The Allegheny National Forest is located in the north western part of Pennsylvania.
Where is this Forest?


Special Places

Special Areas

One of the preliminary issues identified in the 2007 Forest Plan Revision Need-For-Change, was Special Area Designations.  Throughout the public planning process, various special designations for areas were considered. The 2007 Land and Resource Management Plan contains:

  • A revised roadless area inventory and evaluation of potential wilderness;
  • Clarifies Wild and Scenic River Management direction, and
  • Established several new management areas recognizing unique habitats and defining a diverse range of desired conditions. 

A brief description of the planning framework is followed by a listing of Special Areas on the Allegheny National Forest.

There are two types of special designations; national designations (congressionally established) and administrative designations (made in the Forest Plan decision). Once established, these areas cannot be changed in future forest plans without repeating the process under which they were established.

Each special designation is assigned a Management Area number that contains a set of management directions for achieving the desired conditions in this area. After describing the existing special designations on the Allegheny National Forest some other areas of special interest are highlighted.

National Designations - Wilderness Areas

The Wilderness Act of 1964 stated, “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, and where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Visitors are encouraged to accept wilderness on its own terms, without modern facilities provided for comfort or convenience. 

Two Wilderness Areas. totaling 8,979 acres, were designated by Congress in 1984 and added to the Wilderness Preservation System for preservation and protection of their natural condition. They were assigned to Management Area 5.1

  • The Hickory Creek Wilderness area contains two primary drainages (East Hickory Creek and Middle Hickory Creek) with gentle to moderate terrain. Heavy forest cover is composed of northern hardwoods: black cherry, oak, beech, birch, and hemlock. Although bounded by roads, the primary access is from a trailhead parking lot along State Route 2002. The wilderness area is managed for semi-primitive non-motorized recreation, hiking, dispersed primitive camping, fishing and hunting are permitted.

Visitors are encouraged to use already established campsites whenever possible and remove all traces of human presence when breaking camp. Certain risks, including possible dangers arising from weather conditions, physical features, and other natural phenomena, are inherent in the various elements and conditions that comprise a wilderness experience. 

  • The Allegheny Islands Wilderness contains seven islands stretched between Buckaloons and Tionesta along the Allegheny Wild and Scenic River. The islands are popular for dispersed camping, exploration, and viewing scenery and wildlife. They are mostly vegetated with fine riverine forests of sycamore, silver maple, shagbark hickory, and green ash. Dense grasses and other thick vegetation make access limited. There are no developed trails or other facilities on the islands. The mineral rights for both wilderness areas are federally owned and have been withdrawn from all leasing authority.

Allegheny & Clarion Wild & Scenic Rivers

(Management Area 8.1 – 9,250 acres)

In 1992 (Public Law 102-271) added 87 miles of the Allegheny River to the National Wild & Scenic River System classified as Recreational. The goal is to protect the existing outstanding and remarkable values and preserve a free-flowing condition for present and future generations. This designation applies to the following three sections:

  • 7 miles from below Kinzua Dam to Route 6 bridge in Warren
  • 48 miles from Buckaloons Campground to Alcorn Island (by Oil City), and
  • 32 miles from south of Franklin to Emlenton. 

The corridor boundary runs along the plateau ridge on both sides and has extensive areas of privately owned lands with many homes and seasonal recreational residences along the shoreline. Public access is good generally from both sides and few hazards make this an ideal river for novice and family canoeing. Oak forests predominate along steep side slopes and there is wooded-riverine habitat in some of the floodplains.  It contains the seven Allegheny Wilderness Islands often used by boaters for dispersed camping and fishing. 

The Clarion River had the following sections totaling 52 miles designated in 1996 (Public Law 104-314):

  • 9 miles from just below Ridgway to Portland Mills as Recreational
  • 8 miles from Portland Mills to Irwin Run as Scenic
  • 26 miles from below Irwin Run to below the Cooksburg bridge as Recreational, and
  • 9 miles from below Cooksburg to the Piney Dam backwater as Scenic.

This mostly undeveloped river meanders through narrow valleys of hardwood forests with intermittent riffles and rock outcrops providing constantly changing scenery. It is desirable for canoeist of all abilities, but late summer flows are low and many sections are shallow. Mixed ownership within the corridor boundary contains many private lands, state game lands, Cook Forest State Park, and Allegheny National Forest land. Each entity provides an array of recreational opportunities from guided canoe trips to dispersed camping.

Allegheny National Recreation Area

(Management Area 8.2 – 20,152 acres)

Established in the Pennsylvania Wilderness Act of 1984 it contains two primary areas; one north of the Kinzua Dam that spans the east and west bank of the Allegheny Reservoir and one south of Warren along the west bank of the Allegheny River. These areas had been considered for wilderness designation in the 1980s and again evaluated for wilderness study areas during the 2007 Forest Plan revision. It was decided to retain these areas under their existing designations.

Management direction in the Forest Plan is guided by congressional purposes set forth in the bill to preserve the area's natural character and promote recreation uses similar in nature to those existing at the time of designation. Motorized use is only allowed for boats on the portion covering the Allegheny Reservoir. An allowance is given for the development of privately owned oil, gas, and minerals minimizing to the extent practical environmental disturbances.

North Country National Scenic Trail (96 miles)

Congress authorized the North Country National Scenic Trail in 1980, and when completed, will stretch 4,600 miles from Crown Point, New York to Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota. The trail management standards are defined in a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Park Service.

In Pennsylvania, 65% is complete with 171 miles ready to hike. The trail enters the Allegheny National Forest from the Allegany State Park in New York to the north and exits to the south to the Cooks Forest State Park in Pennsylvania. Several rustic hiking bridges and some back-packing dispersed camping shelters exist. Blue markers on trees along the trail reassure hikers that they are on the right path. Mountain bike use is not allowed.

Administratively Designated Areas

  • Chestnut Ridge and Minister Valley Wilderness Study Areas (Management Area 5.2 -8,979 acres)

The Chestnut Ridge area is wild, remote, and contains relatively undisturbed character.  The Minister Creek area includes a number of rock outcrops and the riparian forest of Minister Creek valley.  Although there are scattered openings, 90% of the area is mature forest.  The North Country National Scenic Trail and the Minister Valley trail intersect the area and receive substantial recreational use.

These two areas are recommended for wilderness study and will be managed to retain the existing wilderness values, until a more detailed wilderness study is completed or they are congressionally designated as wilderness.  Upon completion of the study, if the decision is made not to proceed with recommendation for wilderness designation, these areas will remain in MA 5.2, until a plan amendment allocates them to other management areas. 

  • Tionesta Research Natural Area (Management Areas 8.5 – 2,111 acres)

This area was designated in 1940 to protect and study one of the last remnant old growth forests in Pennsylvania.  Trees have never been harvested here with some being over 300 years old.  The purpose of research natural areas is to permanently protect and maintain areas in natural conditions for conserving biological diversity, conducting non-manipulative research and monitoring, and fostering education. There are no recreation development facilities or trails. Since the study of natural processes is important here, no salvage harvesting occurred after a large area was blown down in a tornado in 1985. Heavy beech mortality is now occurring from the beech bark disease complex.  Several research studies on natural succession, soils, and native plants are ongoing.  The area is available for educational use by university and school groups, native plant societies, and other organizations interested in pursuing natural history and educational field trips.

  • Tionesta & Hearts Content Scenic Areas (Management Area 8.3   – 2,115 acres)

These two areas are included in the National Registry of Natural Landmarks as important examples of natural history containing remnant old-growth forests.  They are used primarily for recreation and nature study.  The Tionesta Scenic Area is contiguous with the Tionesta Research Natural Area and also has never had timber harvesting, making the combined area the largest remnant old-growth area in Pennsylvania.  Portions of the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Twins Lake Trail traverse the area. Hearts Content Scenic Area is 122 acres and contains a 20 acre white pine stand that was never harvested.  It has a popular 1.3 mile interpretive trail explaining how the forest is changing, due to a unique relationship between people, deer, and the old trees.

  • Buckaloons Historic Area (Management Area 8.4 – 306 acres)

Sometimes referred to as “the Irvine Flats area” on the north side of the Allegheny River; it is managed for preservation and protection and contains some of the most significant archaeological resources in northwestern Pennsylvania.  Management emphasizes the maintenance of at least 15 prehistoric archaeological sites that span thousands of years of prehistoric use and occupation. 

Equally significant are the historic archaeological remains present on the property.  The French explorer Celeron de Bainville, recorded the existence of an Indian village at this location in 1749 and held council with the Senecas.  The village was recorded again in 1767 when David Zeisberger, a Moravian missionary, visited its inhabitants. 

After the Revolutionary War, General William Irvine (who earned great fame on the national stage before, during and after the Revolution) acquired several warrants, including the present area.  His son and grandson expanded and developed the property between 1797 and 1840, erecting homes, tenant houses, barns, mills, and other structures.  The Irvine family built the town’s church, raised money for the school, persuaded the railroad to come to Irvine, and influenced the building of a wagon road to Franklin.

Archaeological and historic sites such as Buckaloons hold clues to America's past.   If disturbed, a part of our heritage may be lost forever.   Sites and artifacts, such as those found at the Buckaloons Heritage Area, are protected by Federal law.   If you discover such remains, leave them undisturbed.  Report your discoveries to Forest Service personnel.

