Bear Creek Preserve
Bear Creek Preserve is a vast expanse of forests and steep stream valleys in the Lehigh River Watershed. Larger than many state parks, the preserve is a mosaic of diverse, thriving habitats and plant communities, including several rare species. The land provides vital habitat for native wildlife, including black bear, coyote, Bald Eagle, and many species of migratory songbirds. Bear Creek Preserve is part of a larger landscape of protected lands and popular recreation areas, including state parks and gamelands, that spans more than 150,000 acres.
The preserve is home to grey fox, Eastern coyote, black bear, bobcat, and even Northern flying squirrel, which is state endangered. Keep an eye out for paw prints as you hike the trails, especially after rain or snow.
The dense woodlands of Bear Creek Preserve also offer a refuge for a myriad of birds, including several designated as species of special concern by the state. Listen for an avian serenade from Scarlet Tanagers, Veeries, Indigo Buntings, Ovenbirds, and at least a half-dozen types of warblers.
Birds of prey—eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and more—can be observed from lookout points along the trails. Bald Eagles have nested here along the Lehigh River and Ospreys have done so in the grassy flooplains near the neighboring Francis E. Walter dam. Both are considered threatened species.
The native plant species at the Preserve are as diverse as the wildlife. Dense thickets of highbush blueberries, which fruit in summer, provide nourishment to birds, bears, and small mammals. Fly-poison blooms in the woodlands. American colonists mixed the crushed bulb of this native perennial—which is toxic—with sugar to kill flies.
The three streams that run through Bear Creek Preserve—Shades Creek, Bear Creek, and Stony Run—are all classified as “high quality, cold water fisheries,” with crystal clear water and abundant native fish species. The quality of these waterways is due in large part to the many protected lands that surround Bear Creek Preserve. As tributaries to the river flow through intact natural areas, the plants and soils filter out contaminants and slow stormwater runoff. As a result, the water is cleaner and flooding is reduced, saving millions of dollars each year in water treatment and flood control measures.
The main entrance of the Preserve is located along Rt 115 at Rabbit Run Lane, 2.8 miles south of Bear Creek Village and 8.5 miles north of Blakeslee. Additional parking is located at pull offs along White Haven Road and Rt. 115 in Buck Township, .5 miles north of Buck River Road.
In 1960, F. Otto and Dorothy Haas—members of one of Philadelphia’s most philanthropic families—purchased a spectacular 6,400-acre expanse of forest in the village of Bear Creek, and established a wilderness retreat for their family.
When their three sons—John, Bill, and Tom—inherited the property nearly two decades later, they began to explore ways to preserve the land so it would forever remain the wild and special place they’d come to treasure. The Haas family placed nearly half of the land under conservation easement with North Branch Land Trust and donated the remaining acreage to Natural Lands, thus establishing Bear Creek Preserve. The transaction is the largest single land acquisition in Natural Lands’ history.