State forest tour should be beautiful eye-opener
What a wise idea by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to open the eight-mile road through the Roaring Creek Tract of the Weiser State Forest to vehicle traffic for a tour on Sunday.
Anyone who has ever spent any time in the 9,000-acre forest, between Route 54 near Bear Gap and Route 42 near Aristes, will attest to its natural wonderment.
Just minutes from Shamokin and Mount Carmel, Northumberland County's first state forest is a true gem. When it's said we lack beauty in this region, that assessment lacks the inclusion of the Roaring Creek landscape.
The forest is part of the Brush Valley watershed, and its four dams have played a role in providing water to local families and businesses since Curtis Q. "C.Q" McWilliams and partners incorporated Roaring Creek Water Company in 1884. Several generations of the McWilliams family would build Roaring Creek into a notable operation, which was sold in the 1980s to Consumers Water Co., which was eventually purchased by Aqua Pennsylvania.
In this midst of that latest transaction, however, the Roaring Creek acreage was sold in 2003 to The Conservation Fund, which then sold it to the state. Aqua retains rights to the water and associated infrastructure.
The state's acquisition of the forest was regarded as a milestone in the region's efforts to offer outdoor recreation to local residents and tourists. That has certainly been the case, but there are many who haven't had the time or the inclination to appreciate this backyard benefit.
Which brings us back to Sunday's tour. If it suits your schedule and you're able to participate, here's a guarantee you'll say "wow" at least once. Certainly the foliage being at its peak will help, but scenes in and around the reservoirs can be breathtaking at any time of year. It's difficult to fathom when you're deep inside the forest that this natural resource is so close to the scarred coal lands we see more regularly on our daily commutes.
The one-lane road through the park, normally closed to motorized traffic, will be open at the Bear Gap end from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vehicles may enter the forest from the parking lot off of Route 54. Traffic will be restricted to one-way and all vehicles must exit the Aristes end by 3 p.m.
DCNR and its Bureau of Forestry encourage visitors to bring a picnic lunch and stop along the way. Bureau personnel will be posted along the trail and points of interest to assist the public and answer questions. Fishing, canoeing and kayaking are also encouraged (for those properly licensed and permitted).
Short of a traffic jam or terrible weather, this will be a beautiful opportunity to appreciate the area's greatest natural resource.