On Sunday and Wednesday, take a hike back in time with Centred Outdoors at Greenwood Furnace State Park, the former site of a scorching hot iron furnace and a bustling community of laborers.
The Greenwood Iron Furnace was fired up on June 5, 1834. Greenwood’s location was perfect for accessing the key ingredients required to manufacture pig iron: ore, water, limestone and trees. The charcoal-fueled furnace produced about four tons of pig iron ingots per day with an annual output of around 1,200 tons. Charcoal was crucial to producing high quality iron and allowed the furnaces to operate at extreme temperatures of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The hearths used to turn raw lumber into charcoal can still be found in the area as large, flat circles, that have little vegetation on them due to soil contamination.
A thriving community grew to support the furnace operations. At its height in the early 1880s, the community consisted of two furnaces, ironmaster’s mansion, company store, blacksmith and wagon shop, church, school, 17 stables, 90 tenant houses, and a gristmill. About 300 employees and their families lived and worked here. Greenwood Furnace had a baseball team, the Energetics, and a 15-piece brass band. In 1904, the furnace closed due to changing economic times and the depletion of natural resources.
A few years after the furnace’s closure, the land was purchased by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for use as a tree nursery. Years of iron production had spread of charcoal dust and fly ash across the area; making it well-suited for growing trees. Trees grown at the nursery aided in restoring the depleted forest land left behind the from the iron boom. During its peak years in the 1970s and 1980s, the nursery produced an average of three million seedlings a year. Nursery operations ceased in 1993.
The former location of the furnace village and tree nursery is now home to the 423-acre Greenwood Furnace State Park — including a beautiful six-acre lake, campground, hiking trails, and a historic district. The park also provides access to backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, hunting, and fishing in the surrounding 80,000-acre Rothrock State Forest. During the Centred Outdoors hike, visitors will tour the historic Greenwood Furnace State Park and learn about the early days of the Pennsylvania Iron Industry. Guests will be able to see the restored collier (charcoal maker) wagon and a charcoal demonstration before or after the hike. Also, don’t forget to pack a swim suit and your picnic basket to enjoy the lake after exploring!
Planning to attend this week’s adventure? Here’s what you need to know:
What: Centred Outdoors: Greenwood Furnace State Park
When: 2-5 p.m. Sunday, with guided hikes at 2 and 3:30 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, with guided walks at 5 and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Greenwood Furnace State Park, 15795 Greenwood Road, Huntingdon
Parking: Ample parking is available on site.
What to bring:
A refillable water bottle
Sun protection including a hat and sunscreen
Sturdy footwear capable of walking on a forested path
Long pants and high socks may be preferred for additional protection from insects and ticks
A light snack or picnic, especially if you plan to come early or stay after the hike
Child carrier/backpack is recommended for very young children
Binoculars for bird and wildlife watchers
Difficulty of hike: 2 mile long hike; moderate difficulty
Pets must be kept on a leash and owners must clean up after their pets.
Visit www.centredoutdoors.org for complete event details and safety tips
Next week’s adventure: Shaver’s Creek, June 23 from 2-5 p.m. and June 26 from 5-8 p.m.
Hosted by ClearWater Conservancy, Centred Outdoors will continue hosting free, guided adventures every Sunday from 2-5 p.m. and every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. through Aug. 6. The finalized schedule can be seen at www.centredoutdoors.org, where users can login to create their own profile, RSVP, and receive weekly emails about each event. While online registration is not required, it is the best way to receive event updates.