RVS Header

Watershed Natural History- Sideling Hill Creek

Town Creek Aqueduct
Globally-rare Harperella in bloom

The diversity of the Sideling Hill Creek Watershed attracted naturalists and scientists as long ago as the early 1900s. Early records on the creek are still kept at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, and the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia.

At one time chestnut-forested ridges overlooked valleys of conifers such as white pine and eastern hemlock. The chestnut was a valuable tree with beautiful light, rot-resistant wood and large nuts. But the whole area has now become forested with broad-leaf (mostly oak) trees mixed with conifers. A blight, brought to this country from China in about 1910, eventually destroyed the chestnut forests. By 1940 most of the trees were dead and for years their rot-resistant trunks stood like white ghosts on the hillsides. An old gentleman, now gone, said that when the chestnuts bloomed in May it looked like it had snowed on the ridges.

In present day along Sideling Hill Creek, you might find natural shale barren communities on dry, thin-soiled outcrops which host plants like Alleghany Plum, Alleghany Stonecrop, Kateís Mountain Clover, and Catís Paw Ragwort. These are among the twelve rare, endemic (occurring only on the shale barrens and nowhere else) plants that can be found in this watershed. They are generally found on steep, south-facing slopes and cliffs, and are sometimes created by a streamís meandering over years and undercutting the shale formations. The largest, Sideling Hill Creek Barren, is one of the best such communities in Pennsylvania.

The tiny white flowers of the semi-aquatic endangered Harperella grow on gravel shoals and in rock crevices along and in Sideling Hill Creek. In fact, Sideling Hill Creek contains the world's healthiest population of this globally-rare aquatic wildflower. They resemble its relative, Queen Anneís Lace, and bloom in August.

Twelve rare, endemic (occurring only on the shale barrens and nowhere else) plants including the nationally-endangered evening primrose, shale ragwort, and Kate's mountain clover.

Shallow but healthy creek bottoms serve as critical habitat for a diversity of freshwater mussels, including the rear green floater. Sideling Hill Creek is home to over forty species of fish as well as the only freshwater sponge found in Pennsylvania.

On the land around the stream one might come across rare insects including the olympian marble butterfly and tiger beetle as well as reclusive wild turkey and bobcat.

Watershed Map

Sideling Hill Creek Watershed Map
Map contains the following: