Forest Fridays is a project of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry. Story and photos shared courtesy of the author.  

by Chris Firestone

As we gather to celebrate our nation’s 248th birthday this year, there is another notable anniversary to acknowledge within the Bureau of Forestry.  Fifty years ago in 1974, Reynolds Spring and Algerine Swamp Bogs were designated a National Natural Landmark (NNL), by the National Park Service.

The National Natural Landmark Program recognizes and encourages conservation of outstanding sites supporting natural heritage. Nationally there are 604 sites currently designated as NNLs.  Reynolds Spring and Algerine Swamp Bogs, located in Tioga and Lycoming Counties, are one site of 27 found in 23 Pennsylvania counties. The Bureau of Forestry manages six of the sites, the remaining sites are managed by Bureau of State Parks or privately owned.  Additionally, another 5 NNLs managed by Bureau of Forestry are Bear Meadows Natural Area in Rothrock State Forest, Synder-Middlesworth Natural Area Bald Eagle State Forest, Hemlocks Natural Area and Box Huckleberry site in Tuscarora State Forest and Pine Creek Gorge in Tioga State Forest.  Bear Meadows was the first addition being designated in 1965. According to the National Natural Landmark website, Reynolds Spring and Algerine Swamp were the last designated on State Forest Land.

Algerine Swamp at sunrise. Photo: David Yeany, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Located in Tiadaghton State Forest, the entire plant community at Algerine Swamp Natural Area, is a Boreal Conifer Swamp, a tracked plant community by Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. This wetland has a deep layer of Sphagnum mosses and a shrub layer dominated by leatherleaf, Chamaedaphne calyculata, a shrub closely resembling blueberry.  Habitat specific herbaceous plant species as well as a healthy population of Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) add to the conservation value of this habitat.

Reynolds Spring Natural Area located in Tioga State Forest, is a nonglacial bog, a plant community tracked by the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. At this site the peat moss is limited to elevated hummocks between areas of soupy muck.  Three state listed plant species in addition to other unique plant species that require these wet and low nutrient growing conditions are found in these peatlands.

Additionally, highly ranked odonate (dragonfly and damselfly) and lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species have been documented at both of these special peatlands.

Changing environmental factors over the next fifty years will subtly change plant and animal diversity in these NNLs in Pennsylvania.  Here is to the next 50 years for these unique and special habitats managed by the Bureau of Forestry.