Historical Use of Natural Resources

Wood

In the 1790s, when the first European settlers arrived at what would become Salt Springs Park, the area was an unbroken forest of old-growth trees, dominated by eastern hemlock. The immediate concern was to clear the land. For decades the trees were cut, piled up, and burned. The better logs were used to build the first homes.

Sawmills were soon built along Silver Creek and other nearby streams, and local tanneries began consuming hemlock bark at increasing rates. The hemlocks lining Fall Brook Gorge were probably spared because this area was a popular recreational destination, even by the early 1800s.

Old-growth hemlocks.
Old-growth hemlocks.

Water

 In 1858, Daniel Keeler rented a small piece of the farm below the first waterfall from N.P. Wheaton and built a mill and woolen manufactory, the remains of which can still be seen behind the Wheaton House. A flume channeled water from the first waterfall down the west side of the gorge and over a 16-foot overshot wheel. The building also had a lath machine, likely producing much of the lath used in the area’s first farmhouses.

Upper Falls, 2009
Upper Falls, 2009, by Paul DeSera

Salt

The salt spring on the south side of Fall Brook is one of the salt springs for which the park is named. The first people to extract salt from the spring water were Indigenous peoples who traveled through the area during hunting expeditions.

They attempted to keep the location of the spring secret from the European settlers, but eventually they revealed it to Balthasar DeHaert, an itinerant judge and determined idealist.

Numerous attempts were made by different entrepreneurs, beginning with DeHaert and his brother, to develop the spring for commercial gain between 1795 and 1870. The brine obtained produced a high-quality salt, but not enough could be coaxed out of the ground to yield a profit.

The water was noted to be more sulfurous than salty. Bubbles would rise to the surface and when touched with fire would flash like black powder.

Spring Pole

Spring Pole drill. State-of-the-art drilling technology in 1800, used by DeHaert to drill his 800-foot well. Line drawing from "Spring Poles," a good resource for more information on this technology.

Oil and Gas

 Efforts to strike oil at or near Salt Springs were also pursued but with no success. In 1902, the North Penn Oil and Gas Company sunk a new test well just behind the Wheaton House, but plugged it after several months and left without explanation. When methane gas continued to seep up through the plug, a simple container was built at the top of the well to gather the escaping gas, which was then piped into the Wheaton home where it was used for cooking and lighting. These pipes still run through the house.

Picture of a methane gas well

Natural Beauty

On November 9, 1813, a circuit rider wrote in his diary that he had “dined with four gentlemen from Philadelphia on a visit…. They had stayed the night before at the Salt Springs where they had been for amusement, they dealt in extraordinaries about it, as though they had been on a voyage around the world.” This is the earliest recorded documentation of the impact of the area’s natural beauty on human visitors.

Today, as in 1813, the 842-plus acres that make up Salt Springs Park continue to attract visitors who appreciate the extraordinary natural beauty of the area.

The supermoon over Salt Springs. Taken by George Schreck.
The supermoon over Salt Springs. Photo by George Schreck
White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer are abundant in the park.
Naturalized Monarda
Monarda naturalized near the wetlands on Buckley Road, July 4, 2012.