Clinton County, Pennsylvania, is part of the Pennsylvania Wilds and the Pennsylvania Elk Range. A pleasant scenic drive to view the elk can be taken by leaving Lock Haven on SR 120 west. This route will follow the West Branch Susquehanna River, near Hyner View State Park (watch for hang gliders) and past the Red Hill Fossil Site.
Communities along the way include North Bend, Renovo, and Keating. At Keating, SR 120 west follows the Sinnemahoning Creek to Driftwood. It was at Driftwood that the Bucktail Regiment volunteers built rafts to enlist in the Civil War. At Driftwood take SR 555 west toward village of Benezette (about 17 miles).
Pennsylvania Elk Range - Pennsylvania's elk herd currently numbers over 700 animals spread out across the 850 square mile range; however, many people base what they know about the elk on the small percentage of the herd that inhabits the area immediately around Benezette. As you travel west on SR 120 from Lock Haven, you will be greeted with a sign that you have entered the Pennsylvania Elk Range.
During the 1800’s Pennsylvania’s native elk population had been reduced to a small population mainly located in the north central mountains. Then by 1867, the last native elk was killed. Starting in 1913 the Game Commission began to restore elk in Pennsylvania so that today there are more than 700 – the largest herd in northeastern United States. Most times of the year are good to catch sight of these beautiful, massive animals in the wilds, but the best times of the day are early morning and late in the day, just before dark.
The fall rut last from September through October is the elk mating season. The males, ‘bulls’, will fight (lock horns and push each other) for control of a harem (10 to 15 females), till one tires and walks away.
During the winter, elk are easy to see against a snow cover. February and March the bulls will lose their antlers and start to grow new ones.
In the spring and summer the bull elks have velvet antlers that grow and mature quickly.
Remember, elk are wild animals and should not be approached. Bull elk can be 6’ tall, weigh 600-1000 pounds and run up to 30 miles per hour. Elk are wild animals and are not caged or fenced in, so you have a good chance of viewing elk from platforms provided by DCNR in the village of Benezette, about an hour and half from Lock Haven.
Directions: Take SR 120 west, as it follows the beautiful West Branch Susquehanna River and then the Sinnemahoning Creek, to the village of Driftwood (about 53 miles). At Driftwood turn left onto SR 555 for about 17 miles to Benezette. To reach the viewing site, turn right at the Benezette Hotel, travel north along Winslow Hill Road for about 1.5 miles and follow signs for the Elk Country Visitor Center. Remember early morning or early evening is the best time for viewing.
Click here for PA Elk History - PA Gaming Commission
Elk Country Visitor Center
134 Homestead Drive, Benezette, PA 15821
Elk Country Visitors Center is located in Benezette, Pa. The grounds open at 6:30 a.m. for those interested in viewing the elk and walking the trails. The center’s hours change seasonally.
The center provides both educational and recreational experiences. The center houses a theater where a 22-minute multi-media presentation tells the story on three screens of elk history dating back to when Native Americans lived here exclusively. At times the theater rumbles, stars twinkle overhead and some type of frozen precipitation falls from above. In the “Great Room,” where a fireplace roars on cold days, there’s also a diorama with life-like animals native to the area and high-tech interactive touch screens.
One can walk along trails in hope of spotting elk, which may or may not be present at any given moment since the creatures are not fenced in and have hundreds of miles to roam. However, with the 245-acre visitor’s center property located adjacent to Elk State Forest and state game land, officials say there’s a better-than-average chance of spotting one of the big guys during a visit. Plus, a visit to the center won’t put much of a dent in the budget, there’s no charge to explore most of it, only a $3 fee to see the multi-media presentation in the theater.
One of the most popular PA elk viewing destinations has to be the Dents Run Viewing Area on Winslow Hill near the village of Benezette. Part of its popularity is derived from the ample and convenient parking but the main reason is the fact it gives visitors plenty of opportunities to see elk. With four fields and acres of wooded area where elk frequent, you literally have 180 degrees of viewing area to watch.
Also on this location is a small visitor center, covered stage, benches and bathrooms. Handicap parking that cuts your walk down to only a few feet is also available.
Finding it is easy as it is right on top of Winslow Hill and marked with signs. Winslow Hill Viewing Area also known as Dents Run Viewing Area, is the most visited elk viewing site with two established viewing areas with off-road parking. A handicapped area for parking provides special access to the viewing location.
The Hicks Run Viewing Area is probably one of the most forgotten viewing areas in the Benezette area. It also happens to be one of the more visitor friendly areas as well. Not only does it have ample and convenient parking, it also has handicap accessible restrooms and a covered viewing platform that puts you within feet of the elk. Located along Route 555 about 8.5 miles east of Benezette, provides off-road parking, but no other facilities. A covered, handicap accessible viewing blind provides an exceptional viewing experience to watch the elk undetected as they feed on the rich food plot located within the viewing location.
For more information of Pennsylvania Wildlife contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission www.pgc.state.pa.us