BENDIGO STATE PARK
The 100-acre Bendigo State Park is in a small valley surrounded with many picturesque hills. About 20 acres of the park is developed, half of which is a large shaded picnic area. The forest is predominantly northern hardwoods and includes beech, birch, cherry and maple. The East Branch of the Clarion River flows through the park. This beautiful stream was once polluted by abandoned mine drainage. It now provides excellent fishing and is stocked with trout by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Bendigo State Park was named for William Thompson (1811-1880), an Irish tavern keeper who lived in England. A prizefighter on the side, his fighting career (1832-1851) was nearly perfect with only one loss. Because professional boxing in a ring was illegal at that time, he was arrested 28 times for violating the anti-fight law. When his opponent died during a heavyweight fight, Thompson fled to America to avoid criminal prosecution.
Thompson took the name Bendigo, a corruption of the Old Testament name Abed-nego, and moved to northwestern Pennsylvania. Working building railroads and as a Methodist evangelist, the very tall and strong Bendigo became the idol of his Italian co-workers. On the suggestion of the Italian railroad workers, Alfred Truman named a new mill town Bendigo. Truman also established a mill on the site of the current state park.
Just north of Bendigo State Park, the Belgian Count De Hamm founded a settlement of glass blowers. The settlers could not survive on just glass making and soon B.F. Hazelton built a large sawmill in the town and renamed the town Glen Hazel. The logging town thrived while the timber lasted, but now is mostly summer cottages and hunting camps.
Chartered in 1887, the Johnsonburg and Clermont Railroad linked the towns and mills of the area to haul the timber to the market. Visitors drive the old railroad trace when they drive the main park road. When the timber was exhausted, the railroad, sawmills and towns like Bendigo, slowly disappeared.
Bendigo State Park began in the 1920s as a community project of the nearby town of Johnsonburg. In the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) made many improvements to the park. Floods destroyed many of the WPA facilities in the 1940s, but the stonewall and dam on the East Branch of the Clarion River still remain.
The process began in August of 1948, and in April of 1949, the late State Senator George B. Stevenson introduced the bill that transferred the property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Improvements were made to the park facilities. On August 15, 1959, Maurice K. Goddard, the former secretary of the Department of Forests and Waters, formally dedicated Bendigo State Park.
Bendigo State Park is located near Saint Marys
Over 150 picnic tables are scattered in several picnic areas. Within these areas are charcoal grills, drinking water, four horseshoe pits, restrooms and three picnic pavilions. Picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. One pavilion is accessible.
For information on nearby attractions, please contact the Northwest Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, 800-348-9393.
Elk State Park: This beautiful park contains the lake formed by the East Branch Dam. Recreational opportunities include unlimited horsepower motorboating, water-skiing, hiking, fishing and hunting.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area: The East Branch Dam of the Clarion River was finished in 1952 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The dam provides flood protection and recreational opportunities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates a recreation area by the East Branch Dam that has camping, food concession, sanitary dump station and boat launch. 814-965-2065
State Game Land 25: This 24,523-acre wooded area consists of long narrow valleys and flat mountaintops. Visitors are welcome to hunt, fish, hike and birdwatch on state game lands.
A large stone marker at the entrance to State Game Land 25 in Glen Hazel commemorates the first purchase of land by the Pennsylvania Game Commission from the proceeds of hunting license fees. The purchase took place in 1920. Sportsman friends of John MacFarlane Phillips erected the marker in 1948 in recognition of this member of the Game Commission?s (1905-1924) untiring efforts to develop a statewide system of public hunting grounds and game refuges.
For information, contact the PA Game Commission, Northcentral Division Headquarters, 877-877-7674.
Elk State Forest: The western section of this 195,911-acre forest is adjacent to Elk State Park. Hiking, birding, fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation is permitted on state forest land. 814-486-3353
145 Siecker Rd
St Marys, PA
Smith's Sport Store
10 Erie Ave
St Marys, PA
Elk County Ammo & Arms
246 Brusselles St
St Marys, PA
In Jones Township, Elk County, Pennsylvania, Bendigo State Park is four miles northeast of Johnsonburg on SR 1004, which branches off of US 219 in Johnsonburg.