Woodbourne provides unique look at PA forests, wildlife

Naturalist Jerry Skinner stands on the overlook at the 16-acre swamp at Woodbourne Forest Preserve in Dimock Township on Thursday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN WOODRUFF

BY KEVIN WOODRUFF

Woodbourne Forest and Wildlife Preserve is an outdoor oasis nestled in rural Dimock Township.

The 600 acre forest and wildlife preserve features nearly 100 acres ofPennsylvania’s oldest growth forests.

Its many unique features provide curious hikers with natural wonders unique toPennsylvania.

It is home to 85 varieties of plants as well as abundant wildlife including black bear, white-tailed deer, raccoons, foxes, otter, squirrels, cottontail rabbits and numerous species of birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Along its three separate hiking trails, Woodbourne guests will get an in-depth look at untouched wilderness.

Beavers are already hard at work at Woodbourne, chopping down trees for food and to dam the preserve’s 16-acre swamp. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN WOODRUFF

Dr. Jerry Skinner, the naturalist at Woodbourne, said it is owned by the Nature Conservancy, a national organization that aims to protect nature and wildlife.

Woodbourne was donated to the Nature Conservancy by Francis R. Cope and family in 1956 and is managed by a volunteer stewardship committee of nearly 25.

It is the fourth property the Nature Conservancy ever acquired.

Skinner said the main draw of the property is its old growth forest.

It is one of the largest areas of untouched forest inPennsylvaniawhere guests can view many of the largest trees in the state.

A 500 year-old Hemlock Tree dwarves Woodbourne Forest and Wildlife Preserve naturalist Jerry Skinner. The tree is part of 100 acres of old growth forest on the Dimock Township property. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN WOODRUFF

One Hemlock Tree on the property Skinner said is nearly 500 years old.

“There are so few places where trees grow this large,” Skinner said.

Skinner said that it’s relatively easy to identify old growth forest.

He said some signs include pit and mound topography, where trees fall and create mounds where they decompose and pits where the roots come out of the ground.

He also said that old growth forest will have trees in all stages of life, from seedlings all the way to trees hundreds of years old.

The 16-acre swamp is what Skinner referred to as a “beaver controlled swamp,” and is virtually unaltered by humans.

The only thing that Skinner and the committee do is unblock the dam so that the swamp doesn’t back up and flood the trails.

The swamp empties out into an unnamed tributary to the Meshoppen Creek.

“Our goal is to maintain the old growth woods,” Skinner said. “We don’t alter very much.”

One thing that Skinner pointed out is that he just wants the public to know is that the trails are open and available.

There are one-mile, three-mile and five-mile trails available on the property for all types of hikes.

Skinner said that Woodbourne plays host to many school groups, Boy Scout groups and birdwatchers.

Woodbourne Forest and Wildlife Preserve is open year-round during daylight hours and is free for the public. This picnic pavilion is open for use by visitors to the preserve. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN WOODRUFF

He said this summer will feature a full lineup of activities taking place on the property.

Woodbourne will host week-long nature classes, bird watching adventures, lightning bug and dragon fly finding expeditions and more.

“A lot of people just come to see the large trees,” Skinner said. “Others come for the peace.”

However, Woodbourne is not without its own set of issues.

Skinner is concerned about two species of insects that are likely to take over the area.

The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid feeds on Hemlock Trees and could likely take out Woodbourne’s population, and the Emerald Ash Borer feeds on ash trees.

“Those are the two dominant species of trees in these woods,” Skinner said. “In the next several years, the face of these woods could change significantly.”

Canada geese call the 16-acre swamp at Woodbourne Forest and Wildlife Preserve their home. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN WOODRUFF

Other environmental issues that could threaten Woodbourne include natural gas exploration, however, the preserve is taking no chances and said it has not and will never sign a gas lease.

The property is open 365 days a year and free to use by the public during daylight hours.

Skinner said the preserve is always looking for more volunteers to help maintain the trail system at Woodbourne.

For more information, contact Skinner at 278-3384.