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Parker Dam State Park Story

There are two big forces at work, external and internal.  We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain.  What really matters is the internal force.  How do I respond to those disasters?  Over that I have complete control.  ~Leo F. Buscaglia

Parker-Dam-State-Park-Aunt-Heather-PiperDuring a recent visit to Parker Dam State Park, Fishing Toward Independence, Just Had to Take It to Parker Dam, we naturally went down memory lane.  As we fished and shot the breeze by the campfire, dad brought up the time the tornado went through Parker Dam.  I totally forgot all about that!  With the most recent tornado disaster hitting Oklahoma, I guess tornadoes were on our minds.  This tornado, that hit home and presented a miracle and a happy ending for a group of boy scouts, was the subject discussed.  Kyle listened as we shined a light on local past news.

Just to recap, on Monday, May 20, 2013 a devastating EF5 tornado struck down Moore, Oklahoma, with winds of more than 210 miles per hour.   It was such a tragedy of 23 deaths, more than 100 rescued, 237 injured and as many as 20,000 families displaced.  What really hit home was the elementary school that was leveled out by the massive twister.  Sure natural disasters are upsetting and horrible, but when you’re pulling children out of rubble, it strikes another cord with onlookers and tends to pull on the heart strings a little bit more.

(FEMA Photo)  Devastation from the EF5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma on  May 20, 2013.

My thoughts and prayers are still with those who have lost loved ones and had their lives leveled in a single blow.

Moving from that natural disaster and reminiscing on another, the tornado at Parker Dam.

Fortunately, due to no loss in life and because of the remote location, most people don’t know a tornado even hit Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.  But it did!  On May 31, 1985 an EF4 tornado leveled about 100 miles of state forest with winds of up to 260 miles per hour.  It even pulled the water right out of the creeks.  Dad said, as far as he could see up and down the hills, trees were flattened.  “It was as if someone clear cut the woods” and left behind splinters in the wake.  “You could see all the way up and down the ridge.  It was something else.”

There were other outbreaks of tornadoes on the same day in Pennsylvania, and the one that hit Parker Dame was the longest lived, staying on the ground for a distance of 69 miles in an hour and a half, reaching Clearfield, Clinton, and Centre counties.  It was one of four EF4 tornadoes to touch down in Pennsylvania on that very same day.  A state who is no stranger to tornadoes, but not really accustomed to the natural disaster either, experienced a major change in the ordinary.

Parker Lake at Parker Dam State Park

Granted, the tornadoes that touched down in Pennsylvania don’t even compare to the Oklahoma tornado, yet the awesomeness of God’s had is still amazing.  Luckily, there weren’t a lot of people in the park when the tornado struck, with the exception of a few campers and a boy scout troop to tell the tale.

The really amazing thing was the zero death toll!  The tornado went right over the camp of boy scouts without touching them!  Granted it ripped off parts of the roof from the octagon shaped building, yet they all returned unscathed.  The boy scouts held onto the doorways and their troop leaders for support, while the massive twister hovered over them and ripped down trees and power lines.  I read an article about the 25th anniversary, commemorating their survival.   To that day, they commented on the locomotive sound that hit them fast and seemingly out of nowhere.  Without shortage of memory, they detailed the events from that day.  That is one of those moments that have stayed with them and always will.  I can only imagine!

Everyone credits the octagon shaped building the boy scouts were hunkered down in, for the reason of their survival.  They feel the way the winds were whipping over them and the unique shape of the building gave them safety.  Perhaps, but if God didn’t want them to live, they wouldn’t have had a chance, even from a sturdy structure.

The Octagon lodge the boy scouts hunkered down in while the EF4 tornado swept over them on May 31, 1985. They all survived!

It took rescuers days before they were able to rescue the survivors, because of their location and all the ground debris.  Frightful as the event was during the tornado and equally as chilling as their tales, I still love hearing those survivor stories!  They are full of hope and faith!  Not to mention, it puts everything in life into perspective.

Today, you can still walk through the recovering tornado ravaged woods.  Naturally, the trees came back, all at different rates, but nature took care of its own.  Parker Dam is another piece of heaven on earth with the green luscious woods, wild animals running free and creeks full of fish.  Yep, pure heaven, maybe with the exception of the mosquitoes.

I guess we’re all going back to camp and fish and just plain chill out.  Seriously, can’t wait!

Parker Dam History

Finding the origins of Parker Dam interesting, I thought I’d share some fun facts I’ve read on the state park.  Some information came from Wikipedia, and some I read on the signs at Parker Dam, and some from online articles.

Construction of the 968-acre state park really started in 1794 with the removal of trees, to eventually leading to the need to reforest the lands by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  During the Great Depression, in the 1930’s the real construction of the buildings and such began, giving us Parker Dam State Park, of Huston Township in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.

Surrounding the state park is the Moshannon State Forest.  Many critters call the park home including the ovenbird, American redstart, turkey, beaver (which I saw on my last adventure to the park), white-tailed deer, bears (which dad has hunted), coyotes, foxes, bobcats, porcupines (better not tell Scooby Scooby Meets a Porcupine) and elk.  Pretty much a stranger to Pennsylvania, I guess elk have settled in the remote areas of the local counties and are now among the inhabitants sometimes spotted there.

So now to the reason for the name, Parker Dam.  Laurel Run was dammed up to make the man made Parker Lake.   This 20-acre lake is usually the centerpiece of picnicking, fishing and even swimming on the sandy beach.  Yes, they have a small beach on the one side of the lake for families to cool down and splash around.  Sorry Seven and Scooby, no dogs allowed!

During fishing season, the lake can be outlined by many trying to catch their prize largemouth bass, various species of trout and catfish.   Evidently, the lake is open in the winter, once frozen over, for ice fishing and ice skating.

As I’ve mentioned hunting is permitted in designated areas of the Park as per the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Also something else I found interesting and didn’t know.  As per Wikipedia

Parker Dam State Park is the western trailhead of the Quehanna Trail System.  This trail is about 75 miles (121 km) long and meanders its way through the surrounding state forests. The Quehanna Trail connects with the Susquehannock Trail near Sinnemahoning State Park.  Backpackers are not permitted to camp overnight at the park. The trails are open to cross-country skiing during the winter months.

Everyone should visit a State Park!  You’ll be surprised at the peace nature can bring to the soul.


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