REEDS GAP STATE PARK
Reeds Gap State Park is 220 acres of wilderness in the New Lancaster Valley of Mifflin County. Large Hemlocks and white pines cast cool shadows over Honey Creek, which flows through the park.
Reeds Gap is a natural water gap in Hightop, also called Thick Mountain. American Indians from the village of Ohesson, today?s Lewistown, used this valley as hunting grounds. When European settlers arrived, they homesteaded and named the area the New Lancaster Valley.
During the late 1700s, Reeds Gap became a bush meeting ground. The settlers packed lunches and traveled in their horse-drawn wagons to hear a circuit preacher and enjoy neighborhood fellowship. These bush meetings, also known as homecomings, were held through the 1920s.
In the mid-1800s, the park?s namesakes, Edward and Nancy Reed, set up a water-powered sawmill along Honey Creek just inside of the western boundary of the present park. Part of the historic water-storage dam is still visible along the red-blazed Honey Creek Trail Loop downstream from the swimming pools. Edward Reed?s son, George Wilbur Reed, was a sawyer at the mill. Another son, John, later moved the watermill to Virginia by horses.
Around 1900, a steam-powered sawmill was by the park?s maintenance building. After decades of logging, the forests were gone. On January 15, 1905, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased this depleted land from the William Witmer and Sons Lumber Company. Eventually parts of this land became Reeds Gap and Poe Valley state parks.
Around 1930, people sold five-cent bottles of soda pop cooled in Reeds Gap Run to attract picnickers and to improve the local economy.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a national work program established in 1933 during the Great Depression. A residential camp for over 200 young men was built five miles east of Reeds Gap in the upper end of New Lancaster Valley. Camp S-113 was run by the U. S. Army and the former Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters. One of their projects was to change the ?jungle? around Reeds Gap to an attractive recreation facility. By the late 1930s, the park offered stone fireplaces, tables, picnic pavilions, play equipment, pit toilets and running water. Local bands entertained on summer Sunday afternoons from a bandstand and swimmers enjoyed a small lake formed by a CCC-built dam in Honey Creek. Reeds Gap State Park officially opened in 1938.
The CCC program ended early in World War II. Most of the wooden CCC structures were removed as they deteriorated, but part of the old CCC camp is now a state forestry field office. Electrical power came to the valley in mid-1940s.
In 1965, a major developmental phase started when the swimming pools replaced the old dam. Shortly thereafter, a new water system, flush toilets, a modern bathhouse, snack bar, maintenance building and parking lots were constructed. Voter approved Project 500 monies were used to further improve the park.