Namesakes and Waterways Collection: Exploring the bodies of water in the Midstate – The Sentinel

Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.
An underlying purpose and sense of identity lie just beneath the surface of a name.
The natural and man-made bodies of water located across the Midstate are no exception. Each lake, river, creek and reservoir flows with pieces of the past and possibilities for the present.
In this series, The Sentinel dives into some of these popular summer destinations for a look at the origin of each waterway’s name and other notable qualities using information from the Cumberland County Visitor’s Bureau and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission among other online sources.
Water from the LeTort Spring Run flows over a small waterfall into the Conodoguinet Creek near the intersection of N. Middlesex Road and Mill Road, Middlesex Township.
Before I started this series, that’s how many of these waterways I had been to: eight out of 18.
That’s not even half.
As someone who grew up Carlisle, I realized there sure are a lot of places I’ve never seen, including 10 local waterways within an hour from my hometown. I discovered several of them simply by scrolling around on my GPS app, zooming in here and there on substantial amounts of blue.
That’s how many waterway names I’d considered, whether I’d visited or not, before I set about my research.
And here’s what I’ve learned: Names are rarely an accident.
As a journalist, I spend a fair amount of time looking for stories, and here were 18 stories, hidden in plain sight, hovering just below the surface of places I had been to, heard of, or learned about for the first time.
Some of these stories required a deeper dive than others; they required reaching out to local historians and environmentalists, going beyond the first page of Google.
Often the names are tied to that waterway’s history, sometimes to local landmarks and always to something worth knowing.
Maddie Seiler
Maybe you’re looking for a fun fact here and there. This series has plenty.
Perhaps you’re interested in the history of some of these waterscapes. They wouldn’t be what they are today without it.
Or its possible you’re simply looking for a new place to check out as the summer draws to a close, one more opportunity to make a splash before fall festivities set in.
Regardless of what it is you’re seeking in this series, I hope it will show you more about the Midstate through its many waterways.
Whether you’re a lifelong resident or a first time visitor, I have no doubt you’ll learn something.
I know I sure did.
So take a deep breath, plug your nose if you want, and jump on in.
The Big Spring Creek is a popular destination for trout fishing and bird watching, the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau said.
Sometimes it takes some serious scuba gear to reach the depths of a waterway’s name.
Big Spring Creek is no such waterway.
The creek simply gets its name from its origin: the Big Spring, named for being the fifth largest spring in Pennsylvania, according to the Cumberland County Visitors Bureau.
While straightforward, the name extends beyond the creek it defines, providing an identity to the hundreds of locals who live within the Big Spring School District. It also carries a big piece of small town Newville’s history along its 6-mile flow.
Part of this history resides in Laughlin’s Mill at 92 E. Main St. The mill serves almost as a gateway into the heart of Newville, though it existed before the establishment of the town in 1790, according to the Big Spring Watershed Association.
Laughlin’s Mill was built between 1760 and 1763, the first of six grist (or grain) mills along the creek. The Cumberland County Historical Society said Laughlin’s Mill is the only one still standing.
Big Spring Creek is known today for housing what the Historical Society describes as a “robust population of brook trout,” however history shows the fish haven’t always thrived there. In 1972, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission began operating a fish hatchery along the stream. The society said when this happened, the previously abundant brook trout population experienced a sharp decline.
A 1997 study determined that effluent, or liquid waste, from the hatchery was responsible for this decrease, and the hatchery closed in 2001, the Historical Society said. By 2008, the brook trout population made a “remarkable comeback,” Big Spring Creek’s website said.
This population, as well as the more than 190 species of birds the visitors bureau said have been identified along the creek since 2000, make the area a popular destination for fishing and bird watching.
County: Cumberland
Starts: About 8 miles northeast of Shippensburg near Route 11
Ends: Conodoguinet Creek near Newville
Length: 6 miles
Tributaries: Big Spring Creek is a tributary of the Conodoguinet Creek, which flows from Horse Valley, Franklin County, to the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg
Geology: Limestone
Recreation: Fishing, fly fishing, bird watching
Need to know:
Real-time water levels:
Sources: Big Spring Creek website, Big Spring Watershed Association, Cumberland County Historical Society, Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau
Children’s Lake is off Route 174 in Boiling Springs, Cumberland County.
If the name Masland sounds familiar, that would be because Masland’s grandfather, Charles Henry Masland, founded Carlisle carpet company C.H. Masland & Sons, a Cumberland County Historical Society article about Frank Elmer Masland Jr. said.
Page 226 of a book titled At A Place Called the Boiling Springs tells of Masland’s involvement with the lake.
Children’s Lake was created in the 1750s to produce water power for what became the Carlisle Ironworks. Cumberland County’s first iron furnace was constructed in 1760 at the site and the ironworks operated there until the end of the 19th century.
In the 20th century when township supervisors weren’t interested in purchasing the lake, the book said a group of community members formed an organization called Citizens United for Preservation. The group tried to raise money to purchase the lake and gained funds from a variety of sources, but still fell short.
