Conservation Atlas Spotlight – Furnace Hills

Pennsylvania Highlands Conservation Atlas Story Map Spotlight – Furnace Hills

To access the full Story Map, click HERE.

The AMC Mid-Atlantic office has updated and expanded the 2006 PA Highlands Conservation Atlas into 12 interactive Story Maps which include updated conserved lands, conservation areas, and historic and recreational resources, such as the PA Highlands Trail.

This atlas was developed to build awareness about the importance of the Pennsylvania Highlands region by portraying the special places and resources found there. It is also a call for action to help protect this incredible and threatened region.

Conservation Area: Furnace Hills (

The seventh addition of our conservation area spotlight focuses on Furnace Hills, which forms the central forested hub of the Pennsylvania Highlands, encompassing roughly 31,000 acres of land. Rising to an elevation of 1,000 feet and located east of the Susquehanna River, Furnace Hills borders Lancaster and Lebanon counties. This area provides a way station for thousands of migrating waterfowl every year and is a major stronghold for natural resources.

Furnace Hills Conservation Area within the PA Highlands
Furnace Hills Conservation Area within the PA Highlands

Natural Resources: The focal point of the Furnace Hills is the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. This 6,000-acre

Wildlife Management Area, operated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, is one of just six globally Important Bird Areas in Pennsylvania. It is also designated as an Important Mammal Area.

The most notable waterfowl found here are snow geese and tundra swans. More than 280 species of birds and other animals are found here in the forests, lakes, fields, ponds, and marshy pothole habitats of the Furnace Hills. Other species that can be spotted here are nesting bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, spring warblers, great blue herons, red fox, and white-tailed deer.

Historical/Cultural Resources: The Furnace Hills provide the backdrop for many historic sites from the nation’s iron era, which lasted for more than 200 years. The Cornwall Ore Banks, found nearby, was one of the greatest known deposits of iron ore in the country. The Cornwall Furnace produced various cast iron products, cannon, and cannonballs during the Revolutionary War, and gun blocks during the Civil War. Minerals other than iron that were mined here include cobalt, copper, silver, gold, and more.

Another important historical resource located in the Furnace Hills is the village of Mount Gretna. This unique station and recreation area on the former Cornwall to Lebanon railroad is known for distinctive character.

Recreational Resources: The Horse-Shoe Trail is the main recreational amenity extending almost the entire length of the Furnace Hills, co-aligning with the Highlands Trail of Pennsylvania. Historically, this trail was used to transport goods to and from the numerous forges and iron furnaces throughout the Pennsylvania Highlands. There are also many state game lands within this conservation area, which provide outdoor recreation opportunities ranging from hunting and fishing to hiking and boating.

Interactive Map (screenshot): Follow this link to explore the Furnace Hills conservation area through an interactive map that shows climbing sites, critical treasures, fishing and boating access, park and recreation areas, cultural resources, Audubon Important Bird Areas, and more! Furnace Hills (


Local Organizations:

Lancaster Conservancy 

Lancaster County Planning Commission 

Lebanon County Conservation District 

The Lebanon Valley Conservancy