Environment and Natural Resources

Geology

The park lies in a glacially altered, hilly terrain referred to since the 1750s as “the Endless Mountains.” The varying layers of Devonian-age sandstone and shale of the Catskill Formation are exposed in the 80-foot-deep Fall Brook gorge.

The crystal waters of Fall Brook tumble over three picturesque waterfalls, each about ten feet in height, before joining the waters of Silver Creek near the eastern border of the park. Thriving in the cool, moist conditions of the gorge are mosses, liverworts, and ferns.

About 300 feet from the mouth of the gorge on the south side of Fall Brook is the bubbling salt spring which is the park’s namesake. The water from the spring is very high in chloride, sodium, and dissolved solids, revealing the marine origin of the sediments. The spring bubbles because of the methane gas created by the breakdown of organic matter in the ancient sedimentary rock. The commercial extraction of both salt and oil was attempted in the late 18th, throughout the 19th, and into the early 20th centuries but did not prove profitable and was discontinued.

The landscape was drastically changed in August 2018 when a massive flood cut a new channel and rerouted Fall Brook into Silver Creek, permanently changing its path.

Outcrop along Meadow Trail
Outcrop along the Meadow Trail.
The salt spring, first mined for salt in 1796, that is the park's namesake.
The salt spring, first mined for salt in 1796, that is the park's namesake.
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Fall Brook Natural Area

Fall Brook Natural Area encompasses the gorge and the old growth eastern hemlock forest on both the east and west rims.

The area was established “to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities, and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.” Visitors can experience what Pennsylvania’s forests were like 300 years ago.

Towering 100 feet and more above the gorge is one of the last old-growth hemlock forest tracts remaining in the commonwealth. Old-growth forests exhibit complex ecosystems that differ greatly from younger forests.

At one time, Pennsylvania was largely covered by old-growth forest, but most have fallen prey to the pressures of commercial and industrial activities.

The old-growth hemlocks that remain now face the threat of infestation from hemlock woolly adelgid, a non-native insect killing many of Pennsylvania’s hemlock trees.

FOOTE DRAWING
West wall of the gorge.
Old-growth hemlocks.
Old-growth hemlocks.
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Wildlife

The rich diversity of natural habitats, including old-growth forest, mixed hardwood forests, grasslands, early successional meadows, streams, and wetlands attract a wide variety of birds and wildlife.

Over 150 species of birds have been recorded at the park. The combination of Susquehanna County’s cool climate, the park’s deep gorge, and coniferous habitat provide ideal conditions for some species of birds usually observed further north, such as common ravens, hermit thrushes, magnolia warblers, Blackburnian warblers, winter wrens, and white-throated sparrows. Local birders have over the years contributed to our Checklist of Birds that have been identified by sight or sound in Salt Springs Park.

Other wildlife at the park includes white-tailed deer, black bears, bobcats, eastern coyotes, red foxes, porcupines, beavers, striped skunks, raccoons, red squirrels, and flying squirrels.

A wide variety of plants can also be found, with spring providing the best time for wildflower viewing.

Red fox
Red fox enjoying the sun in the West Meadow.
White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer are abundant in the park.