Austin T. Blakeslee Natural Area

Tobyhanna Falls

Tobyhanna Falls

The Austin T. Blakeslee Natural Area protects land along the Tobyhanna Creek and Falls.  It is located along PA 115 just north of the I-80 exit at Blakeslee. The natural area was once an amusement park until it was destroyed by floods. The land was eventually purchased by the local government to protect open space in the fast-developing Poconos.

The natural area features several miles of trails that explore the creek and falls, as well as forest of white pine with some nice-sized trees.  The trails are fairly easy with moderate terrain.  It is a perfect place to take kids, who will enjoy the creek and falls.  This is also the perfect place to try your luck trout fishing since there are several pools and riffles.

We arrived on a clear, chilly day.  It is best to park at the parking area near the PA 115 bridge over Tobyhanna Creek to enjoy the trail along the creek.  There is also a large picnic pavilion at the parking area.  The trail went through a spruce plantation and then followed a bank above the creek.  We crossed a bridge over a small sidestream and then returned to the creek.  The trail soon brought us to the falls.  Tobyhanna Falls is relatively small, not even ten feet high, but it is a powerful falls that carries a lot of water.  It must be thunderous in high water.  Its most impressive feature is a massive pool framed by cliffs and ledges below the falls.  It is a beautiful spot.

The creek below the falls

The creek below the falls

We followed a red blazed trail that stayed close to the creek, passing many riffles and rapids.  On the other side, Tunkhannock Creek joined, swelling Tobyhanna Creek to the size of a small river.  We reached the end of the natural area and followed a trail up a hill into a nice pine forest where we passed a few other hikers.  This trail looped around and returned us to the falls.

This is a beautiful place to go for an easy walk, enjoy the creek, fish, have a picnic, or just relax.

For a trail map and brochure, click here.

More pictures.

 

 

Kasson Falls

Christian and Ed at Kasson Falls

Christian and Ed at Kasson Falls

Sometimes it is the season that defines a place.  While Kasson Falls is surely beautiful anytime of the year, it is in winter that its splendor is truly revealed.

Hidden deep in a gorge, surrounded by mountains, Kasson Falls is a hidden wonderland.  But it is not unknown, for even its isolation cannot keep its beauty a secret.  The falls are located on private property near State Game Lands 57, however, the falls and its gorge are regularly visited.

On a cold, overcast winter day as light flurries drifted in the fleeting sunshine, under patches of disappearing blue skies, we made our trek up Kasson Brook.  The floods of two years ago still left their mark with massive trees embedded in the stream bed, and piles of cobbles pushed deep into the forest.  It is hard to imagine a stream of this size could cause such damage.  We hiked out of the valley and into the gorge, passing the collapsed remains of a schoolhouse and a small cemetery hidden in a grove of white pine trees.  We left the old logging road and traversed off trail through the forest before descending back to the creek.  There was once a dirt road along the creek that went to a cabin; it was obliterated.

The beauty of Kasson Brook soon became apparent.  The towering plateaus squeezed the gorge with ledges and talus.  The creek was filled with boulders and cascades.  The creek swept over smooth, sculpted bedrock into deep pools.  A side stream cascaded from the side, next to a boulder sitting improbably upright on its end.  My nephew Christian climbed the boulders and poked at the ice with sticks.  Small waterfalls, waterslides, and boulders continued upstream.  We had to cross the creek, tip-toeing on ice-covered rocks.  The creek flowed over blood-red bedrock as snow dusted the bare forest floor.

Approaching the falls

Approaching the falls

The terrain surrounding the creek forced us to cross again as cliffs blocked our way.  One by one we crossed the surging creek, balancing on angled rocks.  To the right was a deep side-gorge, carved by a tributary with non-stop waterfalls, dressed with gowns of ice.  It begged to be explored.

The creek continued to roar over rapids and ledges, constrained by grottos of bedrock.  We had to take an old logging skid trail concealed by hemlocks on the south side of the gorge.  We climbed higher and higher up the gorge.  The incredibly steep terrain was impressive.  Kasson Brook’s current filled the gorge with the sound of its rapids and falls.  Forests of pine and hemlock covered the rim of the gorge.  I looked across this chasm to the other side, to see another steep tributary plummeting down a ravine for hundreds of feet, completely covered in ice.  Kasson Brook was barely visible through the trees; I could see the occasional boulder, pool, or cascade.

Windmills were recently constructed on the tops of these mountains and several were visible from the trail, towering into the sky, standing silently.  We could only imagine what the effect of the run-off and loss of hundreds of acres of forests in a place that was once vast and pristine would have on the streams like Kasson Brook.  Even green energy comes at an environmental cost.  In the end, the best solution is to use less.

We turned off the skid trail and made our way back down to the creek.  We picked our way down the gorge.  And soon it came into view- the incredible grotto of Kasson Falls.

Frozen grotto

Frozen grotto

Glacial blue ice flows covered the one side of the grotto.  We were surprised to see several ice climbers there, setting ropes and practicing their craft in a stunning setting.  A friendly dog greeted us as she tried to walk on the ice.  The falls were completely frozen over; they are about 50 feet high and are a steep, curving cascade that drops into a pool.  The ice formations at the bottom of the falls were impressive, with tubs of ice, filled with water.  To the right of the falls were more ice flows that partially concealed a cave, a deep overhang, that was encased in ice.  An amazing place.

Ice cave

Ice cave

We stood there, taking it all in.  Christian had grown a little frustrated from the long climb, but quickly decided to love the hike again as he explored the ice cave and marveled at the ice formations and falls.  No video game could compete with Kasson Falls.

Ice climbers at Kasson Falls

Ice climbers at Kasson Falls

Our time at this winter paradise had to come to an end and we began the much easier hike down the gorge, back to the cars, our lives enriched by what we had experienced.  Whether privately or publicly owned, I hope places like Kasson Falls and Gorge will remain as they are for generations to come so that Christian will be able to share them  with his children or grandchildren.

Tim, Christian, and Aaron at the entrance of the ice cave

Tim, Christian, and Aaron at the entrance of the ice cave

More pictures.

Beautiful Kasson Falls

Beautiful Kasson Falls