Enter Masland.
The Historical Society said Masland donated private and public funds to make up the difference. Masland said that he’d seen the lake give pleasure to both children and adults going there to feed its resident ducks and geese on many occasions, the book said. This is what caused him to feel so strongly about the lake and this fueled his desire to see it preserved for future generations of children.
According to the book, Masland later added that he hoped it could be called “Children’s Lake,” the name the lake carries today.
In 1987, the lake was secured for public use and the title was given to the Pennsylvania Fish Commission. The Boiling Springs Civic Association landscapes and maintains the grounds.
Today, an historic iron furnace, among other attractions, remains near the lake, which draws visitors from Boiling Springs and beyond, both children and kids at heart.
At a glance
Location: Off Route 174, Boiling Springs
County: Cumberland
Size: 7 acres
Depth: 4 to 6 feet
Springs: Natural springs combine into a stream that empties into Yellow Breeches Creek south of Boiling Springs, approximately 20 springs were dammed to create the man-made lake
Recreation: Fishing, fly fishing, boating, bird watching, picnicking, walking
Need to know:
Sources: Boiling Springs Villager, Cumberland County Historical Society articles about Boiling Springs and Frank Elmer Masland Jr., Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, Festivals in PA, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
The Conodoguinet Creek begins in Horse Valley, Franklin County and winds through Cumberland County before emptying into the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg.
Most locals recognize the word “Conodoguinet” as a Native American term.
Historically, that’s only partially true.
Conodoguinet, along with Conodogwinit, Conedogwonet, Connodoguinet, Coonodogwt and Conodagwanett are all European interpretations of the original American Indian term (as closely as it can be determined), Guiniipduckhanet, the Conodoguinet Creek Watershed Association said.
The term means “a long way with many bends,” fitting for a creek that at approximately 90 miles long covers a linear distance of 70 miles, according to a brochure by the Cumberland County Planning Commission.
The watershed association said Native Americans occupied the banks of the Conodoguinet Creek from Paleolithic times to the Colonial period when they were pushed further from their originally settled lands by immigrants moving into the commonwealth then referred to as Penn’s woods.
By 1760, most American Indians left the area and the first of many mills to be established along the creek was constructed in 1762, the association said.
The planning commission said more than 140 mills existed along the creek by 1840, a number that dropped to 13 by 1909.
Today, the creek is known for its float trips, as well as the opportunities it presents for fishing, bird watching and even turtle hunting, according to the Cumberland County Visitor’s Bureau.
Counties: Franklin County, Cumberland County
Starts: Horse Valley, Franklin County
Ends: Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Cumberland County
Length: Approximately 90 miles, covers a linear distance of 70 miles
Elevation drop: 1,400 feet from start to end
Tributaries: 48 named tributaries (including Big Spring Creek, Doubling Gap Creek, Letort Spring Run), more unnamed
Geology: Northern portion comprised of shale bedrock, southern area formed by limestone
Recreation: Birding, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, turtle hunting
Things to know:
Real-time water levels:
Sources: Conodoguinet Creek Watershed Association, Cumberland County Planning Commission, Cumberland Valley Visitor’s Bureau
Doubling Gap Lake is in Colonel Denning State Park at 1599 Doubling Gap Road in Newville. 
A small piece of Colonel Denning State Park, Doubling Gap Lake’s name is quite literal.
An article about Doubling Gap from the Cumberland County Historical Society said the name describes the “double gap” created when the Blue Mountain curves back on itself. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said this curve forms an “S” shape, one that gives a name to the land surrounding it and a variety of features within it, including Doubling Gap Road, Doubling Gap Creek and Doubling Gap Lake.
Doubling Gap Creek runs through the lake, starting in the springs of the Blue Mountain near the border between Cumberland and Perry counties, Environmental Education Specialist Gene Krasicki said. The creek stretches for what he estimates to be about 10 miles, flowing down the valley and through Doubling Gap Lake before flowing into the Conodoguinet Creek in Newville.
The lake was created on the location’s existing wetland in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Camp S-111 to provide outdoor recreation Krasicki said.
“The CCC was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and provided jobs for young, unemployed men during the Great Depression,” he said. “Most of the money they made went back to their families. The CCC was involved with constructing many Pennsylvania state parks, including Colonel Denning State Park. Here they excavated the lake, planted trees, and built the dam, spillway, roads and several facilities.”
Today the lake includes a beach where visitors can cool off during the summer months, as well as an acre of ice-skating space when it’s cold.
Location: Colonel Denning State Park (1599 Doubling Gap Road in Newville)
County: Cumberland
Size: 3.5 acres
Depth: Maximum of 7 feet
Tributaries: Doubling Gap Creek is a tributary of the Conodoguinet Creek, which runs from Horse Valley in Franklin County to the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg
Creeks: Doubling Gap Creek passes through Doubling Gap Lake before it runs into the Conodoguinet Creek north of Newville
Recreation: swimming, fishing, ice skating, canoeing, kayaking, hiking
Need to know:
Sources: Colonel Denning State Park’s Facebook page, Cumberland County Historical Society, Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau,, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Fuller Lake is in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners.
