Monday, July 6, 2015

PA State Parks: Cowans Gap

The number of people at the beach on a Friday at Cowans Gap State Park in Fulton County, Pennsylvania surprised us. We had driven for an hour and a half to nearby Harrisonville, Pennsylvania, to look at read more
a new wood burning stove and decided to stop at the state park on the way home.  Both my husband and I had spent some time at Cowans Gap as children. I especially remembered swimming at the beach with lots of family friends.

Cowans Gap is a beautiful spot that includes a 42-acre lake. Kayaks, paddle boats, and small fishing boats graced the scene that day. Part of the crowd probably came from the bus labeled with a church name. Walking down the sidewalk, we passed a First Aid station and a food stand. Picnic tables decorated the grass on the other side toward the beach. Further down along the lake sat the boat rental building with its colorful stacks of kayaks. We passed two nice sized pavilions and meandered down a road to a nature center which, unfortunately, wouldn’t be opening until 6 that evening. 

Earlier on the main highway near Breezewood, I had noticed a historical marker that talked about Forbes Road. The pamphlet on Cowans Gap explained more. In 1755, when General Braddock made his road to reach the fort at nowday Pittsburgh, General John Forbes formed another road to try to take supplies to Braddock. Forbes Road passed through the area now known as Cowans Gap.

Cowans Gap is named after early settler John Samuel Cowan. While heading for Kentucky with his wife Mary, their wagon broke down. He traded his horses and wagon to a Tuscarora Indian chief for land in the area.

Other past operations in the Cowans Gap area include an iron ore mine, a wooden rail railroad for lumber hauling, and a sawmill.

The stone work I saw everywhere in the park evidenced to me that one of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) had developed that park in the 1930s. Upon reading the park publication further, I found the details. “The CCC built cabins, picnic shelters and spent three years building the dam.” In addition, they “built 30 miles of fire trails and 11 miles of telephone lines.”  (To learn more about the CCC, see paHis, June 16, 2014.)

Deciding to take a side trip home turned out to be a great idea.  We found stopping at Cowans Gap State Park a nice way to make a long trip more pleasurable. 

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