A dozen remarkable places to visit in 2020.
First of a 2-part countdown.
As winter sets in, aren’t we all longing for spring and some outdoor fun? Mary Anne, Genevieve, Michael, Dashiell, Margaux and I have hobnobbed through Bucks County and its history for years. So today we present our countdown of a dozen scenic wonders for your 2020 enjoyment. Happy New Year!
No. 12 – Aquatong Spring, Solebury
This phenomenal gusher is a natural wonder. From an immeasurably deep crevice in the earth, the spring pumps 3 million gallons of crystal clear water every day. Even in the worst drought, the flow never diminishes, feeding Aquetong Creek flowing past the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope.
Solebury purchased the site in 2010 for a 45-acre park with hiking and biking trails connected to other trails that will connect the Delaware River to the Schulykill River.
Address: Route 202 at Lower Mountain Road; www.soleburyhistory.org/on-line-exhibits/aquetong-spring-park/
No. 11: Giving Pond, Tinicum
The pond, really a lake, is interlaced with densely vegetated islets and beaver dams around which you can canoe or kayak. Amid ghostly remains of trees pointing skyward, turtles, loons and many other species proliferate. Still waters mirror the sky, as if the sanctuary exists between heaven and earth.
Ken Lewis, former superintendent of Delaware Canal State Park, gave the 155-acre state park its name when it opened in 2003. The water-filled former sand quarry with its many trees reminded him of the beloved storybook “The Giving Tree”, a touching parable about love and the gift of giving. To Lewis, the park like the storybook offers a loving and beautiful place to relax.
Address: Intersection of Jugtown and River Road (Route 32); www.facebook.com/pages/Giving-Pond-Recreation-Area/140146199360456
No. 10: Andalusia Estate, Bensalem
In 1795, merchant John Craig moved his family out of Philadelphia to Bensalem where he established a large manor on 225 acres he named Andalusia. Craig’s daughter married ultra-wealthy Philadelphia banker Nicholas Biddle. The couple inherited Andalusia in 1814 and remodeled the home to appear like a “Greek temple on the hill” overlooking the Delaware River. To do so they hired architect William Walter who designed the U.S. Capitol dome.
The estate today is spectacularly beautiful with flower and herb gardens, stone walls and wide lawns showcasing the Biddle mansion, all open to tours.
Address: 1237 State Road; www.andalusiapa.org/
No. 9: Pennsbury Manor, Falls
Pennsylvania began here at William Penn’s reconstructed mansion. On his arrival in 1682, he created an 8,000-acre estate covering most of what today is Tullytown and Falls. Forty-three acres have been preserved as Pennsbury Manor. It offers a new museum and “Hands-On-History” every Sunday with re-enactors demonstrating daily life in the 1600s. A brew house, stables with livestock and outbuildings near the mansion replicate what existed in Penn’s time.
In four years spent in his new colony, Penn directed the creation of Philadelphia and colonial government with unprecedented power to the people. In 1701, he sailed back to England where he suffered indebtedness and crippling illness before his passing in 1718 at age 74.
Address: 400 Pennsbury Memorial Road; www.pennsburymanor.org/
No. 8: High Rocks, Tinicum
If you own a dog, head to High Rocks. Author Doug Gilbert rates it among the best in his “55 Places to Hike with Your Dog in the Philadelphia Region”. He notes, “There is no similar view in the Delaware Valley.”
My family including 4-footed companion Marcel agrees. High Rocks trail wanders through woodlands to the crest of a gorge. Just down the 200-foot-high, rust red cliffs are turkey vultures in rocky lairs, taking flight within easy view. The clear air carries the rhapsodic sound of the creek in Bucks’ version of the Grand Canyon.
Famed author James Michener briefly owned High Rocks after his fiance purchased the site for a new home in 1948. Jim knew about High Rocks from childhood. “That’s where everybody is going to climb up the rocks and kill themselves,” he warned. “You’d better find me another piece of ground.” She did – Pipersville. Meanwhile, he deeded to Bucks County the property, now part of Ralph Stover State Park.
Address: 150 Tory Road; www.stateparks.com/high_rocks.html
No. 7: Bowman’s Tower and Wildflower Preserve, Solebury
The 125-foot-high watchtower on Bowman’s Hill memorializes George Washington’s famed crossing of the Delaware. Today, you can take an elevator and look down on where the Continental Army mobilized to attack Trenton 15 miles downstream on Christmas night 1776.
In the late 1600s, the hill was owned by John Bowman, an Englishman and supposedly a surgeon on Captain Kidd’s pirate ship. Is Kidd’s missing gold buried on Bowman’s hill? No one knows though Margaux and Dashiell have snooped around for evidence.
Below the summit is the wildflower preserve founded in 1934. Hardwood forests, a meadow, steep hillsides, a creek, spring-fed pond, wetlands and more than 4 miles of hiking trails make the preserve a wonder.
Address: 1112 River Road; www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/park/bowmans-hill-tower/