April 2013: Ferncliff Wildflower and Wildlife Preserve

Benton, PA

This wooded ravine is celebrated for its old growth forest, one of the last remaining in Pennsylvania’s Piedmont region. In 1972 the Ferncliff Wildflower and Wildlife Preserve was named a National Natural Landmark. Today the 65 acres are managed by the Lancaster County Conservancy. 

The way in and out of the Ferncliff Preserve is on a closed county road. Gently sloping and comprised of dirt and gravel, it is a beautiful trail as it swings back and forth along the Barnes Run stream corridor. There are a couple of shallow water crossings that certainly won’t trouble even the smallest dog. Past tiny waterfalls, beside jagged rock outcroppings, and under towering ash, oak and hemlock trees, the old road eventually reaches the railroad tracks that block the way to the Susquehanna River. A small sign on the north side of the road points the way to a North Rim Trail and this narrow footpath can be used for a return trip, picking along the valley slopes.  

Ferncliff Wildflower and Wildlife Preserve is one of fewer than 600 sites designated as a National Natural Landmark. The program recognizes and encourages the conservation of outstanding examples of our country’s natural history. There are 26 such sites in Pennsylvania. Ferncliff Preserve has been selected for its unique vegetation, thought to be virgin growth.  

South of Lancaster on the Susquehanna River. Take Route 272 south past the intersection with Route 372. Continue for three miles to Chestnut Level Road and make a right.Make a left on River Road past the cemetery and a quick right onto Slate Hill Road. After a bend in the road, make a right on Harmony Ridge Road. In a couple miles look for Bald Eagle Road on the left. Turn and find the preserve at the bottom of the hill on the right.