December 31, 2018|By Kathleen Sandt| Land

When Camp Hidden Falls was transferred to the National Park Service in April 2018 and became part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, it was my job to spread the news. This particular announcement held special meaning for me, because when I started hearing the name “Camp Hidden Falls” around the office, it actually wasn’t the first time I had heard about the property.

Back in 2011, I visited the property with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop on their first big camping trip. The girls had been working toward this event and were so excited. When I saw the address for the camp, I realized it was located just outside the boundaries of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area where I worked. I volunteered to join them and to lead a guided hike to the Hidden Falls.

As the girls and their scout leaders were unpacking and getting set up for the evening, I took off on foot to scout our route alone. I found my way to the Hidden Falls, and it was absolutely magnificent—a fairy-like, moss-covered, fern-filled glen with several cascades and little pools. It was absolutely amazing. I had about five minutes to myself, taking it all in, and then quickly headed back to camp to collect the girls and lead them back.

1 1 19 3 Hidden Falls cKyle ShenkPhoto by Kyle Shenk.

Off we went. The girls were loud; they were all over the trail, yelling and singing and screaming at spider webs that they crossed in their path. Then, we came out into the opening of the beautiful glen and an amazing silence took over the group, and they all just soaked it in. On the way back to camp we talked about the different things that we had seen, and about how it was great habitat for local wildlife (and maybe fairies, too).  

We made our way back to the lodge, had a wonderful foil packet campfire dinner, told some stories and sang some songs, and then went to sleep in the lodge. It was fantastic that the girls got to experience Camp Hidden Falls as their first big camping trip, but when we tried to go back the following year we were told that the camp had closed.

And then, around 2013 I started hearing the name “Camp Hidden Falls” around the office as one of the properties that was desirable for the Park to acquire. Some of our local conservation organizations had been looking at it because it was such a big swath of undeveloped land with great resources like streams, intact forest, waterfalls and wetlands spanning 1,054 acres in Dingman Township, Pennsylvania. After years of planning and fundraising by several organizations, including the Delaware Highlands Conservancy and Natural Lands, the property was finally purchased in May 2017 by The Conservation Fund. The majority of the funding for this recent addition to the national recreation area came from the Middle Delaware Mitigation Fund, which is administered by The Conservation Fund on behalf of the National Park Service.

Camp Hidden Falls provides an incredibly important link that joins the larger protected areas of State- and Park Service-owned land. Its large swath of upland forest with 15 acres of wetlands, eight waterfalls, and two miles of pristine streams provides for intact wildlife corridors and better ecosystems and watersheds.

1 1 19 Hidden Falls cKyle ShenkPhoto by Kyle Shenk.

In 2017, we had 3.4 million visitors to our park, and adding a property like Camp Hidden Falls gives us another place to provide more people the opportunity to connect with nature. While we have not laid out any new trails or maintained the old trails, it is available for visitors to walk in and for hunting as well. Future recreational activities under consideration include campgrounds and equestrian trials. Prior to purchase the main lodge and all camp buildings were removed and the dam was decommissioned. The camp’s lake has thus been replaced by a thriving wetland, home to a number of species of turtles and amphibians.

1 1 19 5 Hidden Falls cKyle ShenkPhoto by Kyle Shenk.

Once the announcement went out, people who had personal connections or memories of the camp started contacting us. It was through them that I found out Camp Hidden Falls was more than just a Girl Scout camp, and families had also been allowed to camp there in the past. Several people inquired about bringing their loved ones to visit Camp Hidden Falls for Mother’s Day or a milestone birthday. While it might look different than our memories from years ago, I can't wait to take my daughter Calla back and make that connection with her—remembering when we were there together for the first time, and celebrating that it is now protected so that other people can have that same experience in the future. 

It makes me proud that this land will be there for people to come back and not just relive their old memories, but also make new ones. I think that that’s part of our mission here at the Park Service. It’s certainly part of what has kept me coming back to work every day for the past 20 years, and why I continue to share these stories.