Woodbourne Forest

Woodbourne Forest, located north of Dimock, is the Nature Conservancy’s first preserve in Pennsylvania; it was donated in 1956.  The preserve now covers over 600 acres, features about 8 or 9 miles of trails, and is home to an old growth forest of about 200 acres in size and two bogs.  Streams wind through the preserve and form the headwaters of Meshoppen Creek.

What makes this place so special is it’s life.  The preserve is home to almost 200 species of birds alone, and hundreds more species of plants, insects, and other animals.  It’s old growth forest is the largest in northeastern Pennsylvania.  Come here in the summer and the bog literally teems with life, with countless birds and animals.  It is truly impressive.

I visited on a cool February day.  The bog was frozen over and snow powdered the forests.  Sun would shine in between snow squalls.  And we would still have a wildlife encounter by the end of the hike.

Busy beaver

We began by hiking the blue blazed trail, the longest in the preserve at about 5 miles.  The trail meandered along the bog and then entered the forest with large hemlocks.  Unlike in so many other places, the hemlocks here look fairly healthy.  The trail gained elevation, offering views into the deep woods.  It then dropped along impressive stone walls and down to the creek.

Bog at Woodbourne

The trail followed the creek as it babbled over rocks, under trees, and into pools.
The blue trail went through some meadows, crossed a dirt country lane, and returned to the forest before cresting a hill with some partial views of the countryside.  Here there were some massive oak trees that towered well over a hundred feet high with thick, muscular branches spreading a few stories above me.  The trail descended, returned to the hemlock forest with more large trees and crossed some springs and small streams before entering a spruce grove and reaching another creek where I once saw otter slides in the snow.
The trail crossed the dirt lane again and climbed under spruce before reaching the top of the hill.  We passed another huge oak tree that was hollow, but still living, so Leigh Ann climbed in.

Keebler Elf sighting

The trail meandered through the woods as another snow squall arrived with big fluffy flakes that gently dropped through the forest.  We arrived at a juncture with the orange trail, and took it to the right as it descended along a side stream under more hemlocks that were dusted with snow.
We crossed the stream and proceeded up along it.  We soon reached the outlet of the bog where there were three tiers of beaver dams.  Beaver activity has increased at Woodburne over the years and they have been busy building and reconstructing their dams, raising the water level of the bog and ever flooding part of the trail.  The top dam was the largest and was about fifty or sixty feet long.   
Largest beaver dam
In the open water behind the top dam we saw a beaver swimming with its head just out of the water.  Can you see the beaver in the picture below?
The snow squall had passed and the sun was setting, creating a red glow in the sky.  The only way to cross the creek was over the middle frozen beaver dam, so we gingerly stepped across hoping the beaver didn’t see us.
We hiked along the shore of the bog, near the heart of the old growth forest which was dark and mysterious.  The ice was thick on the bog, so we just walked on it, but close to the shore.  We returned to the car just as it was getting dark.
Woodbourne is a beautiful place to visit anytime of the year.  Although the trails are hilly and there are two stream crossings without bridges, they are perfect for kids.  The yellow trail is best for small children. 
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