Hearts Content Natural Area preserves one of our region’s last remaining stands of “virgin timber,” or old growth forest.
Tionesta Scenic Area, Allegheny National Forest’s other old growth forest reserve, is 16 miles to the east. These sites are object lessons in the cycle of life and death in a forest ecosystem, the complex interplay of natural and human interference, and change over time. A brochure and map of the site are available from the USDA Forest Service in PDF form by clicking here.
Natural History Interest
The over 200 acres of virgin forest that make up the Hearts Content Natural Area are home to a tremendous diversity of species. According to the USDA, “[t]he original forest was a mixture of white pine, Eastern hemlock, and American beech, with a multi-layered understory of hobble bush, witch hazel, and many other species. Time, weather, insects, and disease have all affected the forest in different ways, along with a high population of deer.” Despite these changes, “[t]he oldest of the existing trees, mostly white pine and Eastern hemlock, are estimated at 300-400 years old. Many of the other trees in the stand are younger and have come in through natural succession, displaying multiple vertical layers of vegetation typical of a natural, not human-influenced, forest and occasional open gaps where large old trees have fallen and young seedlings and saplings are filling in to renew the forest.”
Who To Contact
For information on Hearts Content contact the Sheffield Ranger District Office of the U.S. Forest Service, US 6, Sheffield, PA 16347; Tel: 814–968–3232.
How To Get There
Hearts Content is located 15 miles southwest of Warren, PA. From the Mohawk exit of U.S. Route 6, take Pleasant Drive (State Route 3005/337) south for 11 miles. At the hard curve, turn left onto a gravel road (State Route 3005); go south for four miles to Hearts Content. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers constructed the campground, picnic area, and pavilion in 1936. An exhibit of a hand-hewed log is adjacent to the picnic area.
What To See
Baseline data is still being collected for all forms of life in the Hearts Content Natural Area. For up to the minute bird observations and occurrence data you can click on this link to eBird bar graphs featuring three hotspots within the site. Woodland bird species are the primary sightings in Hearts Content with notable breeding birds such as the Ruffed Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, a multitude of warblers, sparrows, and other species. Mammals recorded at the site include Gray Squirrel, Red Squirrel, Beaver, Mink, Muskat, Raccoon, Black Bear, Red Fox, Gray Fox, White-tailed Deer, Snowshoe Hare, Eastern Chipmunk, and more.
Wetlands like those above are undoubtedly home to strong numbers of reptiles and amphibians. We will be surveying them along with dozens of other sites within the confines of the Allegheny National Forest, focusing on species like the Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) in order discover where populations exist, their abundance, their health, and in turn the health of some of the most critical and pristine waterways in the world. In doing so, as we have at other nearby sites, we will be assessing the dragonflies and damselflies utilizing these same waters. As you can see below there are also many other more diverse forms of life to be seen, too!
Why It’s Important To Conservation
Hearts Content is a part of the Allegheny National Forest with over half a million acres of land. The site itself, as mentioned, is one of the few stands of virgin forest.
The USDA notes that there are over 70 species of game and non-game fish within the site. There are very likely a high number of conservation priority species ranging from amphibians to nesting birds to plants and mammals. These species would require very specific habitat types including clean, clear, cold and fast-flowing waterways to climax forest. These types of habitats are increasingly rare in the United States due to development, pollution, invasive species, and other problematic influences or choices. This historic site must be preserved and managed for the imperiled and uncommon species that inhabit it.