by a CCC-built dam in Honey Creek.
World War II ended the CCC. Most of the wooden CCC structures were removed as they deteriorated, but part of the old CCC camp is now a DCNR Bureau of Forestry field office.