Places We Protect

Forest Pools Preserve at Kings Gap


Close up view of a red backed salamander. A small black amphibian with a red stripe running down the length of its back and tail. It sits nestled amongst green moss and small twigs.
Red-backed salamander A red-backed salamander at The Nature Conservancy's Forest Pools Preserve in Pennsylvania. © Shawn Hickey/TNC

Conserving and protecting the unique natural heritage of the South Mountain landscape's vernal pools.



This treasured pocket of the South Mountain landscape, now part of Kings Gap State Park and Environmental Education Center, serves as a demonstration site for TNC's efforts to conserve the area’s unique natural heritage, especially vernal pools—temporary springtime wetlands that host and nourish globally rare salamanders, frogs and other woodland species before drying up by summertime. Together with our partners at the state park and several local landowners, we are working to safeguard these habitats that are so vital to the health and natural heritage of this Central Pennsylvania landscape.

This area also boasts hardwood and coniferous forest and suitable habitat for a variety of reptiles, including the box turtle, the five-lined skink (one of Pennsylvania’s few lizards), the northern copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. Public events and workshops take place throughout the year at Kings Gap State Park and Environmental Education Center.

Note that camping, motorized vehicles, bicycles and horses are prohibited.




Daily, from dawn to dusk.


Hiking, hunting (archery only, in cooperation with Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations) and birding.


The 70-acre preserve is now part of the 1,454-acre Kings Gap State Park.

Explore our work in Pennsylvania

Exploring Vernal Pools

Life abounds in and around these fleeting springtime wetlands.

A bright red bird with black wings and a black tail perches on the end of a short, stubby branch. Green leaves form a thick canopy behind the bird.
A wide mountain stream meanders through a thick forest. A large tree has fallen across the stream forming a natural bridge. Water swirls around the rocks in the stream bed.
A wooden sign marks the way to seasonal vernal pools. Pools 1, 2, 3, 7 with an arrow pointing right is carved into the top of the sign. The bottom reads Pools 4, 5, 6 with an arrow to the left.
A vernal pool in the middle of a forest. A shallow pool in the middle of the forest reflects the tall trees that surround it. Fallen trees lay on the leaf covered forest floor.
A dozen dark brown tadpoles float beneath the surface of a shallow mountain pool. The surface of the water is dotted with bubbles. The bottom of the pool is lined with leaves.
A wooden foot bridge crosses a narrow stream in wooded preserve. The shallow stream gently curves through the forest, bending off into the trees on the right. Sunlight dapples the leaf covered forest.
A water droplet creates a circle of ripples on the surface of a pond. Dark brown tadpoles crowd togethers in the water below the ripple.
A wide mountain stream curves into the distance through a thick forest. The water ripples over stones and fallen branches.
A downy woodpecker perches on the side of a tree. A small black and white bird is viewed in profile in a forest. The bird has a white breast and black mask stripe across its eyes.
Two scarlet tanagers perch in a tree. The birds are bright red with black wings and tails. They each perch on separate branches, one bird sitting just above the other.
View looking out over a rural valley dotted with farms.

Recent Highlights

In May 2021, TNC transferred 68 acres to King's Gap State Environmental Education Center, growing the park to nearly 2,600 acres. The property known as the Sutton Tract contains several vernal pools and a section of Kings Gap Hollow Run, which has a native brook trout population.

Vernal pools are vital in the lifecycle of amphibians, like frogs and salamanders, and are at risk of drying earlier in the year due to climate change—impacting reproduction. This makes it critically important to conserve and restore the springtime wet areas that we have.

Since acquiring the property in 2007, TNC has worked closely with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and other partners to identify vernal pools for protection and restoration, and implement additional conservation strategies to benefit the health of the surrounding forest.

For almost 50 years, TNC has had the honor of helping to establish and grow Kings Gap through land acquisitions and transfers. Just over a decade ago, we worked to restore the vernal pools on the Sutton tract and we’re confident that they’re now in excellent hands with DCNR.

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