A few days ago, I hiked to the site of the last known Susquehannock Indian tribe village, the site of which is now part of the Native Lands York County Park. Located near Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, history and nature converge. The site is on top of the hill behind the Zimmerman Center (former Dritt Mansion) at Long Level. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Byrd Leibhart site, the National Park Service recognizes it as worthy of nomination for National Historic Landmark status—America’s highest heritage honor. Although it’s a peaceful scene today, this land has seen much controversy, including battles for possession between the Seneca and the Susquehannock.
Everyone that knows me knows that I’m sort of a history hunter. I have a great interest in historical landmarks/places, especially those of the abandoned kind or the places now known as ghost towns. Being a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I decided to dig deeper into the history of Safe Harbor. Firstly, I’ll take you through some of the history of how Safe Harbor became what it is today, and then I will lead you through a nature trail that allows you to revisit what was once the original Safe Harbor Village that was devastated and destroyed by the 1904 ice flood.
If you visit Safe Harbor Dam today, you will see this sign. It commemorates the Conestoga Navigation Company and the bold venture of turning Lancaster into a port city. Its ambitious goal was to give Lancaster direct access to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other ports. Never mind the fact that Lancaster is 102 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
I travel often to a lot of far out places in search of History. I’ve always been quite the history hunter, on a constant perpetual adventure in search of knowledge and to learn the stories of the people and places that existed hundreds of years ago. It’s actually become quite the addiction.
I was born & raised in a very historic community and I’m actually kind of surprised I didn’t write about my hometown sooner. I’ve lived in this small rivertown along the Susquehanna most of my life and I still discover things I’ve never known before. That’s why I love coming from a place rich with plenty of historic events.
So many people have made their way into Columbia (previously known as Wright’s Ferry) over the past 300 years – militia men, escaped slaves, bounty hunters, bootleggers, gangsters, and workers for the railroad, canals, mills and iron forges – all flowing in and out with the Susquehanna’s waters.
Earlier this week I walked the Northwest River Trail between Columbia and Chickies Rock. The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail follows the route of the historic Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, tracing the Susquehanna River northwest from Columbia to Falmouth. While the majority of the trail is paved, the northern segment from Bainbridge to Falmouth is largely undeveloped and best suited for walking, hiking, or mountain biking. The route now contains a trove of historic iron furnaces and building ruins, a canal lock, sections of the original towpath and canal bed, and an abandoned railroad tunnel.
Located between the boroughs of Columbia and Marietta is Chickies Rock. At over 422 acres, it is the county’s second-largest regional park. Its most notable feature is the massive outcropping of quartzite rock towering 200 feet above the river. The vista offers impressive views of York County, the borough of Marietta, and farmlands of northwestern Lancaster County.
Bike paths and walking trails now lead visitors to the sites of interest in Chickies Rock County Park. But one thing seems to run through its long history, unbidden and dark: the supernatural. Locals will agree that the view from Chickies Rock is indeed spectacular and that the history and geology of the site are interesting. But along with the beauty, science, and history are tales that encompass the mysterious: legends of curses, ghosts and strange monsters.