Childs Park opens Thursday, May 23. Dingmans Falls Visitor Center opens Saturday May 25, and will be open Friday, Saturday, Sunday the rest of the summer. The road to Dingmans Falls is open but is single lane at one point and NO BUSES or RVs ARE ALLOWED More »
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks.
The hemlock--the longest-lived tree of the Eastern United States--can live as long as 800 years. Though greatly reduced in numbers since pre-colonial times, in 1931 the hemlock was named the state tree of Pennsylvania.
The hemlock is the foundation species of a distinctive ecosystem that abounds in clear cold waters, acidic soils, and the darkest shade. The dense evergreen crowns of hemlocks shield the forest floor from sunlight year-round, resulting in bare slopes with scattered patches of shade-loving wildflowers and ferns. Each generation of new trees is limited to hemlocks and a few species of hardwoods that are very shade-tolerant.
However, hemlock ravines today are a forest in transition. Its momentum is ongoing; you can see the changes even as here today.
Variable ALIGNMENT is undefined.
Agents of Change
Human activity - logging, tanning, and clearing of fields -and environmetal factors have greatly reduced the hemlocks since colonial times. But the die-off of hemlocks since the 1990s is mainly due to a non-native insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid.
Management of infected hemlock stands is ongoing; limiting the spread of this insect and aiding affected trees. Still, we need to realize that this is a biological force which we cannot control
A Cascade of Change
The premature death of hemlocks create large gaps in the canopy overhead. Sunlight pours in, the forest floor becomes warmer and drier, and the understory fills up with competing saplings, shrubs, and ferns. Beech, birch, red maple and striped maple transform the hemlock stand into a mixed hardwood forest. Birdsong subtly changes as the birds that nested in mature hemlocks are replaced by birds more at home in hardwood trees. Warmer stream water discourages native trout.
Unique and Perishable
A hemlock ravine is unique - there is no ecological equivalent for it. Once the ravine changes to a mixed forest, it is unlikely to ever return to its "forest primeval" state. Biological diversity will have been lost.
Some things won't change, though. The waterfall will still plunge into the steep ravine. Rhododendron are hardy. They require moist soils but they are well-positioned here in the floodplain of Dingmans Creek to survive the transition of the forest around them. We expect to enjoy their showy summer blooms for years to come.
Did You Know?
... that Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area includes lands which once belonged to 5 New Jersey boy scout camps. Private and religious camps also flourished along the riverbanks that are now part of the park at sites such as Turn Farm PA, Coppermine Inn NJ, and Coppermine Hiking Area NJ. More...