Long before the City of Brotherly Love’s skyline jutted into the clouds, the most vital thing in Philadelphia’s countryside was the Wissahickon Creek Valley.
It was along the steep banks of the valley that the Lenni-Lenape tribe of Native Americans stalked deer in the lush forest and fished for native trout in the creek’s pristine water. Later, Philadelphia’s first paper mill was constructed along the creek, and soon to follow were roads and taverns.
Luckily, in 1868, the Fairmount Park Commission acquired the land within the Wissahickon Valley in order to ensure a clean water supply for Philadelphia.
Still a part of the larger Fairmount Park system, Wissahickon Valley Park is an excellent asset to those who enjoy spending their time in the outdoors. Whether it’s hiking, biking, rock climbing or fishing, the park’s 1,800 acres has it all.
“The park is a great thing to showcase because it has such a naturalistic feel to it,” said Maura McCarthy, Executive Director of the non-profit organization Friends of the Wissahickon. “That’s what sets it apart from the other sections of Fairmount Park.”
According to McCarthy, the park is popular among the college crowd. She noted that many student-athletes use the trails within the park to run and train for their respective sport, and for a variety of other recreational purposes as well.
Five main trails snake through the park, adding up to a total of 26.8 miles. There are also many other trails that interconnect the park’s main sections. Some trails, such as Forbidden Drive, the White Trail, and the Yellow Trail, are all multi-use paths. Others, like the Lavender Trail, are only available to hikers.
The Wissahickon Creek itself offers some excellent fishing opportunities in the park too. Forbidden Drive parallels the creek throughout the park and provides easy access to good fishing holes along the way.
So while the seasons still permit, head out to the park and do some exploring. Who knows, maybe the Wissahickon still is the most important thing in Philly’s countryside.
Maps of the park are available at Fairmount Park offices as well as at the Valley Green Inn located along Forbidden Drive within the park itself.
In order to find the park from Temple’s Main Campus, take Carlisle Street north to Allegheny Avenue. Make a left on to Allegheny Avenue. traveling west and follow that to its intersection with Henry Ave. Make a right on to Henry Ave. and follow that to the park’s entrance on the left hand side. You can also access the park from Lincoln Drive as well as the R6.
T.C. Mazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org