Crow's Nest Preserve
Crow’s Nest is the gateway to the Hopewell Big Woods, a 73,000-acre expanse of forest that reaches north into Berks County. Just next door, you’ll find French Creek State Park and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, making Crow’s Nest part of one of the largest areas of protected land in the region.
The pristine French Creek runs through Crow’s Nest, flowing from French Creek State Park’s Hopewell Lake on its way to the Schuylkill River. The preserve’s streamside forest helps protect the creek’s water quality.
Wildlife abounds at Crow’s Nest! You may spot Wood Ducks or see signs of beaver construction along French Creek; hear the songs of Wood Thrushes, Vireos, and warblers in the dense forests; or track the footprints of fox, raccoon, and deer. The preserve is part of the Hay Creek/French Creek Forest Block “Important Bird Area” (a National Audubon Society designation).
Crow’s Nest is a haven for other wild creatures: children! For decades, the preserve has hosted both after-school programs and a summer day camp to help combat the nature disconnect today’s kids face. The preserve includes a NaturePlayGround to encourage creative, unstructured play, and hosts a variety of outdoor education programs for all ages.
Crow’s Nest is composed of several 19th-century farms and the forests that have grown up around them. Most of the forests in this area were cut repeatedly in the 1800s to make charcoal to fuel iron-making furnaces and in the early 1900s for timber.
The land that makes up the preserve was still being farmed in the late 1950s when John Dorrance—once chairman of Campbell Soup Company—began to assemble land for a country retreat. When Dorrance died in 1989, the property was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to be sold and the proceeds used to support the Museum’s endowment. When the subdivided parcels went up for sale, a local family purchased nearly all of them, then conveyed a 79-acre portion to Natural Lands. Over the decades the family has continued to donate more of the preserve to the organization.