  • Kane Experimental Forest (Management Area 8.6 – 3,463 acres)

Established in 1932 to promote the study of the unglaciated portion of the beech-birch-maple-hemlock forest type, today it serves as the field laboratory for the research project “Understanding and Managing Forest Ecosystems of the Allegheny Plateau Region “ and is administered by the Northern Research Station from the Forestry Sciences Lab in Irvine, Pennsylvania.  Most stands are second and third growth forest resulting from a series of cuttings beginning in the mid to late 1800’s with later complete clear cuts between 1890 and 1925. 

Research prior to World War II focused on development of silvicultural methods for improving quality and yield of forests on the Allegheny Plateau.  Much of the labor for the field work of these studies came from Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps located in the vicinity.  After a period of reduced activity studies were reopened in the 1960’s.  A detailed description of active studies can be found in a self-guided tour.  Demonstrations and education promoting technology transfer is accomplished through various programs and classes held at facilities both at the experimental forest and in Irvine.

Studies of the environmental factors affecting the natural regeneration of Allegheny hardwoods began in 1971.  This included cutting methods for growth of natural seedlings, thinning plots, and atmospheric monitoring.  In 1978, one of the first National Atmospheric Deposition Program monitoring stations was set up. Today the focus is on continuing the long-term studies and adding to our understanding of the complex interrelationships of all the components affecting forests on Allegheny Plateau.   Applied science is being evaluated to form recommendations to guide land managers in the area on practical mitigation and adaptation actions given predictions of future climate change.

  • Longhouse National Scenic Byway (29 miles)

In 1990 the Chief of the Forest Service designated this route as a National Scenic Byway.  There are three main legs that form a loop around the Kinzua Arm of the Allegheny Reservoir.  State Routes 59 and 321 make up the north and east sections.  The Longhouse Scenic Drive is on the west and is not maintained for public travel in the winter.  Heavy truck traffic is restricted on this section and it serves as a part of the Allegheny snowmobile trail in the winter.  There are several vistas of the reservoir and it provides access to campgrounds with beaches and picnic areas, boat launches, and an accessible fishing pier.  Fall foliage driving tours are featured and several bicycling events are held each year.

Other Special Interest Areas

  • Buzzard Swamp Wildlife Management Area (Management Area 6.3 – 1,122 acres)

This area is cooperatively managed by the Allegheny National Forest and the Pennsylvania Game Commission and offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on the forest.   Fifteen man-made ponds were constructed in the early 1960’s.  The existing wetland impoundments, potholes, adjacent wildlife openings, grasslands, and mixed upland forests are managed for waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and bats.  An 11.2 mile trail system is designed for hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.  Motorized vehicles, ATV’s, and snowmobiles are not allowed on any trails.

The area is an important link in the Atlantic flyway during the waterfowl migration.  During spring migration, 20-25 species of waterfowl can be seen around the swamp.  All of the ponds have small and largemouth bass, perch, catfish, crappie, and bluegill.  Boating is permitted on the ponds, but no motors are allowed.  The nearest pond is 1 mile from the trailhead, so boats must be carried in.  A 40 acre wildlife propagation area is restricted to all access.

  • Remote Recreation Areas (Management Area 7.2 – 9,250 acres)

Comprised of three areas that feature non-motorized dispersed recreation in a semi-primitive condition; they are the Clarion River, a broader Heart’s Content area, and the East Fork of Hickory Creek. High quality scenery is provided within a relatively unmodified landscape.  Opportunities exist for remote, back country summer and winter recreation, such as hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing.  Direction is to decommission existing roads and convert where suited to non-motorized trails, featuring hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.

  • Allegheny Reservoir Area

The Allegheny Reservoir created in 1965 after construction of Kinzua Dam by the Corps of Engineers covers 12,080 acres of water (reaching 27 miles long in Pennsylvania and New York) and has 90 miles of undeveloped shoreline within a mature wooded upland habitat.  Within the Allegheny National Forest it features a variety of developed and dispersed recreation opportunities including 4 developed campgrounds, a full service marina, several boat launches, beaches, picnic areas, hiking trails, accessible fishing piers, and scenic overlooks along the National Longhouse Scenic Byway.

  • Kinzua Quality Deer Cooperative (74,646 acres composed of private and public lands)

Beginning in 2000, the Sand County Foundation helped bring together a group of partners and volunteers to improve deer quality management through good science and private initiative as defined by the Leopold Ethic.  It is a group of volunteers, sportsman, landowners, and agency personnel who are working together to improve the quality of deer and deer hunting. The group also seeks to improve the health of the forest ecosystem by balancing the ratio of deer to land area and diversifying its plant life.  Until 2004, deer density in this region exceeded 25 deer per square mile.  Due to high deer browsing expensive fencing costs were needed when regenerating stands using even-aged natural regeneration.  After applying several management techniques one of which was to encourage hunters to not harvest young bucks, but take more does the deer density has been lowered to the goal of 12-15 deer per square mile.  This has reduced the need for fencing and has revived the over-browsed understory.  As a benefit larger older bucks are now present in the area.