Powdermill Nature Reserve, Rector

Powdermill was established in 1956 to serve as a field station of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for long-term studies of natural populations—their life histories, behaviors, and ecological relationships.

Powdermill Nature Reserve is both a place and a philosophy. It stands as a symbol of the human vision—both scientist and philanthropist alike. The museum's need for a natural area which could be used as a laboratory and preserved for the study of natural processes was understood and outlined in 1948 by Dr. M. Graham Netting, then Assistant Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Since he believed the Ligonier Valley to be the finest natural area in western Pennsylvania, he personally instituted a search for a suitable site for his vision.

In 1956, General and Mrs. Richard K. Mellon and Dr. and Mrs. Alan M. Scaife presented to Carnegie Institute, for the use of the Natural History Museum, eleven tracts of land totaling 1,160 acres, beginning about three miles south of Rector. The area was named "Powdermill Nature Reserve, a Research Station of Carnegie Museum." Over the next several years, additional acreage was added to the Reserve through other generous gifts, and today, Powdermill Nature Reserve offers 2,250 acres of woodlands, streams, open fields, ponds, and thickets.

The reserve is used by scientists to monitor and study changes in the local ecology and wildlife populations. It has served as a refuge for many plants and animals which, as a result of habitat destruction, are now becoming increasingly rare in our region as their habitats are destroyed. Powdermill Run, the mountain spring stream that traverses the mixed deciduous forest property, was found to be one of the very few unpolluted streams available for ongoing studies of aquatic life.

Today it is far more beautiful than when it was established, due to the natural growth of protected vegetation and the efforts of many supporters.
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Powdermill Nature Reserve Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
6 reviews
  • This place is a great place to go to when the weather is inclement. The displays are nice. There is a plant room that is a must see as it involves the restrooms!  more »
  • We stopped in too early to go inside the building, but hiked the half-mile loop along the creek. The path is clearly marked, and informational markers along the way added to our experience. As members...  more »
  • A true treasure. A wonderful place to escape for a few hours or an entire day. Great hiking trails and indoor exhibits. Any age can learn and experience something new here.
  • Not a huge place, but free admission. It has a nice array of taxidermy displays including baby animals. A couple live animals in aquariums, bones, feathers and pelts to touch, and a reading nook would make this a good stop for kids. The Black Birch trail behind the building is gravel, with benches and informative signs. There are some very scenic places beside Powdermill Run. The sugar trail on the other side was very wet after some record rains, but dry higher up. That path had rocks and roots, but it wasn't extremely steep or challenging. Both trails were mostly shady. Unless there is a program, it would be hard to spend the day here, but I enjoyed it very much for a couple shorter hikes and interesting things to look at. "What bird are you" indentification key was my favorite display.

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