Legend has it that Fuller Lake at Pine Grove State Furnace in Gardners has a rather morbid past.
The story goes that a miner was once digging in a quarry that holds the lake today when it began to fill with water, The Sentinel previously reported. While the man tried to escape, he dropped his lunch pail containing a piece of pumpkin pie. The man was so hungry he went back to retrieve the fall-favorite treat, and drowned.
To this day, his hairy hand still emerges from the lake, reaching for the pie, the legend goes. Every fall during Pine Grove Furnace State Park’s Fall Furnace Fest in October, staff float hundreds of carved pumpkins on a platform in Fuller Lake to “satisfy” the miner.
An article about Fuller Lake for the Cumberland County Visitor’s Bureau said this story isn’t true, though Fuller Lake’s history does include industrial accidents with at least two deaths.
The lake serves as the “flooded remnant” of the primary iron ore quarry utilized by the iron works that inhabited the area at the time, the article said. It was named after Jackson Fuller who served as one of the co-owners of Pine Grove Furnace when it stopped making iron in 1895. The article referred to Fuller as the last “ironmaster” at Pine Grove Furnace.
Today, Fuller Lake offers visitors an area for swimming and fishing, alongside its counterpart Laurel Lake, Pine Grove Furnace State Park’s larger mountain lake.
Location: Pine Grove Furnace State Park (1100 Pine Grove Road in Gardners)
County: Cumberland
Size: 1.7 acres
Depth: More than 50 feet deep according to South Mountain Partnership, though an article by the Cumberland Valley Visitor’s Bureau said is was more than 90 feet deep when filled in the mid-1890s
Recreation: swimming, fishing, hiking, biking
Need to know:
Sources: Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau Fuller Lake, Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau Fall Furnace Fest, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, South Mountain Partnership
Holman Lake is in Little Buffalo State Park in Newport.
The 88-acre lake at the heart of Little Buffalo State Park in Newport isn’t called Little Buffalo Lake.
Instead, Holman Lake’s name pays homage to Allen Holman, a key figure in the park’s opening in 1972, The Sentinel previously reported.
Holman was elected to the House of Representatives in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, 86th Legislative District, Perry and Juniata Counties and northwest Cumberland County, in 1960 where he served for 10 years, the article said. He used his political influence to gain legislative support and help establish the park.
Holman Lake received its name in 1989.
As for Little Buffalo State Park’s name, the Cumberland County Visitors Bureau said tradition holds that bison once inhabited the area, though little is known of the area’s original inhabitants.
The park houses four historical sites and a state-of-the art swimming pool, among other attractions near Holman Lake.
Location: Little Buffalo State Park (1579 State Park Road in Newport)
County: Perry County
Size: 88 acres
Depth: Maximum of 35 feet
Creeks: Little Buffalo Creek (32.8 miles long) passes through Holman’s Lake before flowing into the Juniata River
Recreation: boating, fishing, ice fishing, ice skating, hiking
Need to know:
Sources: Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, Pennsylvania Angler and Boater, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Susquehanna River Basin Commission
Flowering trees frame Italian Lake in Harrisburg.
A long way from Italy, Italian Lake in Harrisburg features a Japanese style bridge at its center in a blend that would make Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center proud.
However, a historical marker by the lake offers some explanation for its name. The reference traces back to Patricio Russ who lived from 1852 to 1925 and owned several hotels in downtown Harrisburg as well as a travelers lodge on North Front Street close to the lake, the marker said. The lodge was known as “Italian” hotel, honoring Russ who immigrated from Italy, a Harrisburg Magazine article said. According to the marker, the name expanded beyond the hotel to the area around it as well, seeping into the waters of Italian Lake.
The lake was created as a “side project” to the construction of William Penn High School. It was designed by Warren Manning, a Boston architect, as part of the City Beautiful Movement in Harrisburg in 1901, according to the City of Harrisburg’s website. The Historic Harrisburg Association said the school opened in 1926, overlooking Italian Lake. It was vacated by the Harrisburg School District and has been on the market since 2015 with an asking price of $2.5 million, the association said.
Today the lake, along with the park in which it is situated, allows visitors to take a stroll in the heart of Harrisburg.
Location: Italian Park (Third Street and Division Street)
County: Dauphin
Size: 7.5 acres
Depth: 4 feet
Recreation: walking, birdwatching
Need to know:
Sources: Christmas at Italian Lake, City of Harrisburg, Harrisburg Magazine, Historic Harrisburg Association, Pennlive, The Historical Marker Database
The Juniata River runs through Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Perry counties before emptying into the Susquehanna River in Duncannon. 
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or, in Juniata’s case, the county or the river? 
According to Juniata County’s website, the answer is the river. 
