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Letort Spring Garden Preserve

The Letort Spring Garden Preserve is a public nature preserve featuring trails through a variety of upland and wetland habitats, as well as the historic Melester Barn and Spring House. A parking area is located at 1110 S. Spring Garden Street, Carlisle, PA 17013. It is also accesible from the Letort Regional Authority (LRA Trail), 2 miles south of the trailhead at LeTort Park in Carlisle and 1 mile from the parking area at Heiser’s Lane in South Middleton Township.

Spring Garden

At the headwaters of a famous limestone trout stream south of Carlisle in Cumberland County sits a natural wetland and ‘spring garden’. In addition to the plentiful natural beauty of the Letort Spring Garden Preserve, an 1881 Pennsylvania bank barn (now listed on the National Register), and associated 1820s springhouse, are major features of the Preserve.

 

History

The headwaters of the nationally-significant Letort Spring Run, a cradle of fly angling heritage, lies two miles south of Carlisle by way of the Letort Rail Trail. The Letort Spring Garden Preserve and surrounding land contain abundant limestone springs and seeps.

The consistently clean and cold water at this location has driven trade, commerce, and settlement for thousands of years. In the early 1700’s, James Le Tort, the first European settler, was drawn here to ‘Great Beaver Pond.’ Subsequent Scots-Irish settlers revered what they had deemed the ‘Bonny Brook’, the east branch of Letort Spring Run.

Early Carlisle residents came to the meadows surrounding the Letort to picnic, and enterprising locals developed the site as ‘Moore’s Grove’ and ‘Bonny Brook Trout Pond.’ Once the South Mountain Iron Company built a railroad through the site in 1868, it served as the leisure destination for Carlisle.

Beginning in 1892, the spring wetlands were converted to bogs for commerical watercress cultivation. Over 100 years, that process gradually intensified, transformed the landscape, excluded public use, and degrading the terrestrial and aquatic habitats. With the support of the community and partner organizations, Central Pennsylvania Conservancy is restoring natural habitats, returning the site to its former role as a public nature preserve.

Trails & Access

The roughly two mile Letort Spring Run Nature Trail bisects the Letort Spring Garden Preserve. The trail runs parallel to the east-branch of Letort Spring Run from LeTort Park in Carlisle to its southern terminus on South Spring Garden Street. A one mile extension to Heisers Lane in South Middleton Township is in progress. This will extend the trail toward Boiling Springs, the Appalachian Trail, and the Yellow Breeches Creek. Once restored, Historic National Register structures will have been rehabilitated, natural plant communities re-established, and citizens better connected to the outdoors at the Letort Spring Garden Preserve.

 

 

Partnerships

Our work would not be complete without the support of our community, stewardship volunteers, and local organizations. Here are some helpful links to connect with our partners: