Renovo is located in Clinton County, north central Pennsylvania. The 2010 census put the population at less than 1,300. Renovo is known for its yearly “Flaming Foliage Festival”, which takes place in October.
Built at the mid-point between Erie and Philadelphia by the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad, Renovo began as lumber town. Bituminous coal was discovered in the area, and mining became the main industry until the railroad took over. The train shops in Renovo repaired trains as well as built furniture for other train stations on the Philadelphia & Erie line.
In the 1930’s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration, multiple Civilian Conservation Corps Camps were established in the area to help restore and recover the forests that had been depleted by lumbering. These camps were vacated when World War Two began.
After World War Two, the railroad industry began to collapse. This demise was completed in the 1960’s with the closing of the last railroad shops in the area.
In the spring of 2016, we-- Ian, Kate, and Morgan, students from Penn State University-- set out to document Renovo and its surrounding areas. We were interested in it’s lumbering, mining, and conservation history.
A town of bridges stuck smack in the valley
Surrounded by mountain and water,
There’s no getting out unintentionally.
You can’t come or go without crossing
A bridge. And I think that there might
Be some significance in that, a town
Of water, of movement, of life.
A town with bridges is a town with connections
– ways to get from here to there,
to cross, depart, come back together again.
A town with connections is a town of neighbors –
where everybody waves, even if they know you don’t belong.
A town with bridges you don’t want to lose
touch with the people – they say it takes
a village to raise a child and you don’t want
those bridges that got you where you are to burn.
The First Tree
I could see it there,
in Cleveland Hollow
the water traveling
a path it had carved
out from underneath,
after centuries of wear
and tear through
the gentle, brown Earth.
Roots dangle, reach
to quench a never
This could be it,
the first tree,
the rest, resting along
a stream at the base
of mountain, carved
by a river, standing
for 363 million years,
its star shaped leaves
unfurled from those
of its velvety,
Red Hill is a Late Devonian fossil cite located about 4 miles outside of Renovo in a village called North Bend. The Red Hill fossil site became famous in 1993, when the Hynerpeton Bassetti was found. The Hynerpeton Bassetti was the first fossil of its type to be discovered, it is thought to be one of the earth’s earliest tetrapods, meaning that it lived in water, but had developed the ability to walk on land as well. The fossil, the shoulder bone of the creature, was found by Ted Daeschler and Neil Shubin. Since then, a number of other kinds of fossils have been found in the area, including that of the Hyneria Lindae, a predatory, Lobe-fin fish. Red Hill remains an active dig site for the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia,and is located directly along State Route 120.
Currently, you can visit theRed Hill Fossil display
located in the Chapman township building in North Bend, PA. The small museum boasts an active work station, as well as displays featuring finds from the Red Hill dig site.Because the dig site is still active, sometimes members of the dig team will work at the work station, cleaning and identifying their pieces.
The Red Hill fossil display is maintained by Doug Rowe, who also oversees the dig site. Rowe is a native to the area and has been working with the dig site for over 15 years.
To set up a visit to the museum or dig site, call Doug Rowe at (570)-923-2044. If you work with a dig group, you may keep the fossils you find, unless the Academy of Natural Sciences finds it to be new or of interest to their studies.
Before the railroad became the primary industry in Renovo, the economy relied on the lumber industry until all of the usable trees were cut down, then on the mining of bituminous coal. These industries left the natural areas surrounding Renovo depleted and polluted. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed these problems with the Works Progress Administration (later renamed to the Works Projects Administration) and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) supplied jobs to unemployed males, and restored the forests by planting new trees and controlling soil erosion, as well as conserving wildlife and streams, fighting insects and diseases, and preventing forest fires. They built fire towers, access roads and bridges, as well as dams, drainage, and irrigation for flood control. Their landscape and recreation work included building campgrounds that are still used by many local, state, and national parks today.
(where Renovo is located) had 10 CCC camps. The three closest camps to Renovo were Hyner, Two Mile, and Cooks Run, all of which are within 17 miles of Renovo. All three of these camps are also located within what is now called the Sproul State Forest.
After the start of World War Two, CCC camps were closed due to the draft. These camps were not re-inhabited after the war, but the site of the Hyner camp now houses a camp ground and is the location of Hyner View State Park. The sites of Two Mile and Cooks Run are marked and have commemorative plaques.