Kayak Maps said the Juniata River valley served as a home to the Onojutta-Haga American Indians in the 17th century. The word Juniata is supposedly an interpretation of “Onayutta-haga,” an Iroquoian word meaning “standing stone,” the website said. This traces back to 14.5-foot tall stone that once stood in Huntingdon, etched with the local Juniata tribe’s history. However the stone disappeared when that tribe left in 1754, and a second stone raised by new settlers afterward was destroyed. A third monument, constructed in 1896, stands in a Huntingdon park today, Kayak Maps said. 
Juniata County’s website offered an alternate meaning for the name, saying that while it originally meant “standing stone,” later connotations favor the translation “blue waters.”
The river’s blue waters begin where two of its main tributaries, Little Juniata River and Frankstown Branch Juniata River, meet in Huntingdon County. Another tributary, the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, leads to Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County. The Juniata is a tributary of the Susquehanna River, joining it in Duncannon in Perry County, according to Visit Hershey & Harrisburg’s website.
Today the river offers fishing, along with several float trip options for a variety of boats. 
Counties: Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry
Starts: Merger of Little Juniata River and Frankstown Branch Juniata River in Huntingdon County
Ends: Susquehanna River in Duncannon, Perry County
Length: Water trail is 142 miles (including portions of tributaries)
Depth: Averages 4 to 6 feet 
Elevation drop: 2,660 feet
Tributaries: Three main tributaries are Little Juniata, the Frankstown Branch and the Raystown Branch, and the Juniata River is the second largest tributary of the Susquehanna River
Geology: bedrock, sandstone, limestone, soft siltstone, shale
Recreation: fishing, fly fishing, kayaking, canoeing, boating
Need to know: 
Real-time water levels at Newport:
Sources: American Trails, Kayak Maps, Juniata County, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Visit Hershey & Harrisburg
Visitors enjoy the beach and swimming area in Laurel Lake at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners.
Tranquil. Serene. Peaceful.
All three of these words could be used to describe Laurel Lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners.
While the lake today may seem as beautiful and delicate as Pennsylvania’s state flower, this image is a far cry from its beginning. Looking at the lake today, its history seems distant, buried with the lake’s other name: Laurel Forge Pond.
Laurel Forge Pond was created in 1830 when Peter Ege, the owner of Pine Grove Iron Works at the time, constructed a dam at Mountain Creek, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This “pond” earned its name by powering Laurel Forge, which reheated and hammered cast iron that was created at Pine Grove Furnace, producing wrought iron, the department said.
An article on the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau’s website said operations ended at the forge around the mid-1890s, just after the furnace stopped producing pig iron, or crude iron. Forest fires in 1900 and 1915 claimed the remnants of the forge, and today a gravel parking lot holds the ground where Laurel Forge once stood.
A resource provided by Friends of Pine Grove Furnace State Park said the dam that had been constructed for Laurel Forge Pond’s creation failed in 1847, 1889 and 1919. According to the bureau, the dam was replaced in 1968 with the concrete structure that can be seen today.
Today, Laurel Lake teems with an abundance of recreational opportunities, including summer boating and swimming, as well as ice skating and ice fishing during the colder months.
Location: Pine Grove Furnace State Park (1100 Pine Grove Road in Gardners)
County: Cumberland
Size: 25 acres
Depth: 11 feet
Recreation: swimming, boating, fishing, biking, birding, ice fishing, ice skating
Need to know:
Sources: Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, Friends of Pine Grove Furnace State Park, GPS Nautical Charts, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Letterkenny Reservoir is located in Franklin County.
To find the origin of the name Letterkenny Reservoir, one must follow a chain of Letterkennys.
First, the Letterkenny Reservoir was named after the Letterkenny Army Depot for which it was created. It was formed with the installation of Roxbury Dam, a name that, in a sea of Letterkennys, might seem to come out of the blue, but actually demonstrates the reservoirs’ proximity to Roxbury.
Construction took place sometime time in the late 1950s or early 1960s, said Charles Myers, chairman of the Letterkenny Township supervisors and of Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority (LIDA)
The reservoir was created as a water source for the depot, which “repairs and modernizes Air and Missile Defense and precision fires systems to enable multidomain operations for U.S. and Allied Forces,” according to its website.
Letterkenny Reservoir also supplies Shippensburg Borough with half a million gallons of water per day, a drop in its 330 million-gallon bucket.
The depot refers to the next link in the chain — it was named after Letterkenny Township in Franklin County. The township, in turn, bears the name Letterkenny in reference to a town of the same name in Donegal, Ireland, Myers said.
Letterkenny Township Manager Melissa Kibbe said the township has a certificate recognizing a celebration of Letterkenny Day, or July 1, between the two places but this doesn’t indicate why the township bears that name.
Letterkenny Reservoir is in the process of being sold, Myers said. York Water Co. will own and maintain it as of Aug. 25.
Kip Feldman, president of LIDA, said the reservoir is controlled by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which manages recreational activities for the public, including fishing and boating. 
Location: Near Roxbury 
County: Franklin
Size: 58 acres
Depth: 60 to 70 feet (a sign there said 90 feet but Myers said sediments has filled it in over the years)
Creeks: The Conodoguinet Creek passes through Letterkenny Reservoir as it travels from Horse Valley in Franklin County to the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg. 
