The Oil Creek Valley is the site of the world’s first commercial oil well. Oil Creek State Park tells the story of the early petroleum industry by interpreting oil boomtowns, oil wells and early transportation. Scenic Oil Creek carves a valley of deep hollows, steep hillsides and wetlands.
Between Drake Well Museum and Titusville to the north, and Oil City four miles to the south, the main entrance to the park is off of PA 8, one mile north of the Borough of Rouseville.
The primary purpose of Oil Creek State Park is to tell the story of the changing landscape. The early petroleum industry’s oil boom towns and important oil well sites are in contrast with clean trout streams and forested hillsides seen today throughout the park. The events of the exciting 1860s, the time of the original oil boom, receive special emphasis.
Bicycling: A 9.7-mile paved bicycle trail through scenic Oil Creek Gorge is a major park attraction. Trailheads are at Petroleum Centre in the south and Drake Well Museum in the north. Trail users may rent bicycles at the park office.
Picnic tables, benches, rain shelters and restrooms are at key points along the trail. Historical markers detail special events of the 1860s oil boom era.
The trail is open to two-way bicycle traffic. Stay to the right while riding. When passing another cyclist, first ensure that there are no oncoming riders, then call out to the cyclist that you are passing. Bicycles should be parked off of the trail to avoid obstructing traffic.
Caution: Park maintenance and emergency vehicles may be on the trail.
éHunting and Firearms: About 6,250 acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are rabbit, deer, squirrel, turkey and ruffed grouse.
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for accessible hunting information.
Use extreme caution with firearms at all times. Other visitors use the park during hunting seasons. Firearms and archery equipment may be uncased and ready for use only in authorized hunting areas during hunting seasons. In areas not open to hunting or during non-hunting seasons, firearms and archery equipment must be kept in the owner’s car, trailer or camp.
Canoeing: Oil Creek offers a scenic float and is classed as a beginner’s creek under normal conditions. Water levels can change rapidly and canoeists should call the park office for current water conditions. Generally, the canoeing season is from March to June.
Fishing:Oil Creek is known for its bass and trout. Boughton Run, Toy Run and Jones Run provide brook trout fishing. Two delayed harvest-artificial lure only areas cover 2.5 miles of Oil Creek. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply.
Cross-country Skiing: A complex of ski trails is between Petroleum Centre and Plumer. Ten miles of trails offer beginner and intermediate skiers a variety of skiing experiences. The area includes a large parking area, warming hut and restrooms. Track is set on all trails. No mountain bikes permitted on ski trails. In addition, the 9.7-mile bicycle trail is open to skiers. Check at the park office for trail conditions.
Picnicking:Blood Farm Day Use Area and Egbert Farm Day Use Area are on the southern side of the park and are ideal settings for an enjoyable outing. The day use areas have picnic tables, charcoal grills, drinking fountains, restrooms, playfields, and picnic pavilions that may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 888-PA-PARKS for reservations. Picnic tables and restrooms are at key points along the bicycle trail.
The hiking and interpretive trails lead visitors through areas rich in historic and scenic interest. Trail maps and information are available at the park office.
No mountain bikes are permitted on hiking trails.
If you find yourself lost, travel downhill to the bicycle trail or Oil Creek and follow either upstream to Drake Well or downstream to the park office at Petroleum Centre.
The railroad running along Oil Creek is an active line.
Caution: Stay off of the tracks at all times.
Changes Through Time, Delzell Trail: Change is constant in the natural environment. The Oil Creek Valley has seen more than most other areas. Along the 0.7-mile long trail, discover how these changes have created, eliminated and again changed the face of the valley. Pick up a self-guiding brochure in the park office or at the trailhead.
Blood Farm Interpretive Trail: Spend 30 minutes walking a 0.5-mile trail through the 440-acre Blood Farm oil lease. This farm produced more oil than all of the other farms in the oil region in 1861 and 1862. Learn of 15 years of frantic drilling, gushing oil and devastating fires. Interpretive signs throughout the trail will guide your tour.
Petroleum Centre Walking Tour: Petroleum Centre flourished from 1863 to 1870 on its twin livelihoods of oil and entertainment. This company town had no government, law enforcement, sanitation or public works. It was reputed to the “wickedest town east of the Mississippi!” Start at the Petroleum Centre Amphitheater for this 45-minute self-guiding tour.
Gerard Hiking Trail
This 36-mile long trail encompasses the entire park. The main trail is marked with yellow paint blazes. For shorter day hikes, use the five connecting loops blazed in white. Parking areas are available at several access points. Scenic vistas, waterfalls and historic sites are prevalent along the trail.
