CrouseRun

CROUSE RUN NATURE RESERVE – A History

Wildwood Road, Hampton Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

In 1995 Hampton Township voted to accept the proposal of landowner Donald Pohl, setting aside 22 acres of the Crouse Run valley for a nature reserve.  His remaining 11 acres on the upper lands will become Trillium Ridge, a planned residential development of 21 home sites.

Pine Creek Land Conservation Trust is named as conservator of the Reserve.  It will be managed to protect the site for its natural diversity.  Visitors are requested to observe boundary signs to avoid trespassing on private property, and to “take only memories (photos, notes) and leave only footprints.”

The 55-acre in the valley south of the Reserve extends to Sample Road.  It is privately designated as a natural area, not to be subdivided.  IT greatly increases the habitat protected for wildlife.

The Crouse Run Valley in Hampton Township has long been recognized as a natural area of exceptional significance.  Its most noted observers in this century have doubtless been Dr. O. E. Jennings, botanist and educator with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, (1904-49), and Rachel Carson, world-renowned biologist and author.  The 33-mile trail bearing her name passes through the valley and joins nearby woodlands of North Park’s Black Rock Ravine.

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).

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.

Residents living adjacent to Crouse Run have treasured the quiet beauty of the area.  They have also witnessed times of wild flooding, which caused old bridges to wash away, new silty banks to form.

Countless others remember the location because of the Wildwood Lodge, the old German restaurant and dance hall at the northern end of the valley.  While the trolleys ran, it drew people from all over the region.  The building is long gone now, though foundation stones remain.

The North Area Environmental Council (NAEC) highlights Crouse Run in its Pine Creek watershed study, made in 1972.  This gave the Hampton government a basis for its years of protection to the wetlands and steep slopes of the ravine.

Scouts, naturalist groups, neighbors, and NAEC are among volunteers who have cared for the valley in these recent decades, often helping clean out the inevitable debris which floats, or gets pitched, into the area.

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.

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.  Observers go there to enjoy the setting, and hear the sounds of nature, pleased no other sound disturbs its cathedral-quiet.

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 shrubby flowering plants.  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.

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 stepping stones.  Sometimes the only way is to wade.  Footbridges are in future plans.

Part of the path follows a sewer line put through in 1971.  The area was already listed for endangered species.  Roger Latham, Paul Wiegman, Joe Grom, and Pat Hare worked with Gray Engineering to ensure the least environmental disturbance possible.

Members of Hampton’s Environmental Advisory Council are to be commended for their continued watchfulness.

Below are maps of the Crouse Run property …

Crouse Run Nature Reserve Google Map Crouse Run Nature Reserve

Wildlife_Observations_in_Crouse_Run is a PDF file that can be downloaded to learn more about the wildlife contained within this pristine property.

Flora_of_Crouse_Run_Valley is a second PDF file which will detail the flora within the Crouse Run Valley.

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 259, Ingomar, PA 15127.


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