Recreation: fishing, boating, kayaking
Need to know: 
Sources: Lake-Link, Letterkenny Army Depot, Natural Atlas, Pennsylvania Angler
Tree branches frame Long Pine Run Reservoir in Adams County.
It it a series of rabbit trails that leads to the name behind Long Pine Run Reservoir in Michaux State Forest, one that ends with an educated guess at the meaning behind the waterway.
Several emails and phone calls to a variety of local sources led to this: Long Pine Run Reservoir is named for its feeder stream, Long Pine Run.
Lance Anderson, head of the Chambersburg Borough’s Water Department, said reservoirs are typically named for the streams that feed into them. This particular reservoir has two: Birch Run and Long Pine Run.
While only one can be found in the reservoir’s name, both are embedded in its history.
In the 1930s a dam was constructed across Birch Run, creating a 387 million-gallon storage capacity, a report about the history of the Chambersburg Borough Water Department said. Anderson said this was called Chambersburg Reservoir.
The report said in the 1960s, the borough decided to enlarge its water reserve. Construction on Long Pine Run dam, upstream from Birch Run dam, began in 1969, an article in the Morning Herald said. The dam was completed the following year, an Austin American-Statesman safety inspection said.
Anderson said Long Pine Run Reservoir holds 1.78 billion gallons of water. No longer needed for the borough’s water supply, Chambersburg Reservoir was drained and Birch Run dam was breeched in 2005, the report said.
While the official reasoning behind Long Pine Run Reservoir’s name is not apparent, District Forester Roy Brubaker speculates the name could refer to the fire-tolerant pines that historically grew along Michaux State Forest’s ridge lines.
Today the reservoir presents a quiet location for boating and fishing with proximity to hiking trails and a shooting range.
Location: Off Route 233, east of Chambersburg
County: Adams
Size: 151 acres
Depth: 100 feet
Creeks: Long Pine Run, Knob Run
Recreation: boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking
Need to know:
Sources: Austin American-Statesman, Borough of Chambersburg, Lake Link,, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Mountain Creek winds through the South Mountain and empties into Yellow Breeches Creek near Mount Holly Springs.
A rather ordinary title for a history-packed waterscape, the origin of Mountain Creek’s name is tough to pin down.
However, the stream, which originates in Michaux State Forest, winds through the South Mountain, according to the “The History and Topography of Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Bedford, Adams and Perry Counties” by Israel Daniel Rupp.
Perhaps this hints at the reasoning behind the name, or perhaps that purpose became lost among the mountains themselves.
Mountain Creek flows through Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners, an area with a rich history in the iron industry. There it was dammed in 1830 to create Laurel Forge Pond or Laurel Lake and used to power Laurel Forge, which reheated and hammered cast iron, producing wrought iron.
The creek then snakes past Fuller Lake at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, which served as the iron works’ primary iron ore quarry until it was filled with water in the 1890s.
But Mountain Creek’s history doesn’t end there. Downstream in Mount Holly Springs, the creek was dammed in the 1800s to provide water and power for paper mills, according to a brochure about the Mount Holly Springs Marsh Preserve. The first of these mills was constructed in 1812 by a firm named Barbour, McClure and Knox, Mount Holly Springs Borough’s websites said.
By 1858, four paper mills utilized Mountain Creek for their industries, earning the surrounding area the nickname “Papertown,” the Cumberland County Historical Society said. Industrial opportunities, however, weren’t the only asset Mountain Creek provided for Mount Holly Springs. In 1901 Mount Holly Park opened along its banks with activities like boating, picnicking, hiking, dancing, baseball and bowling. The park even housed a roller coaster and served as a stop for a trolley line from Carlisle, the borough said.
The park experienced a decline in visitors with the invention of the automobile and closed in 1917, the brochure said. In the 1980s, the dam was breached, and the area transformed into the Mount Holly Marsh Preserve, a more than 900-acre area with 700 acres of forest and 200 acres of marsh preserve, according to the brochure.
Today Mountain Creek winds through this preserve, offering a destination for fisherman and hikers.
At a glance
Counties: Cumberland, Adams
Starts: Michaux State Forest in Menallen Township
Ends: Yellow Breeches near Mount Holly Springs
Length: 16 miles
Tributaries: Tributary of Yellow Breeches Creek, which flows from South Mountain near Walnut Bottom to the Susquehanna River near New Cumberland, Toms Run, Iron Run, Tagg Run, Hunters Run
Recreation: Fishing, fly fishing
Need to know:
Real-time water levels near Pine Grove Furnace
Sources: Cumberland County Historical Society, Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, Mount Holly Marsh Preserve brochure, Mount Holly Springs Borough
Opossum Lake is located in Lower Frankford Township in Cumberland County.
Opossum Lake almost didn’t make this list of waterways. Not only was it next to im-possum-ble to locate the origin of its name, Opossum Lake, at one point in its history, almost ceased to exist.
