Offbeat Outings is a bi-monthly series that highlights the travels of BHP staff as they experience history first-hand throughout Pennsylvania.
A few weeks ago, I headed north on Friday afternoon and drove just over 100 miles to Worlds End State Park in Sullivan County. Until living in Harrisburg and working for the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, my territory was mostly focused south and east of Franklin County. Traveling north by myself was a new experience. Having had some pretty great adventures, I was surprised by this experience and by finding a landscape of such dynamic character.
Nestled on an S-curve of the Loyalsock Creek in Forks and Shrewsburg townships, I chose Worlds End based on little more than its ominous name that suggested the opportunity for rugged solitude; pictures on the DCNR state park website concurred. I wondered, how did it get this name? Again, I consulted the DCNR website and found more intrigue. The convergence of seven mountain ranges and a whirlpool in the Loyalsock Creek made it sound unique:
“The excerpt below is from an article from July 20, 1935, by W.S. Swingler, Assistant District Forester of Wyoming State Forest (now Loyalsock State Forest).
‘There was even a dispute as to the proper name of the area. Some people called it Worlds End, others Whirl’s Glen, and still others Whirls End. The first name arose from the topography of the place. Seven mountain ranges converge on the point and one does receive the sensation of being at the ultimate ends of the earth. The proponents of the second name base their claim upon the whirlpool in the Loyalsock Creek and the third name was probably a contraction of the other two. Since the whirlpool had largely disappeared, it was decided that the name Worlds End would be the most appropriate. Hence, the name Worlds End State Forest Park.’”
Worlds End is 780 acres, purchased from the Randall Family of the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company in the early 1930s. Scrubby, eroding, and prone to fires and floods after the early 1900’s logging boon, during which the landscape accommodated at least one sawmill, and logs from the balding slopes floated en mass down the chilly Loyalsock to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Former Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters began purchasing the area to become park land. Fifty dollars was released in 1932 by former Governor Giffford Pinchot to create the park facilities; four picnic tables. Civilian Conservation Corp Camp S-95 replanted the bald topography which is now flourishing second growth forest. From 1933 to 1941, Camp S-95 also built many of the park’s facilities, including the swimming lagoon, dam, hiking trails, roads, and cabins. The cabins were listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Family Cabin District of World’s End State Park and has the BHP Key Number 088894. The district demonstrates thoughtful site placement and native material use throughout the district of 22 buildings over 18.4 acres. Isn’t it hard to understand how all of these projects were accomplished with such limited resources in only 8 years? The sweat equity and “can-do” attitude it took to create the resources found in CCC camps are astounding.
Trails were added in the fifties and the park continued gaining prestige through the sixties. It hosted a first annual whitewater slalom race in 1964, as whitewater slalom gained popularity before its Olympic debut in 1972. The contemporary world celebrates Worlds End for high quality fishing, vistas into the 800 feet deep Loyalsock gorge and across the landscape, public camping, and its half-acre swimming lagoon formed by blasting-out the bed of the Loyalsock Creek.
Also interesting about this place is the interplay of landscape and built environment and the shared responsibility between agencies and groups for maintaining a cohesive space. For instance, the swimming lagoon site demonstrates a necessity for landscape management and built environment coordination between stakeholder agencies and groups. Private groups, local governments, and state agencies, such as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Department for Conservation of Natural Resources (DCNR), and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) have the responsibility to maintain the quality and character of this place. The Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association addressed erosion by limiting pedestrian access points along the creek. PennDOT’s modern bridge through the site acknowledges the park’s character by providing safe pedestrian access from the day use parking area to the swimming lagoon and attempting to mimic traditional building materials seen elsewhere in the park. DCNR is responsible for maintaining the majority of the land and other built resources. In addition to listing buildings and landscapes in the National Register of Historic Places, the SHPO and other cultural resource management organizations have opportunities to participate in the management of unique lands such as Worlds End State Park through reviewing project and design plans and coordinating stakeholder engagement opportunities.
This Pennsylvania gem is impressive and everyone should visit. My photos do not do it justice. Perhaps this summer you should set-out on your own Offbeat Outing to Sullivan County and take a dip in the chilly Loyalsock at Worlds End!