Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve is part of the Hellam Hills Conservation Area, which in 2021-2022 underwent a master planning process (learn more). The resulting plan for the area offers ecological restoration and recreation recommendations which are being developed and implemented over time. Your support of the Conservancy as a donor or a volunteer will allow us to bring this plan to life for the benefit of the community and nature.
Planning Your Hike
Two looping trails leave the temporary parking area off of the access road from Accomac Road. Please note that active habitat restoration, visitor amenity construction, trail rerouting and development is underway following the recommendations of the Hellam Hills Conservation Area Master Plan. Please abide by any posted signs limiting visitor access on the preserve for your own safety and to ensure the ecological success of the multiple restoration projects.
Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve is part of the Upland Section of the Pennsylvania Piedmont and overlooks the Piedmont Lowlands located in Lancaster County across the river. Along this boundary the river runs from west to east with dramatic bluffs along the Hellam Hills Ridge Line. The north facing slope along the northern ridge line and a portion of the southwest corner of Wizard Ranch are comprised of the Chickies Formation, developed during the Cambrian Period (541-485 million years ago) of predominantly quartzite bedrock. Metarhyolite, moderate bluish gray to grayish red in color, developed in the Precambrian Period (4,600-541 million years ago) dominates the central portion of Wizard Ranch. The last geological area of Wizard Ranch is located along the stream valley running parallel to Accomac Road and is Metabasalt. Also developed in the Precambrian Period (4,600-541 million years ago), Metabasalt is characteristically green, greenish gray, and dark gray, and is fine to medium grained with medium to coarse color banding along with veins and masses of quartz.
Of the total of 182 plant species observed over five research site visits, 49 of the species, such as Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum), are considered invasive and dominated much of the landscape. Active restoration efforts, including the use of prescribed fire, are being used to restore the meadow and forests of the preserves.
97 bird species were observed during a 2021 study of fall migration, spring migration, and breeding season. The most frequently observed birds were indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea), northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), red‐bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinianus), red‐eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus), and American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis).
Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve’s wetlands, streams, and uplands are critical habitats for regional herpetofauna, and a 2021 study observed 12 species including two turtle, five anuran, three salamander, and two snake species.
Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve is home to a variety of mammals such as gray squirrel, groundhogs, red fox, opossum, eastern coyote, and an overpopulation of white-tailed deer.
Central to Wizard Ranch is an unnamed tributary to the Susquehanna River that flows west to east across the site. Two smaller branches of the site’s stream originate to the west of the nature preserve in neighboring farmland. They converge in the central portion of Wizard Ranch to form the main stream. Wizard Ranch has several springs, vernal pools, and wetlands, which are in the process of being restored.
The land was donated to the Boy Scouts in 1960 by Mahlon N. Haines, nicknamed the “Shoe Wizard”. Haines’ extensive land holdings throughout York County included the Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve lands. He operated the land as a farm and had plans to build an estate home near the farm along Accomac Road. Haines was an avid supporter of scouting and starting in 1941, he hosted the “Haines Safari” for local scouts on his farmland in celebration of his birthday.
Haines passed away at the age of 87 in 1962. The New Birth of Freedom Council, Inc., started up the modern era of the “Wizard Safari” in 1987 and they have continued to hold the event quadrennially. The Boy Scouts hosted their most recent safari in the fall of 2019 and will continue to do so every few years now that the preserve is owned by the Conservancy.
Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve is not open to any form of hunting at this time. See ‘Where to Hunt’ for more details.
Report Hunting Violations: PA Game Commission at 1-888-742-8001 or 610-926-3136
After several years of discussions with the Boy Scouts, this former Boy Scout camp was acquired in 2019. Funding for the acquisition was provided by Pennsylvania DCNR, a grant from The Conservation Fund funded by Williams in connection with construction and operation of the company’s Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project, and the Pine Tree Conservation Society.
A temporary parking area is located down the access road into the preserve off of Accomac Road.