An 1858 map of the area labels what today is Opossum Creek as Parker’s Run, Jennifer Patel, Library Assistant at the Cumberland County Historical Society, said. It’s unclear when or why the creek was renamed, though Allen Mountz, who has lived near the lake’s dam for about 78 years remembers the lay of the land before it housed Opossum Lake.
“Most of the land was farmland and quite a bit of it was marsh land, it wasn’t farmable,” Mountz said. “The unfarmable land was along the stream bed of the run that went down through it.”
Mary Franco, President of Friends of Opossum Lake Conservancy (FOLC), said the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission began efforts to create impounded lakes for recreation in the 1950s, and Opossum Lake was one. 
In in the early 1960s, Opossum Creek was dammed to create the lake, FOLC’s website said.
A 1984 article in the Sentinel refers to Opossum Lake as “Opossum Creek Lake,” indicating that the man-made impoundment was named after its feeder stream, Opossum Creek. Beyond this, the origin of the marsupial based name is unclear.
By the 2000s, the dam didn’t meet safety standards and showed deterioration, so the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PAFBC), which manages the lake, planned to drain it for good.
FOLC formed as a nonprofit organization in 2006 in response to this issue with the goal of restoring the lake, the site said. It partnered with Lower Frankford Township to enter a 25 year agreement to lease the land around the lake from the PAFBC for a public park.
The project received funding from the township and Cumberland County and FOLC worked with township, county and state governments to raise the $350,000 necessary for the spillway’s repair, FOLC’s website said. The organization also constructed a 4-mile trail, called Anglers Access Trail, around the lake to raise awareness of their fundraising efforts.
A 2018 biologist report from PAFBC said the then 59-acre impoundment was drained in 2008 to repair the dam and spillway. In 2013, a smaller 47-acre impoundment was filled and, according to FOLC, ceremoniously restocked with fish. 
Today the 274-acre recreational area around Opossum Lake offers a multitude of outdoor pastimes and activities.
Location: 220 Opossum Lake Road in Carlisle, Lower Frankford Township
County: Cumberland
Size: 47 acres
Depth: Original dam was 30-feet tall according to a 1962 Sentinel article, Mountz said this depth was lowered “a few feet” after its most recent construction
Tributaries: Opossum Creek which was dammed to create the lake is a tributary of the Conodoguinet Creek which begins in Horse Valley in Franklin County and runs into the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg
Recreation: cycling, fishing, hiking boating, canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, horseback riding
Need to know: 
Sources: PAFBC Biologist Report, Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, Friends of Opossum Lake Conservancy, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 1962 Sentinel Article
Pinchot Lake is a 340-acre warm water lake in York County.
Gifford Pinchot is the name of a state park in York that houses Pinchot Lake.
It’s also the name of a person, Pennsylvania’s governor, in fact, from 1922 to 1925 and again from 1931 to 1934, Friends of Pinchot State Park’s website said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources referred to Pinchot as the “foremost American apostle of conservation,” saying that after he graduated from Yale University, he went to France and became the first American to be trained in forestry.
In 1898, President Theodore Roosevelt named Pinchot chief forester of the U.S. Division of Forestry, a title he held until 1910, DCNR said. In this position, Pinchot worked with Roosevelt to place over 200 million acres of national forests under scientific land management. His policies still guide many national forests, DCNR said.
During his time as governor, Pinchot never lost his passion for forestry, saying, “I have been governor every now and then, but I am a forester all the time,” DCNR said. He also used his terms as governor to organize work camps that built 20,000 miles of paved roads that helped farmers travel from their farms to the market, Friends of Pinchot State Park said. The first of these was created in 1931 and runs parallel to the park today as state Route 177.
After Pinchot’s death in 1946, groundbreaking for the park’s construction took place in 1959, Friends of Pinchot State Park said. In 1960, the first water spilled over the dam and the following year then-Gov. David L. Lawrence dedicated Gifford Pinchot State Park.
Today Gifford Pinchot State Park offers 2,338-acres (with 340 acres of lake) of year-round recreational opportunities.
Location: Gifford Pinchot State Park (2200 Rosstown Road in Lewisberry)
County: York
Size: 340 acres
Depth: Average of 6 to 8 feet
Creeks: Beaver Creek begins in Warrington Township in York, runs through Pinchot Lake and empties into the Conewago Creek northeast of the lake
Recreation: hiking, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, boating, fishing, camping, horseback riding, ice skating, ice fishing, ice boating, cross country skiing
Need to know:
Sources: Friends of Pinchot State Park, Pennsylvania Angler & Boater, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Shermans Creek is in Perry County.
Compared to Cumberland County’s two, Perry County has an impressive number of covered bridges, 14 to be exact, according to Uncovering PA’s website.
This, however, is a series about waterways, and not about bridges; the connection comes in that eight of Perry County’s covered bridges cross Shermans Creek, according to the website. A 2004 technical status report on the watershed listed nine covered bridges across the waterway, though one of those, Waggoners Covered Bridge, was destroyed by a 2021 fire, Uncovering PA said.
