Thursday and Friday are predicted to be what we dream about all year: upper 70s. sun, blue skies and low humidity.
So time to visit the Blakselee Nature Preseve, only about 3 miles from the Darling Preserve I visited last week, but a million miles away in terms of character, plants and ambience.
Pics are of ground nuts which grown in abundance there and a teenage girl who walked the trail to the end to Tobyhanna Falls, to do some quiet fishing. Just a wonderful place.
Here’s my article from last year.
By Bob Quarteroni
“Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.” John Muir, pioneering naturalist
Taking such a course at the hugely unappreciated Austin T. Blakeslee Natural Area was Scott Newton of Charlotte, NC, who was sitting on a rock in the middle of Tobyhanna Creek “emptying my mind of everything except the moment and the perfect, quiet beauty of this place.”
Newton, a native of Bear Creek, said that the Natural Area, 9/10ths of a mile from Blakeslee Corners on Rt. 115 heading toward the interstate — was a chance discovery, “and I couldn’t have found a better spot if I tried. It’s absolutely perfect.”
The Natural Area, 130 acres of permanently protected land, is a lovely microcosm of the best that nature has to offer, from Tobyhanna Creek and its signature Tobyhanna Falls to miles of lovely trails, scenic wildflowers, picnic facilities and lots and lots of quiet. It is open dawn to dusk daily.
And this gem arose, improbably, from its beginnings as a Pocono hot spot. Originally farm land, the area morphed into Harrison Park nearly a century ago, and as they would have said then, it was the cat’s meow, the place to go in the Poconos.
And why not, it had all the bells and whistles: A large club house, two large swimming pools, roller skating, dancing, a Penny Arcade, a Ferris wheel, a carousel, even a miniature railroad.
Advertisements in 1931 for Decoration Day at Harrison Park called it “the Pocono’s beauty spot” and featured events including a clay pigeon shoot and a double header baseball game pitting the Blakeslee Giants against the Philadelphia Marines.
But in 1955, the Tobyhanna flooded, and flooded badly, and the lights went out for Harrison Park.
But today’s silence and tranquility is a carnival in its own right, a festival of the natural and scenic.
The Natural Area was made possible by a collaboration of Tunkhannock and Tobyhanna townships and was funded in part by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Monroe County Open Space Bond.
According to tobyhannatownship.org, “It was the desire that this area be kept in its natural state, adding only a few paths and other minor improvements to allow the public to enjoy its scenic beauty and to allow fishermen access to the Tobyhanna Creek.”
And that’s exactly how it is: natural, scenic and accessible.
Tobyhanna Creek flows from Tobyhanna Lake. It is fairly large, averaging about 40 to 60 feet wide and with the brownish, tannic water common in Pocono streams. It is stocked with trout both preseason and in season, with the last stocking normally coming in May and that’s pretty much the end of the season for trout.
“When the water gets very warm in July and August, fishing is poor on Tobyhanna Creek,” Dwight Landis says in “Trout Streams of Pennsylvania: An Angler’s Guide.”
(I fly fished it in mid-September and caught a fair number of smallmouth bass, but all were on the smallish side.)
But its best trout fishing is just around the corner. According to Game&Fish Magazine, the Tobyhanna is one of “our Top 10 Winter Trout Streams.”
“Imagine finding a reliable Pocono Mountain freestone stream in winter that contains wild brook and brown trout and also stocked trout,” the magazine says. “Tobyhanna Creek in Monroe County fishes amazingly well in winter. Fishermen who get there during a brief thaw liken it to springtime angling.”
An added bonus is access to Tobyhanna Falls, a regional jewel. As one person on TripAdvisor raved, “It was an unexpected surprise. We took the Creek Trail to the small falls. So glad we did this as it was an amazing discovery of beautiful (although small) falls with a nice amount of cool rock formations around it.”
If angling isn’t your game, rambling through the forest of hemlocks, pines, rhododendrons and hardwoods might be. There’s a colorful show of wildflowers all along the creek – Joe Pye Weed and the exquisite Cardinal Flower among them.
The 1.1l4 mile Creek Trail hugs the creek and ends at Tobyhanna Falls. The mile-long Highland Trail and half-mile Pine Trail bisect the park and take you to a blueberry swamp, a Falls Overlook and Woodpecker Hill, named so for obvious reasons.
The picnic facilities are top notch and the entire area is scrupulously, impeccably clean.
To keep it that way, follow the rules: No littering, motorized vehicles, alcoholic beverages, fires, hunting or swimming. Pets are allowed but scoop and leash laws are in effect.
Heading from Blakeslee Corners on Rt. 115 toward the interstate, there is an Upper Parking lot on the right – it’s very tiny and easy to miss – and then the main Lower Parking, also on the right, which is well=marked. There’s a visitor’s pavilion with a large notice board at the Lower Parking Lot entrance as well as a large number of picnic tables.
A map and brochure of the Blakeslee Natural Area can be downloaded from www.tobyhannatownship.org; click on communities-parks-recreation.