Pine Creek Land Conservation Trust
Crouse Run Nature Reserve
A cold ravine, it contains not only the typical varieties of flora of the tri-state region, but many northern and Canadian species. Large stands of hemlock line the stream. Sycamore, basswood, ash, sugar maple, and tulip poplar fill the valley. Oaks mainly choose the uplands
The stream is still sufficiently unpolluted to support aquatic life. Its steep shale cliffs on the east show gradual erosion, and chips of stone often reveal patterns of fossil ferns and other plants from the ancient Pennsylvanian period. Bird life abounds, but few if any Grouse, our named state bird, though a few old timers insist that was the stream’s original name
The valley has been used since the days Native Americans were residents. The name Gobblers Knob, on the land above the ravine to the west, is a reminder of the Indian use. Their hunters, knowing frightened turkeys would run uphill, waited on “gobblers’ knob” while others in the valley drove them within range of their arrows. Indian Springs Lane, on the plateau to the east, identifies the site they used for encampments.
In her college days in the late 1920’s, Rachel Carson would ride the Butler Electric RR from Pittsburgh to its stop at Wildwood. There she could study the flora and fauna found within the confines of the valley. Because it is a ‘cold’ ravine, it has an unusual range of biological diversity. This places it with only a few others qualifying at the highest level in the Allegheny County Natural Heritage Inventory (1993
Countless others remember the location because of Bongiovanni’s Garden, Wildwood Lodge, German Beneficial Union and others housed in northern end of the valley. While the trolleys ran, it drew people from all over the region, for picnic outings including Rachel Carson’s family who came here for picnic outings. The building is long gone now, though foundation stones remain.
In 1969, Roger Latham, outdoor writer for the Pittsburgh Press, described the tract this way: “In the valley bottom spring wildflowers reach their peak abundance and fullest variety. Trillium grow in such profusion as to form carpets of flowers in some places. Mixed with these in early spring are dog-toothed violets, hepaticas, spring beauties, Dutchmen’s breeches and others.” … “This unique and valuable acreage in Allegheny County, where the advances of civilization have all but eliminated natural areas, is well worth preserving for future generations.”
Throughout the growing season there are numerous flowering plants and shrubs. The sheltering habitat is ideal for many species of birds, insects, and small animals. Observers may wish to use checklists available from PCLCT to test their year’s sightings with ones made by naturalists Joe Grom and Paul Wiegman.
Now that the land has been dedicated for preservation it is hoped that damage to existing stands of varied or rare plants will no longer occur due to carelessness. Some lost ones may even come back.
Parts of the old trolley embankment still serves as a main trail, helping visitors to keep their feet dry and guiding them so that wildlife will be spared. Seasonal water flows will continue to create natural changes. In places the stream can only be crossed on steppingstones. Sometimes the only way is to get your feet wet.
Volunteers who wish to participate with the Pine Creek Land Conservation Trust to maintain Crouse Run Nature Reserve are invited to contact the members at PCLCT, Box 123, Wildwood, PA 15091.