Shawnee State Park
Nestled in the Ridge and Valley province of Western Pennsylvania, Shawnee State Park is a 4,000-acre state park that is open to the public. The park, authorized in 1947 and built in 1951, is named after the Native Americans who lived for a short time in the vicinity of the park during their westward migration. Shawnee State Park is known for its 421 acre Shawnee Lake that provides recreational opportunities as well as beautiful scenery. Along with its recreational attractions, such as fishing and hiking, Shawnee has a well-established campground and environmental education activities. Open all year for recreation, Shawnee State Park is a great way to escape into nature while being immersed in a piece of Pennsylvania history.
Backstory and Context
Shawnee State Park is a 4,000-acre state park nestled in the Ridge and Valley province of Western Pennsylvania. The park is located in Schellsburg, about ten miles west of the historic Bedford along the Lincoln Highway. The state park is known for its 421 acre Shawnee Lake that provides recreational opportunities as well as beautiful scenery. Along with its recreational attractions, such as hunting and fishing, Shawnee has a well-established campground and environmental education activities. Open all year for recreation, Shawnee State Park is a great way to escape into nature while being immersed in a piece of Pennsylvania history.
The state park gets its name from the Shawnee River, which feeds into the Shawnee Lake, and the location’s connection to the Shawnee Native American Tribe. Although originally known for their routes in Ohio, the Shawnee were known to have inhabited parts of Western Pennsylvania. During the American Revolution, the Shawnee tribe fought with the British as they did not want the American colonists encroaching on their lands, but their main threat came from the Iroquois Tribe. The battles over territory forced the Shawnee from their lands in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and even Kentucky. By 1824, only about 800 Shawnees lived in Ohio. After years of being pushed around, the Shawnee merged with the Cherokee Indians to form the Cherokee Shawnee in 1869, later known as Loyal Shawnee. The Shawnee Tribe Status Act of 2000 declared a separation between the Shawnee Tribe and the Cherokee Tribe, as they are known today.
Once known as Shawnee territory, the area found a different purpose after the tribe evacuated. During the French and Indian War, the Lincoln Highway was built and developed as a military route, cutting right through what is known today as the state park. It is unclear if the area had a significant purpose on the military route, but it is plausible that it was a checkpoint along the route due to its water sources and flat land. In 1947, the Session of the Legislature of Pennsylvania authorized the establishment of the state park. Construction of a dam began in 1949, was completed in 1951, and was declared full on March 4, 1951. The Shawnee State Park was opened to the public later that year.
The state park offers countless opportunities to connect with the history and ecological aspects of the area. Shawnee State Park is open for year-round recreation. There are 15 miles (24 km) of trails open for hiking, and some are open to biking, five pavilions throughout the park along with numerous picnic tables (Waymark: Shawnee State Park). During the summer, the park hosts nature walks and educational programs related to the park's ecosystem. Shawnee State Park has a 293 site campground with electrical hookups, centrally located bathroom equipped with flush toilets and hot showers, and a sanitary dump station. The camp store sells camping necessities such as firewood and charcoal. The parks camping season begins with trout season in mid-April and ends at the conclusion of deer season in late December. President and chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, John Bowman owned the barn, buildings, and houses that are now surrounded by Shawnee Lake. Bowman’s lodge, located on the island, is open for rent year-round. It has a modern kitchen, a bathroom, living room, sitting room and four bedrooms.
Shawnee Lake is a warm water fishery. Visit the Shawnee State Park website for further details about fishing on Shawnee Lake. The beach at Shawnee State Park is open daily from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend. Hunting is permitted on over 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of Shawnee State Park although, the hunting of groundhogs is prohibited. Refer to Pennsylvania Game Commission website for further details about hunting and fishing rules and regulations.When at Shawnee State Park, visitors are in close proximity to a variety of local attractions. Local points of interest include the abandoned Story Land amusement park, Gravity Hill, and the ruins of the Grand View Point Hotel high on Allegheny Ridge. Story Land was a privately-run fairy tale park that closed in the 1980s and is located just 3 miles from the park at 3565 Lincoln Highway in Shellsburg. Marked by the iconic Pied Piper that overlooks Route 30, it’s a hard location to miss. Gravity Hill is a phenomenon where cars roll uphill and water flows the wrong way. There is no fee to venture onto Gravity Hill and it is located just a few miles from the park. See the location's website for exact direction. The S.S. Grand View Point Hotel, also known as the Ship Hotel or Ship of the Alleghenies, was a historic hotel and roadside attraction that burned down in 2001.
Calloway, Colin G. “‘We Have Always Been the Frontier’: The American Revolution in Shawnee Country.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 1, Winter 1992, pp. 39–52. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2307/1185604.
History. Shawnee Tribe. May 2019. http://www.shawnee-tribe.com/History.html.
“Shawnee State Park - Schellsburg, Pennsylvania .” Shawnee State Park - Shellsburg, Pennsylvania - State/Provincial Parks on Waymarking.com, Waymark, 27 Oct. 2012, www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMFJW3_Shawnee_State_Park_Schellsburg_Pennsylvania.Shawnee State Park. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. May 2019. https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/ShawneeStatePark/Pages/default.aspx.
"Shawnee State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. August 2, 1979.