7/3 Important Update: The Weekly Walk with a Naturalist on Wednesdays from 8-9:30 at the Letort Spring Garden Preserve is on hiatus until further notice! We hope to see you again in a few weeks and will update here when walks have resumed.
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.
Central Pennsylvania Conservancy acquired the Letort Spring Garden Preserve in 2018. This 40-acre former watercress farm features forest, meadow, wetland, and stream habitats. Conservancy staff and dedicated volunteers have been engaged in ecological restoration of the site, including restoration of native species and removal of invasive species. A network of trails connects visitors to the different habitats, the historic Melester Barn & Springhouse, and a parking area.
The preserve is part of broader conservation and recreation efforts along the Letort Spring Run, including lands and trails owned and managed by Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited, Letort Regional Authority, Carlisle Borough, and South Middleton Township. The preserve is located along the Letort Regional Authority Nature Trail (LRA Trail) ~2 miles south of LeTort Park in Carlisle & 1 mile east of Heiser’s Lane.
The preserve parking lot and trails are open to passive recreation, dawn to dusk. You can take a guided tour of the Letort Spring Garden Preserve every Wednesday from 8-9:30am to enjoy the trails, wildlife, and plants throughout the season. The walk begins and ends at the parking lot at 1110 S. Spring Garden Street, Carlisle, PA 17013.
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.
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.
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.
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: