GALLITZIN STATE FOREST
The Gallitzin State Forest was named in honor of Dimetrius Augustine Gallitzin, Prince-Priest of the Alleghenies, who established a mission at Loretto in Cambria Country in 1795.
The Gallitzin State Forest consists of 2 separate areas of State Forest land located in Northern Bedford, Cambria, Indiana, and Northern Somerset counties. The total area of State Forest land is 15,336 acres.
The Babcock Division in Northern Somerset Country with 13,482 acres is the largest Division of the Gallitzin State Forest. The very scenic Babcock State Forest Picnic Area is located along Route 56, four miles east of Windber. The Clear Shade Wild Area, the John P. Saylor Trail and the Lost Turkey Trail are all located in this Division south of Route 56 and provide additional recreational opportunities.
All State Forest lands are open to hunting, fishing and general recreation.
The Charles F. Lewis Natural Area is located at the western end of the Rager Mountain Division near Cramer in Indiana County. This 384 acre unique scenic area has been preserved as a Natural Area. A two mile foot trail, the Clark Run Trail, winds through the scenic Clark Run Gorge with its numerous small waterfalls and interesting geologic features.
As part of the statewide wildfire protection system, two forest fire observation towers are strategically located throughout the district and command excellent views of the surrounding country. These fire towers communicate with the District Office Headquarters by two-way radio and telephones.
Gallitzin State Forest, located in central Pennsylvania, has a rich history that spans over a century. Here is a brief overview of its historical background:
- Early Settlement: The region that is now Gallitzin State Forest was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, such as the Susquehannocks and later the Iroquois Confederacy. European settlers began to arrive in the mid-18th century, primarily of German and Irish descent, establishing small homesteads and farms.
- Coal Mining Era: In the late 19th century, the area experienced a boom in coal mining. The rich coal seams attracted numerous mining companies, leading to the development of several mining towns and the establishment of railroads to transport the coal. These towns included Barnesboro, Hastings, and Patton, which have now become part of the forest.
- Deforestation and Conservation Efforts: The rapid deforestation caused by the logging industry, coupled with uncontrolled hunting, led to the depletion of wildlife and degradation of the forest's natural resources. Recognizing the need for conservation, the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters began acquiring land in the early 20th century to establish state forest reserves. In 1936, the area was officially designated as Gallitzin State Forest, named after Prince Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, a Catholic priest who played a significant role in the region's religious and social development.
- Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Projects: During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal work relief program, was instrumental in developing and improving Gallitzin State Forest. CCC workers constructed roads, bridges, firetowers, and recreational facilities, as well as planted trees to mitigate the effects of deforestation.
- Modern Recreation and Conservation Efforts: Today, Gallitzin State Forest offers numerous recreational opportunities, including camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Several lakes, such as Glendale Lake and Prince Gallitzin State Park, provide additional recreational activities. The forest is managed with a focus on sustainable forest practices, including timber harvesting and wildlife habitat conservation. It continues to be an important ecological and recreational resource for the community and visitors alike.
Overall, Gallitzin State Forest has transformed from a heavily logged and industrialized region to a conservation area that provides scenic beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities to people in and around Pennsylvania.