Panther Creek is a tributary of the Lackawanna River. It gathers its waters on the broad slopes of Moosic Mountain before making a mad dash down the mountain along bedrock waterslides and cascading waterfalls in jungles of rhododendron.
The Panther Creek Nature Preserve is privately owned, but it is open to the public for hiking. To reach the preserve, park at the D&H Rail Trail access in Simpson, and walk north on the rail trail for just over a mile. There is a sign for the preserve on the right. Follow the creek up; there is no formal trail system.
The rail trail is not as developed as others, but it is an enjoyable walk. The rapids of the Lackawanna River roared off to the left, and I could see the whitewater through the trees. In fact, as we walked out, a whitewater paddler was carrying his boat in to play on some of the surf waves. I was amazed by how much color were in the trees. Most of the forests in the area are still mostly green.
The fall foliage on the mountain was nearing peak with the birches blazing bright yellow. The creek began with some small cascades and slides into a pool. Up ahead was a huge cascading waterslide with a large boulder in the middle of it. The sloping bedrock of conglomerate and sandstone create all these waterworks. Be careful when hiking up the creek, there are many slick spots. Hiking poles are recommended.
The slides were non-stop as rhododendrons hung over the creek and moss carpeted the ledges and rocks. The water was crystal clear as it slid over the pebbly conglomerate.
We entered a hidden grotto of gushing water that slid from a tunnel of rhododendrons. The trail was across the creek on the right and led to more waterfalls and slides. The scenery was superb.
Up ahead was a 30 foot falls over spring-slicked ledges. Cliffs and rock overhangs lined the creek, augmenting the sound of the water. The gradient of the creek became steeper with many cascades squeezing between boulders. Soon I reached the remnants of a breached dam; most dams arch upstream, but this one arched downstream, a strange design. Further it could not have held much water back.
The highest falls roared above. The trail to climb them was steep under hemlocks and large angulare boulders. I reached the cliff rim featuring a double falls under golden fall foliage.
I thought I reached the top, but I was mistaken. The creek revealed more cascades. Another long slide appeared as it snaked under an overhanging ledge. Perfectly circular pools were worn into the bedrock, holding sunken leaves colored brightly with red, orange, and yellow.
The waterslides continued, but became more gradual. They were hidden in a small glen with birch and hemlocks.
I retraced my steps, amazed by the beauty of this glen. Colorful leaves slowly fell to the forest floor and covered the slick ledges. Moss dripped with spring water under the twisted, sprawling branches of rhododendron. The crystalline water magnified the green of the moss and lichens over the gray and white bedrock.
This is one of the best-kept secrets in northeast Pennsylvania.
A video of Panther Creek.