The Howland Preserve is the amazing gift of Ernest Howland, who donated his family’s 669 acre farm on the Vosburg Neck to the North Branch Land Trust to be conserved forever. This is probably the largest donation of private land for public use in the history of Wyoming County, which had few sizeable parks or trails.
The Vosburg Neck is one of the Susquehanna River’s highlights. Here, the river flows around the neck, creating an oxbow loop, as mountains tower over 1,000 feet above the river. Bald eagles have nested along the Vosburg Neck and herons, ducks, and many other birds are a common sight. Giant silver maple and sycamore trees rise on the shore.
I’ve been to the Howland Preserve many times. Volunteers have been working on expanding the trail system, which is open to both hikers and mountain bikers. There are about 8 miles of trails, and more are planned. The trails explore the river, old canal, ravines, woodlands, and diverse forest types.
We returned for a quick hike. Our hope was to see Howland’s impressive dogwood blooms. Due to recent rains, the trails were wet, but that did not deter us. We began on the Vista Trail as it switchbacked up the slope under beautiful dogwoods in full bloom, and then through a pine and spruce forest. The woodlands were gorgeous with large trees and hundreds of dogwoods in bloom throughout the forest. It was truly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked a forest with so many dogwoods. The forests were open in places with meadows of ferns. We reached the vista, which is nice but just a small view through the trees, looking across the river to the farmlands on the other side.
Next we hiked my favorite trail at the preserve, Howlin’ Down as it meandered between and along impressive rock walls and more dogwoods. Springs bubbled from the ground and several sections of the trail were wet, resulting in mud-caked shoes. The coolest section is where the trail is on the edge of a deep ravine shaded with a few hemlocks. We were even treated to a small waterfall. The trail dropped down, crossed a small stream, passed above an old spring house, and then we returned across meadows on the Old Farm Road. The sweet smell of honeysuckle filled the air.
Whether you like to hike, ride, or paddle, be sure to visit the Howland Preserve, a best kept secret in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Nearby is the Endless Mountain Nature Center.