Introducing Fisherman’s Cove

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In December 2023, the Fisherman’s Cove Preservation Foundation (FCPF) donated their Fisherman’s Cove property to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests, the latest steward in a long line of caretakers dating back some 10,000 years. Situated at the confluence of Big Sandy Creek and the Allegheny River south of Franklin, PA, Fisherman’s Cove is a property rich in history, recreation, and beauty. Of its 207 acres, about a quarter are level river frontage, quickly met with a steep, wooded hillside rising up to a flat plateau. The view from atop the boulders looking out over both river valleys is well worth the hike up.

The steep hillside of Fisherman’s Cove, with the Allegheny River below.

In 2003, Fisherman’s Cove was listed for sale, placing its future in jeopardy. Passionate neighbors came together to purchase and protect the property from development. When the resulting Fisherman’s Cove Preservation Foundation was incorporated in 2004, it set precedent as the first community-organized foundation in Pennsylvania established to conserve culturally and historically significant land. By 2007, FCPF had raised the needed funds. When purchased, the property was placed under a conservation easement with both the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and The Archeological Conservancy to ensure protection of the property’s natural and cultural resources, respectively. To further solidify the property’s future, FCPF chose to donate Fisherman’s Cove to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests.

“Generations of family have considered Fisherman’s Cove a rare and special area along the Allegheny to be their retreat. The Kerr Family, one of our friends that collected the parcels of land donated by FCPF, protected the land under their ownership and was later involved in the decision to gift this land to FSF, knowing their forest would become healthy and beautiful under the organization’s ownership.” Says Cathy Kentzel, FCPF President.

“We are humbled and grateful for the donation by FCPF. We have been entrusted with the great responsibility of caring for an ecologically and culturally rich site which carries a great deal of meaning to many.” says Annie Maloney, FSF Executive Director. FSF will continue to protect the cultural resources of Fisherman’s Cove and will manage portions of the property as a sustainable working forest. Fisherman’s Cove remains open to the public for passive recreation, hunting, and fishing.

The confluence of Big Sandy Creek and the Allegheny River at Fisherman’s Cove. Photo by Cathy Kentzel.

Artifacts from the Early Archaic through Late Woodland periods have been found at Fisherman’s Cove, indicating occupation of the site as far back as 8,000 BCE. Just a mile upriver sits the famous petroglyph-covered “Indian God Rock.” The property falls within the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, who stewarded the land for generations. The property features a flat floodplain along one of the most steeply dissected, narrow stretches of the Allegheny River valley, and meets with the mouth of Big Sandy Creek. This unique site could have played an important role in trade and travel routes up and down the Allegheny and Ohio River Valleys for several Native American groups, including the Haudenosaunee, Shawnee, Lenni Lenape, Algonquin, and Miami people. More than a navigational tool, the river was a plentiful source of sturgeon, smelt, eel, and beaver.

More recent industrial history is also evidenced on the land. Post-colonization, the Allegheny played a critical role in the movement of goods such as timber, salt, and oil down to Pittsburgh. In the late 1800’s, Fisherman’s Cove was owned by a mining company holding rights to moor and ship coal and minerals on the river. The property once housed an early iron furnace, as well as the New York Central Railroad. Perhaps most interestingly, some old maps point to a “nitro pit” where a nitroglycerin storage facility once exploded, leaving behind a crater that is now a small wetland.

These industrial relics have given way to recreational amenities in the present day. The old rail line has since become the Sandy Creek Trail, part of a network of rail trails throughout the region. A public boat launch next to the property, donated during FCPF’s ownership, provides easy access for boaters and anglers to enjoy the river.

Fisherman’s Cove reflects a complex narrative of human presence on the land that is characteristic of the region. The property is loved by many – from residents of the neighboring Fisherman’s Cove community, to weekend travelers looking for a respite from the city, to archeologists finding pieces and clues to the many stories the land has to share.

Fisherman’s Cove overlook of the Allegheny River

We invite you to explore the property with us during the upcoming Lynn Firth Wildflower Walk on Sunday, May 5th, 2024 as we search for spring ephemeral plants. Additional details can be found on our events page.

More information about the property can be found in our interactive map of conserved lands. Please note that archeological exploration of Fisherman’s Cove is by permission of The Archeological Conservancy only.