, also known as Keating, was established in late May of 1936. Consisting mainly of boys ages 17-25 from Alabama, the camp eventually received boys from Florida and Georgia, and went by the name “The Cotton Pickers,” represented by the colors red and white.
Currently, the location of the Cooks Run CCC camp is being utilized for controlled logging. Federal and State governments allow controlled logging in State and National forests as a way to help thin forests to prevent forest fires, as well as to help renew the forest life and promote biodiversity. While the practice has its benefits, it is also highly controversial due to pollution and animal habitat loss.
(Renovo is Latin for “I renew”)
Logging is good for the health of the forest
people have told me, arms crossed, shoes scuffing
the floor. Selective logging protects the forest.
Old large trees littering the forest floor leaves
a clearing – small trees blossom, bloom, burst
into the sky, an opportunity for growth, regrowth,
a diversity of species – the scent of pines and the shade
of maples, simple as some chops for profit, knock ‘em
down, drag ‘em out, plant some saplings in their wake
surrounded by wire fences to protect from the wildlife
until they’re big enough to need chopped again.
The cycle seems sound enough until you venture
to a site, see logs and stumps and saplings piled,
every tree marked for destruction, get stuck
deep in slicks of mud and oil and wonder about renewal—
how a sapling could ever break through.
Two Mile Run CCC Camp, also know as Lucullus, opened in late May of 1933. The Two Mile Camp is best known for working on Kettle Creek State Park and helping recover the Westport area after a flood in 1936. The men built the Kettle Creek Recreational Area, and a dam that created an area for swimming and boating. Kettle Creek remains a popular place for camping and fishing.
In recent years, Kettle Creek has suffered run off from abandoned bituminous coal mines in the area. The Kettle Creek Watershed Association and Trout Unlimited are working on a plan to help deal with the pollution and protect the Trout population in the area.
Along Kettle Creek
Coming out of the trees we could see it,
a convergence in Kettle Creek . We stood
on the very tip at the center of the Y of the two
bodies of water and wondered why there was such a difference,
a distinct streak of color where the two met. Brassy blue faded
with an orangey streak into dark blue which flows forward
down the stream. At first, we blamed depth, the master
of color deception, then temperature, trees, shadows
and sun. Closer to the smaller stream we noticed rocks
the color of copper, bright and curious, contrast
against soft green moss. We ran our hands along
both the rough dry edges that stained
and the spongey moist green that washed
away the powdery orange that caked our hands.
Only later did we find that burnt orange is not a natural color
for rocks beside the stream, that the stark lines of color
that marked mixing and flowing and motion
meant run off from coal mines,
that the stark orange rocks, surrounded by moss
were ticking time bombs nature was struggling
The CCC Camp at Hyner, also known as Koller Farm, was established in early May of 1933. The camp was predominantly Black. In 1936, much of Renovo was destroyed by a flood, and the men at the Hyner Camp were the first responders to the incident, saving many lives. The men at the Hyner Camp predominately worked on State Forest land, planting trees, cutting trails, and building fire towers.
The CCC camp at Hyner remains in good condition, now offering a camp ground with multiple buildings, camping areas, and a swimming pool. At Hyner View, a handsome statue commemorates the CCC workers in the area. Hyner View state park attracts tourists to its hiking and ATV trails, its incredible view, and its hang gliding launch, which sends users into the valley and over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
On My Way To The Top
(The CCC was responsible for the planting of over 3 billion trees.)
The trails wind around the mountains,
up to the ridges, down the valleys,
sloping and shooting and snaking
around Sproul, right along streams
shaded by trees and it’s hard
not to think of what came before this:
Five camps in this forest, ten in the county total
full of young men, fresh out of jobs and the city
sent to save four hundred and seventy six square miles
of mountains made bare by logging. They traveled
from home on trains and came to a stop
where they walked into the woods and built camps,
built roads, built friendships, planted trees .
It’s hard not to notice them – the trees— in lines
a little too straight, to think about feet beating
the dirt on the path along the ridge of a ravine,
the sweat dripping into streams that need crossed,
hands hardened on bridges that got built
that allow me to walk to where I want
to go – to the top to look out and see
all the restoration of oranges, yellows, greens
that still stand.