The Lancaster Conservancy has been busy planning, plotting and seeking funding for restoration work within the River Hills of Lancaster County. The focus of this effort is on the cluster of preserves between Holtwood Dam and Pequea connected by the Conestoga Trail, which runs like a backbone (albeit one with many kinks in the way of steep ups and downs) along a ridge above the Susquehanna River.
Some of that planning is now coming to fruition with the help of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps. A program of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Student Conservation Association, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps employs young people to work on recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands. The program is a win-win in that Corps members get work experience, job training, and learning opportunities in resource management and other environmental issues, while our public lands benefit from the stewardship work completed by members.
Thanks to funding from the National Park Service (NPS) and the Lancaster County Community Foundation, this crew of youth will spend the end of July and the beginning of August at Tucquan Glen & Pyfer Nature Preserves providing much needed maintenance to the existing trails that have been loved to death (or at least a state of disrepair). The work these youth will be doing kicks off a major restoration effort at these beloved nature preserves to ensure the longevity of the trail system and make for certain that the trail and its use will not have unintended impacts on the surrounding ecosystem or the creek, which is designated a Pennsylvania Wild and Scenic River.
“The project goals are geared first toward maintenance, restoration, and site protection and secondly toward safe hiking for visitors and easier access for first responders. We succeeded in creating a final design that will significantly reduce existing stream crossings, reroute unsustainable existing trails out of the floodway, and provide control points for stream access,” explains Brandon Tennis, Senior Vice President of Stewardship.
While restoration work is ongoing, you will see daytime activity in the parking areas along River Road that have been closed since March of 2020 when dangerous levels of overcrowding and illegal parking forced the Conservancy to indefinitely close these lots to the public. Tucquan Glen & Pyfer Nature Preserves have remained, and will continue to remain, open while restoration work is underway. Parking at the Tucquan Glen & Pyfer trailhead will remain closed through the duration of the project.
Visitors to the preserves can hike in on the Conestoga Trail from the ample parking areas at Pinnacle Overlook (a four-mile round trip hike) or House Rock Nature Preserve (a six-mile round trip hike). These approaches to the glen are strenuous and steep, but also rewarding. Hikers should remember to take the 10 essentials of hiking as well as additional salty snacks and water on hot summer days. And remember these hikes are out and backs – what you go down, you must climb back up.
While the River Road Tucquan Glen parking areas remain closed, we recommend checking out Climbers Run Nature Center, Fishing Creek North or Fishing Creek Nature Preserves for quicker (and less strenuous) access to shady swimming holes and cool creeks. Be sure to plan your hike in advance by downloading a trail map from the Conservancy’s website and, as always, Leave No Trace and follow all posted rules and regulations when visiting. Please take special note to avoid building dams in the stream. Even a temporary dam can impede the movement of aquatic life like fish and macroinvertebrates and damage or destroy their shelters and habitat. Enjoy the natural state of the stream and get to know the life that lives below the water surface while cooling off this summer.
“Tucquan Glen & Pyfer Nature Preserves are but two of the scenic, preserved natural areas within the Lancaster River Hills Conservation Area. With the Conservancy’s over 50 years of success in land protection and stewardship, and with partners like NPS, DCNR, and local landscape planners and funders, we are now able to disperse and better mitigate the impact of visitation to these beautiful, but sensitive, landscape features, “ says Brandon Tennis. “We are proud to be a part of providing green collar career building opportunities to local youth and young adults through the PA Outdoor Corps program.”
Please note the shoulder of River Road as well as Douts Hill Road by Tucquan Glen & Pyfer Nature Preserves are signed no parking and violators will be towed. Please respect our neighbors that live here by adhering to these posted signs.