Thomas Darling Nature Preserve

First boardwalk

First boardwalk

The Thomas Darling Nature Preserve covers 2,500 acres and is located north of Blakeslee, PA.  The main parking area is located at the end of Burger Road.  The preserve is a collaboration of several conservancies, local governments, and agencies.  It protects wetlands, bogs, streams, and forests; it features some the largest spruce forests in the state.  Several rare and endangered species also live at the preserve.  A wide variety of wildflowers, trees, ferns, and grasses can be also observed here.  The preserve is named after a naturalist who lived in the Wilkes-Barre area and loved the landscapes and habitats of this preserve.

Old growth pine

Old growth pine

This preserve is a component of a vast effort to protect the unique Pocono eco-region, home to some of the most diverse, unique, and scenic places in the state.  Over 100,000 acres of the Poconos have been protected thanks to conservation easements, parks, public land, and preserves.

A small portion of the preserve can now be explored along a 2.2 mile loop trail that features extensive boardwalks along wet meadows and marshes.  I had long wanted to visit the preserve, so on a cool, misty day, I finally did.

Long boardwalk

Long boardwalk

The gravel parking area was easy to find at the end of Burger Road and the trail is primarily blazed blue, although we noticed other colors.  After crossing a meadow with goldenrod and aster, we entered the woods on a boardwalk.  Next was a deep, aromatic spruce forest with a carpet of fluorescent ferns.  The forests definitely had the smell and feel of a northern woodland from the Adirondacks or Vermont.  The trail was easy to follow and in good shape; it was level and rolling with roots and rocks.  A highlight was a massive pine tree just off the trail.  Two Mile Run came into view briefly and then we crossed a powerline.  The highlight of the hike was next, a long, curving boardwalk across wet meadows with small birch trees.  It was unique to be in the middle of a habitat that most trails do not venture.  In summer, I’m sure there is a wealth of pitcher plants and sundew.  We could see across the meadow to the forest on the other side.

The trail returned to the forest, mostly comprised of hardwoods and ferns.  Several short boardwalks provided passage over wet areas.  We reached a gravel road, which took us back to the parking area to complete the loop.  This was an enjoyable and easy hike that offered a lot of plant diversity.  It is a good hike for kids, who will enjoy walking on the boardwalks.

DSC_0898

On the drive back home, we stopped to check out a falls along the road to the Francis Walter Dam.

More pictures.

More information.

Map of the preserve.

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