Shermans Creek is the stream’s official name, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, though the group states that variant names include Sherman Creek and Sherman’s Creek. Though, if the covered bridges had existed throughout the entirety of the creek’s history, perhaps it wouldn’t bear any of these names.
The stream, H.H. Haines said on page 384 of his book, “The History of Perry County, Pennsylvania,” is supposed to have been named after a Native American fur trader called Sherman or Sheerman. In the book, Haines said he learned from local historian Clarence W. Baker that Sherman worked in the area harvesting deer and making leather. He went on to explain that Sherman and his supplies-laden horse attempted to cross the waterway when they were apparently swept away and drowned in the creek that today bears his name.
The creek forms where Big Spring Run and Hemlock Run meet near Big Spring State Park in Toboyne Township. It flows through the county, including through Shermans Dale, which, Carroll Township’s website said, was originally named Smileytown due to its location on lands warranted by William Smiley in 1755. However, there was already a post office elsewhere in the state named Smileytown, so the town’s name was changed to Shermans Dale in 1850, according to the township. After Shermans Dale, the creek works its way to the Susquehanna River near Duncannon.
Grist mills popped up along the banks of Sherman Creek throughout its history as well, the report said, and of the 29 total that once existed, several remain in operation.
Today, in addition to drawing visitors to its covered bridges, Shermans Creek serves as a popular fishing destination.
County: Perry
Starts: Toboyne Township
Ends: Susquehanna River near Duncannon
Length: 52 miles
Tributaries: Big Spring Run and Hemlock Run converge to form the headwaters of Shermans Creek, Shermans Creek serves as a tributary of the Susquehanna River
Recreation: fishing, canoeing, kayaking
Need to know:
Real-time water levels at Shermans Dale:
Sources: Blue Mountain Outfitters, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, FishBrain, Perry County Heritage Trail, United States Geological Survey
The Susquehanna River runs from upstate New York to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
The Susquehanna River, according to the Susquehanna River Valley, is the 16th longest river in the United States and easily the longest waterway in this series.
It originates in Cooperstown, New York and passes through Pennsylvania before flowing into the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Draining 19 million gallons of water into the Chesapeake Bay every minute, the Susquehanna makes up 50% of the bay’s fresh water contributions, according to a Susquehanna River Basin Character Statement from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Susquehanna River Trail refers to it as the “mother river to the Chesapeake.”
Like many of the other waterways in this series, the Susquehanna’s name is both ambiguous and tied to its history.
The Iroquoian Native Americans lived along its banks before European conquest, according to the Susquehanna River Valley. Capt. John Smith explored the area and referred to the Native Americans he encountered as the Sasquesahannocks and Sasquesahanougs, a name that later became the Susquehannocks, DCNR said.
When Smith explored the river in 1608, DCNR said he was accompanied by interpreters who spoke Algonquin. In Algonquin, the suffix “hanna” means “stream” or “river,” which likely accounts for that portion of the waterway’s name, DCNR said.
According to DCNR, an “authority on American Indians and place names” said Susquehanna was an interpretation of “Queischachgekhanne,” a Susquehannock word. The precise meaning of the term, however, remains uncertain, DCNR said, adding that interpretations include “the long reach river,” “long crooked river” and “the place of the straight river.” The Susquehanna River Valley offered other possible meanings: “mile wide, foot deep,” “muddy current” and “winding current.”
William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania’s colony, negotiated with Native American tribes to allow for colony settlement between the Susquehanna River and the Delaware River in the 18th century, according to the Susquehanna River Valley.
Today the river and its many islands offer a diverse range of boating, birding and fishing opportunities.
Local Counties: Dauphin, York, Cumberland, Perry, Lancaster
States: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland
Starts: Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, New York
Ends: Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace in Maryland
Length: Approximately 444 miles
Tributaries: Hundreds of tributaries, major local tributaries include Conewago Creek, Conodoguinet Creek, Juniata River and Yellow Breeches Creek
Geology: sandstone, slate, shale, limestone
Recreation: canoeing, kayaking, motorboating, fishing, birding
Local Landmarks:
Need to know:
Real-time water levels at Harrisburg:
Sources: Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Susquehanna River Trail
Wildwood Lake in Harrisburg was once known as Wetzel’s Swamp.
Wildwood Park has seen its share of highs and lows.
What is known today as Wildwood Lake, a 90-acre waterway amid a 229-acre park located in the heart of Harrisburg, was once known as the “decidedly unglamorous” Wetzel’s Swamp, according to the park’s website. Like it’s next-door neighbor, Italian Lake, Wildwood Park was created from the swamp in 1901 as part the City Beautiful Movement, a reform effort across the United States to build civic loyalty and community, the park said.
Also like Italian Lake in Harrisburg, Park Manager Chris Rebert said it’s believed the park’s new name was derived from its surrounding area.
“We don’t have a specific documented report on that, but in talking with people over the years, we think that at the time in the early 1900s, the area became known as Wildwood,” he said.
