10 Facts That Make Valley Forge National Historical Park a Natural Wonderland

Valley Forge National Park at sunset

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Although Valley Forge National Historical Park is famous for the location's significant role in the American Revolutionary War, this celebrated site encompasses so much more than historical gravitas. The Pennsylvania national park is also home to rolling hills, lush countryside, a wide variety of protected wildlife, and an extensive trail system.

Learn more about this impressive destination with these 10 Valley Forge National Park facts.

Valley Forge National Park Encompasses 3,500 Acres

Valley Forge is made up of 3,500 acres full of woodlands and monuments that serve as a link to one of the most defining moments in United States history. From 1777 to 1778, the Continental Army under General George Washington used this land as a winter camp, providing the foundation for what would later become the modern United States Army.

While the national historical park was primarily established to protect the memory of the encampment, its acreage also conserves a generous area of native biodiversity and a variety of habitats (including rivers, wetlands, deciduous forest, and tall-grass meadows).

It Has 26 Miles of Hiking Trails

Hiking at Valley Forge National Park
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There are 26 established miles of hiking and biking trails inside the park, all of which are connected to a larger regional trail system. The main pathway, called Joseph Plumb Martin Trail, is a popular loop that circles nearly 8 miles of the park.

In addition to Joseph Plumb Martin, portions of larger trails run through the park, such as the Horse Shoe Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail.

It Was Pennsylvania’s First State Park

Back in 1893, Valley Forge Park was established as the first state park of Pennsylvania "to preserve, improve, and maintain as a public park the site on which General George Washington's army encamped at Valley Forge." Later in 1976, it was designated as a national park.

Valley Forge National Park Is Home to Over 315 Animal Species

The park is home to over 315 species of animals, including 225 types of birds. Local institutions like Pennsylvania State University and West Chester University have partnered with the National Park Service to invest in scientific research and complete inventories of the wildlife there.

It Is Also Home to More Than 730 Species of Plants

There are over 730 known plant species within the park, all with their own particular growing needs. With its unique geological and hydrological environments, Valley Forge supports a vast array of soils, perfect for botanical diversity.

Some of the more common trees include chestnut oak, black oak, white oak, and scarlet oak on the slopes of Mt. Misery, as well as silver maple, green ash, sycamore, box elder, spicebush, false nettle, and stiltgrass in the Riverine Floodplain forests. There are also a variety of shrubs and grasses that grow abundantly in the wetlands of the park.

There’s an Overpopulation of White-Tailed Deer

White tail deer at Valley Forge National Park
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Since the original legislation of the park prohibited hunting, the National Parks Service was forced to implement a deer management plan in 2008 to help curb the spread of white-tailed deer, whose overpopulation had resulted in "changes in the species composition, abundance, and distribution of native plant communities and associated wildlife" within the park.

According to the NPS, natural habitats have been restored and certain plant species not seen within the park for decades have begun to reappear since the plan was put into place.

The Park Is Negatively Affected by Invasive Crayfish

Deer aren’t the only animal species affecting the natural balance of the park. In 2008, the rusty crayfish was accidentally introduced into Valley Creek inside the park. As a highly aggressive invasive species, the crayfish continues to pose a serious threat to the health of the stream’s ecosystem.

The park organizes regular crayfish removal programs from May to August, supplying volunteers with training and equipment to catch the crayfish and allow the body of water to rest.

It’s Great For Stargazing

Monument at sunset
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Although Valley Forge is surrounded in part by residential areas, it remains one of the best spots in the region for stargazing. That’s because it sits on the highest elevation in the area and has established vegetative screens; plus, the park has even made modifications to include shields and motion sensors to reduce light pollution.

The Schuylkill River Supports Several Types of Forest

The park’s Schuylkill River is one of its most prominent features, its rich soil supporting different types of forests. There are two types of wetlands that thrive thanks to the river, along with floodplain forests and grasslands.

The underlying bedrock along the river is made up of red sandstone and shale, which dominates the southern half of the park, while the quartz composition of Mount Misery results in well-draining soil that helps support a drought-tolerant plant community.

Valley Forge National Historical Park Has One of the Most Important Fossil Deposits in North America

According to the United States Department of the Interior, Valley Forge National Historical Park protects one of North America’s most important Pleistocene-age fossil deposits (time period starting about 2.6 million years ago). Fossils are buried beneath limestone deposits and stromatolites, helping record the presence of prehistoric plants, insects, reptiles, and mammals.

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