Figure 1.-General location of the Tionesta Scenic and Natural Research Areas.
IN THE ALLEGHENY National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania lies a unique
remnant of the virgin hemlock-beech climax forest - the Tionesta Scenic and
Research Natural Areas (fig. 1 and fig. 2).
Here is one of the few remaining examples of the virgin forest that once covered 6 million acres of the Allegheny Plateau in Pennsylvania and New York. Foresters call this a climax forest because it is a community of plants that represents the culminating stage of a natural forest succession for a given environment. It is a forest that slowly evolved in the course of centuries.
This report was prepared to provide a brief ecological history of the area and to record the variety of trees, shrubs, herbs, and vertebrates found here.
The Tionesta Areas were once part of a colonial grant to the Holland Land
Company that was later held by small tanneries in Sheffield, Pennsylvania, as a
reserve for hemlock tanbark. This land was later purchased by the U.S.
Leather Company and subsequently was turned over to the Central Pennsylvania
To preserve a remnant of this climax forest, the last remaining area of uncut hemlock-beech forest was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1936. In 1940 the northern half of this tract was formally dedicated as a scenic area; the southern half was dedicated as a research natural area. Both of these areas, the Tionesta Scenic Area and the Tionesta Research Natural Area, are administered by the Forest Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture.
On 23 July 1973, the Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Areas were added to the National Registry of the Natural Landmarks Program. The objectives of the Natural Landmarks Program are (1) to encourage the preservation of sites illustrating the geological and, ecological character of the United States, (2) to enhance the educational and scientific value of sites thus preserved, (3) to strengthen cultural appreciation of natural history, and (4) to foster a a greater concern for the conservation of the Nation's natural heritage. Both the Forest Service Research Natural Areas program and the National Landmarks Program ensure that the a significant ecological and historical values of both areas will be protected and preserved.
Figure 2.-Large hemlocks such as these in the Tionesta Scenic Area are common in a hemlock-beech climax forest.
Figure 3.- The Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Area.
Management of the 2,O18-acre Scenic Area (fig. 3) is designed to maintain the
climax forest in an undisturbed state and to allow the public to enjoy the
grandeur of the virgin forest that once covered the Allegheny Plateau. To
help accomplish this objective, the entire Scenic Area has been closed to all
types of camping, manmade fires, horses, and any form of motorized vehicular
An entrance road leading to a parking loop at the northeastern corner of the Scenic Area makes the tract accessible to the public. From the parking loop, two interpretive trails lead the visitor through a portion of the climax hemlock- beech forest. Other trails, plus numerous pipelines, open the rest of the area to hikers, hunters, and fishermen.
The 2,113-acre Research Natural Area (fig. 3) is set aside for scientific study of the ecology of a climax hemlock-beech forest. Research studies
have been conducted within this area since its dedication to that purpose.
A study begun in 1942 is being continued to record the changes in understory
vegetation. Other studies have been made of tree vigor, the growth and
quality of the Allegheny hardwoods, and the food resources and ingestion rates
of small mammals.
To maintain this forest in its natural state, the Research Natural Area is subject to the same use restrictions as the Scenic Area.