Rebert said wildwood was a “ubiquitous term for wooded and swampy areas.”
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the park quite literally ran wild, with the opening of a zoo and riding stables. Other amenities included walking paths, a baseball field and a boating concession, according to the park.
However, by 1959, both park use and maintenance declined and the area was used for dumping. Five years later, the park said the National Audubon Society proposed that the area be converted into a nature center. The decades-long process required multiple sources of funding, including the creation of the nonprofit organization Friends of Wildwood, to become a reality.
The swamp, park, dump, park again saga wasn’t the only highs and lows the park has experienced in its history though; it’s also seen them in its water levels. Rebert said that while the lake has always been shallow, it has filled with sediment over time, transforming a former average depth of four feet to today’s three-inches or less in most areas of the lake.
He said that while it’s common for sediment to fill man-made lakes over time, this process was sped up in Wildwood Lake’s case because during its development decades ago, there weren’t strict erosion control methods in place the way there are today. Rebert said Hurricane Agnes, which hit in 1972, also contributed to the sediment fill.
Today, Wildwood Park offers miles of boardwalks and trails and its unique depth attracts a range of animal life to Harrisburg.
“Wildwood’s wetlands have transitioned into an uncommon habitat for Pennsylvania, which attracts a variety of wildlife species including frogs, turtles, birds and even interesting insects like dragonflies,” Rebert said.
Location: 100 Wildwood Way in Harrisburg
County: Dauphin
Size: 90 acres
Depth: 3 inches on average
Streams: Paxton Creek begins at the base of Blue Mountain and flows through Wildwood Lake before joining the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg
Recreation: birding, walking, picnicking, fishing, biking
Need to know:
Sources: Dauphin County website, Living Downstream, Wildwood Park website
Pictured is Yellow Breeches Creek in New Cumberland.
Coming to the conclusion of this waterway series, it seems that the origin of these waterscapes’ names is ambiguous more often than not.
Yellow Breeches Creek, the finale, is no exception.
Even though there are no decisive conclusions to the reasoning behind the creek’s name, there is no shortage of stories.
The Yellow Breeches Watershed Association said the earliest recorded use of a variation of Yellow Breeches Creek can be found on 1734 Blunston Licenses issuing 200 acres of land on the south side of “Yellow Britches Creek.” This is repeated nine other times in licenses issued through 1736, the association said, though it appears that the term “Yellow Breeches” was used exclusively by 1737.
An article on the Cumberland County Historical Society’s website lists the geographical or American Indian name of the creek as the Callapatscink, which means “where the waters turn back again.” Not only does this name describe the creek’s many bends as it nears the Susquehanna River, it also gives insight to the first inhabitants of the areas, the Susquehannock American Indians followed by the Shawnee American Indians in the mid- to late 1600s, the watershed association said.
A 2015 article in The Sentinel said early records show the stream was also called Shawnee Creek.
The article also offers a few possible explanations for the creek’s name. Legend goes, the article said, a family living near where Yellow Breeches Creek crosses Walnut Bottom Road hung out a pair of leather yellow breeches to dry on washing day. These were apparently stolen by American Indians and locals began referring to the waterway in light of this occurrence.
Another legend goes that an old man once yellowed the water by washing his buckskin breeches in the creek, the Historical Society said. It’s also possible that the name serves as a corruption of yellow beech trees, since they commonly grow along the creek’s banks, according to the historical society.
Or perhaps the name comes from an age-old song that goes “Yellow breeches, Full of stitches, Mammy sewed the buttons on; Daddy kicked me out of bed For sleeping with the breeches on,” the historical society said.
The society said people can pretty much pick whichever interpretation they choose and probably be about as correct as the person who chooses a different one, but regardless of the real reason the creek got its name, its multiple origin options provide an insight into its history.
Today the creek is known for its float trips and fly fishing opportunities.
Counties: Cumberland, York, Adams
Starts: South Mountain in Michaux State Forest near Walnut Bottom
Ends: Susquehanna River near New Cumberland
Length: 49 miles
Elevation drop: 1,170 feet
Tributaries: The Yellow Breeches Creek serves as a tributary of the Susquehanna River and some of its main tributaries include Mountain Creek, Spruce Run, Kings Gap Hollow, Dogwood Run and Stony Run
Geology: freestone and limestone
Recreation: birding, fly fishing, boating, tubing
Need to know:
Real-time water levels near Camp Hill:
Sources: Cumberland County Yellow Breeches Creek Watershed Assessment, Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, Pennsylvania Angler & Boater, Uncovering PA
Carlisle & Newville Reporter
Maddie Seiler is a news reporter for The Sentinel.
Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.
Read through the obituaries published in The Sentinel
Read through the obituaries published in The Sentinel
Read through the obituaries published in The Sentinel
Read through the obituaries published in The Sentinel
Read through the obituaries published in The Sentinel
Read through the obituaries published in The Sentinel
Read through the obituaries published in The Sentinel
See for yourself how COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths track in Cumberland County. Information for charts is updated weekly on …
Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.