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Cook Forest State Park
Hemlock and White Pine
Cooksburg, Pennsylvania

PHOTO Sierra Club 11/02

Cook Forest
State Park

Route 36, Cooksburg, Pennsylvania
Survey Team Visits: April 20-21, 2002

Cook Forest State Park is 7,182 acres of the finest virgin woodlands in the Northeast on Allehany Mountain slopes along the Clarion River in scenic northwest Pennsylvania. Most of Cook Forest is white pine and hemlock.

Once called the "Black Forest," the area is famous for its stands of old growth forest. A National Natural Landmark, Cook Forest's "Forest Cathedral" contains white pine and hemlock that tower to well over 150 feet, including the Longfellow Pine, measured by plumb and tape measure at 180 feet 11 inches. The Clarion River on the park's east border is popular for canoeing and rafting. The park itself has over 30 miles of hiking trails through this spectacular and special ancient forest.

History of Cook Forest

When Europeans first arrived, the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy used the area as hunting grounds. In 1757, the Proprietary Council of Pennsylvania sent Moravian missionary Frederick Post to convince the Seneca to join the British in the French and Indian War, but the Seneca sided with the French. The English won the war, and eventually acquired the land from the Iroquois.
The Longfellow White Pine
Cook Forest State Park
180 foot giant climbed by Carolina arborists

PHOTO DYarrow 4/20/02

John Cook was the first permanent American settler. He arrived in 1826 to determine the feasibility of building an east-to-west canal along the Clarion River for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. John was so impressed by the beauty and opportunity of this rugged mountain forest wilderness, he purchased 765 acres and settled with his wife and 10 children in 1828.

At the mouth of Tom's Run (present day Cooksburg), John built his one story cabin and the first of many water-driven sawmills. He worked his mills, logged with oxen, rafted logs to Pittsburgh, and also engaged in flatboat building through the years. Steady hard work and the abundance of tall virgin timber assured that John Cook's businesses survived and grew, and with it John's forest holdings.
from the east
  • I-80 west thru north Pennsylvania
  • Exit 13 Brookville PA 36
  • PA 36 north to Cooksburg
    from the west
  • I-80 east to Exit 8 PA Route 66
  • PA 66 north to Leeper
  • From Leeper,PA 36 south
  • The park is 7 miles past Leeper
  • John's son Anthony bought 36 acres from his father when his father died in 1858. Anthony's industry expanded, and he built the original Cook Forest Inn for his men's living quarters. Anthony erected three sawmills, one flouring mill, one planing mill, a boat scaffold, several dwellings, and a store. About 1870, he built the Cook Homestead at the corner of the land where Route 36 and River Road intersect. Many of the large homes on River Road are still maintained by the Cook Family and descendants. After Anthony's death, the business was managed under A. Cook Sons Company.

    The Cook Forest Association was formed in the 1920s to save the few areas of surviving old growth timber. Early pioneers in this effort were M.I. McCreight, Theo Wilson and John Nicholson. The Association, endorsed by national natural resource groups and Governor Gifford Pinochet, raised $200,000. Publicity such as the following helped raise funds:
    Cook Forest State Park
    white pine and eastern hemlock
    April 21, 2002,

    PHOTO DYarrow 4/21/02

    White Pine Blowdown
    Cook Forest State Park
    giant pine snapped in a windstorm

    PHOTO DYarrow 04/20/02

    "This Wood will become a forest monument, like those of the West, known not only in Pennsylvania, but throughout the Country. The East possesses few scenes more impressive than this magnificent area of primeval white pine, surrounded by giant hemlocks and hardwoods. The venerable splendor of these trees is a heritage for the future of the State. Many of them have lifted their heads to the sunshine of more than 200 summers, and the largest of them were here before the colonization of America..."

    Money from the Association helped the Commonwealth purchase 6,055 acres from A. Cook Sons Company in 1927 for $640,000. Cook Forest became the first Pennsylvania State Park acquired to preserve a natural landmark.

    Cook Forest is maintained as a wilderness-style park. No logging or selective cutting has been allowed. The only forces to alter the trees have been natural events such as fire and wind-thrown blowdowns. Dead and downed trees are left to rot and decay into mold, moss and humus, and thus renew soil fertility cycles. A very few roads, 30 miles of trails, plus campgrounds and cabins are the only other man-made intrusions into the natural landscape. The forest has remained an unbroken habitat, home to a rich biodiversity of wildlife and flora.
    Eastern Native Tree Society
    Big Tree Gathering
    March 20-21, 2002

    Currently, a primary problem in Cook Forest is over-population by deer. The deer heavily browse the lowest forest understory, consuming all the young shoots and seedlings. As a result, seedlings do not survive to become saplings and young trees to eventually replace the oldest trees as they die, tumble and crumble. Without this regeneration by younger trees, the forest cannot regenerate, and slowly subsides into an over-mature forest of dying elder trees. Forest rangers at Cook Forest are discussing different strategies to mitigate this overpopulation and overgrazing.

    The Earth Restoration and Reforestation Alliance www.championtrees.org updated 4/14/2003