Saturday, December 4, 2010

Valley Forge and Fairmont Park

Just spoke with our weary paddler who is comfortably settled in and loving the chance to overnight at Fairmount Park's historic Boathouse Row. I'm glad he can enjoy it because from here on out, it's camping all the way (brrrr!!!! Better him than me!!!).

Todd missed today's Hawk Mountain Board Meeting, which explains the special shout-out video he posted to our Board of Directors. Our Board have supported this venture from the start, and we're both grateful for all they do for Hawk Mountain.

Valley Forge National Historic Park
As promised, I pulled together some facts from Todd's last stop at Valley Forge, and it's an impressive place:  a 3,500-acre natural area smack in the middle of industrial, commercial and residential spaces, it combines outdoor recreation and historic significance.

Located about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia on the west side of the Schuylkill River, it was selected as the winter encampment of General Washington and his Continental Army. At Valley Forge, 11,000 troops spent six months, from December 19, 1777, to June 19, 1778. The location was ideal because it was close enough to keep pressure on the British in Philadelphia, but far enough away to prevent a surprise attack.

Although 2,500 men died that winter, the troops spent the cold months working and drilling, and emerged a stronger army. To survive, the men built 2,000-odd huts and log cabins, dug miles of trenches, created five earthen forts, and even constructed a bridge over the Schuylkill River. They made makeshift clothing and gear, and cooked meals of their own concotion.

The people of the encampment came from all 13 original states and regiments except South Carolina and Georgia, and included men, women and children of nearly all ages, ethnic backgrounds and religions. Hundreds of enlisted men's wives followed the troops year-round, and women were compensated for sewing, laundering and nursing.

Today, places to visit include Muhlenberg’s Brigade, Philander Chase Knox Estate
Washington's Headquarters, Washington Memorial Chapel, Varnum’s Quarters and a modern Visitor Center.

The park is one of few large, contiguous protected areas in southeastern Pennsylvania that has a variety of habitat types including the river, numerous streams and forested wetlands, eastern deciduous forest, and tall-grass meadows. A 28-mile trail system is available for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

The different habitats make it a great spot for birding. The Valley Forge bird checklist includes 225 species including 50 shorebirds and wetland inhabitants, over 30 species of warblers, and 20 birds of prey.

There is TONS of info out there on Valley Forge, most of which I never knew, but suffice to say this is just a VERY BRIEF overview of what you can find there. If you have interest in checking it out, visit their website by clicking here.

As always, excuse any errors. I'm certainly no historian! What we hope is that the Mountain-to-Sea adventure and blog will inspire readers to check out the amazing natural and cultural resources we have in our own backyard, and to better appreciate the significance of our watershed. Enjoy it and protect it.

Thanks for tuning in!

Mary Linkevich
Mountain-to-Sea: Join the Journey!

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