Remote, but not nearly as wild as other places in Pennsylvania, Oil Creek State Park does offer a unique backpacking experience at it’s Cow Run Shelter Area. The area is located along the east side of the Girard Hiking trail, a 36 mile loop encircling the park. The Oil Creek Valley is the site of the world’s first commercial oil well. Many active oil and gas well dot the landscape within the park and along the Girard Trail.
The Cow Run site is accessible only by foot and visitors must carry in all their own supplies. The site accommodations are eight Adirondack style shelters. The shelters are spaced far enough away from one and other to provide ample privacy and are situated to enhance the wooded views on the saddle between Cow Run and Calf Run.
The two small tributaries to Oil Creek gently roll down the wooded slopes to the creek below. On the saddle a common salamander to Pennsylvania was sighted, the Red-spotted Newt. The Newt can be found in permanent and semi-permanent water including marshes or quiet streams. When the water becomes too shallow the Newts will migrate onto land.
Each shelter is approximately 12 foot by 12 foot, the floor is finished wood. A hearty stone fire place is located at the opening of the shelter. The angled ceiling catches the heat from the fire place and keeps it circulating within the shelter providing very comfortable and dry sleeping conditions. The flanking walls are equipped with a sturdy shelf and large pegs to hang wet gear or clothes. Firewood is free but you must cut it yourself with the maul provided at the woodshed. Also located at the site is a spigot for potable running water and a clean and well maintained privy.
For a place that is difficult to access, the amenities and views are wonderful. A nice change from some of the more rugged places within Pennsylvania. Cow Run and it’s companion Wolfkiel shelter site on the west side of the creek provide a convenient place to stay to take full advantage of hiking, kayaking and biking within the park. A paved 9.7 mile trail follows an old railroad bed hugs the banks of Oil Creek and passes many historic oil well sites between Petroleum Center and the Drake Oil Well site located at the north end of the park.