Two overnight hike-in shelter areas (Cow Run and Wolfkiel Run) are along the trail. Each area contains tent sites, six adirondack-type shelters with fireplaces, restrooms and water supply. A fee and reservations are mandatory for use of these areas and overnight usage is limited to one night per shelter site. Fires are only permitted in camp stoves, fireplaces or designated locations and must be extinguished when unattended. Standing timber and shrubs must not be defaced. Camping is permitted in shelter areas only. Other special regulations pertain to these areas. Contact the park office for further information.
Pets are permitted at the shelter areas. Please contact the park office for guidelines for pets.
Environmental and Historical Education and Interpretation
The park offers a wide variety of environ-mental education and interpretive programs. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Teacher workshops are available. Group programs must be arranged in advance and may be scheduled by calling the park office.
Programs are offered early spring through late fall. For more detailed information contact the park office.
Wildcat Hollow Outdoor Classroom: This area is for use by school groups. Near Petroleum Centre, the area contains a bus parking lot, picnic pavilion, restrooms, activity field and four theme trails. Hike the “wickedest hollow east of the Mississippi.” Choose from one to four trails including: Wetlands Trail (one mile); Geology Trail (one mile); Oil History Trail (0.25 mile); Forestry Trail (0.25 mile).
Along Oil Creek, just south of Titusville, Colonel Edwin Drake struck oil at a depth of 69.5 feet in August 1859. Three words-‘They’ve struck oil!’ thundered triumphantly throughout the valley. This statement changed the world forever and marks the birth of the world’s oil industry. The New York Tribune stated, “The excitement attendant on the discovery of this vast source of oil was fully equal to what I saw in California when a large lump of gold was accidentally turned out. When California 49ers came into the valley they claimed conditions here were crazier than any they’d ever seen.”
Drake’s discovery caused thousands of people to pour into the valley in search of liquid gold. Boomtowns sprang up instantly as derricks replaced trees and the valley filled with people. “The boomtowns spring up as of from the touch of a magician’s wand, are swept away by fire, or disappear only to reappear miles in advance of their last location.”
Oil and mud soon mixed together throughout the valley. Roads were impassable. As noted getting off the train at Petroleum Centre from writer J.H.A. Bone “…pull up your legs when they disappear from sight, remembering that if you descend deep enough, you may strike oil.” Other quotes as noted arriving in Petroleum Centre from the train, “The creek was covered with oil, the air
was full of oil…we could see, hear, smell, nothing but oil.” “Mud divided our attention with oil, wagons, men and animals were submerged in mud.”
By the time 1871 rolled around, production in most boomtowns was dwindling. Drillers, speculators and others went to other areas in their endless search for oil, ‘black as a stack of ebony cats,’ and the valley was allowed to return slowly to the state it is today. Scattered ruins dot the landscape of Oil Creek valley. Remnants of old refineries can still be seen, old wells abound, and crumbling stone walls that once protected wells still stick up in the middle of Oil Creek.
The wooded hills of Oil Creek Gorge look almost as they did before the boom. A few wells are still active in the park, pulling the last bits of oil and natural gas from the earth which nature laid
down years ago.
“The oil rush changed the pace of the world, and greased the wheels of the machine age. It lit up the future, fueled wars, speeded peace and is still flowing strong.”
Unless stated otherwise, the above quotes are from Paul Giddon’s book “Early Days of Oil.”
Train Station Visitor Center: Displays and programs are at Petroleum Centre, the focal point of the early oil boom. “A Contrast in Time” slideshow takes you on a six-minute journey through time. The din of pumping wells and shouting men in the 1860s contrasts with the rustling leaves in a gentle breeze in present day Oil Creek. The train station is open noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Visit the Train Station Visitor Center for historical displays, an exciting diorama and an interactive computer information center.
A train still chugs through the valley and stops at the Train Station in Petroleum Centre, just as it did over 100 years ago!
These full-scale, three-dimensional landscapes contain buildings, machinery, equipment and materials that replicate the historic landscape. Similar to a movie set, the buildings are empty and the machinery does not work, but the tableaus give an idea of historic periods at Oil Creek.
Hunt Farm Tableau
This site has an engine house, various pumping jacks and stock tanks. From the 1940s to the 1960s, Ma-and-Pa oil operations drilled and pumped oil using a gas engine to pump several wells, with the wells supplying gas to run the engine. The long rod lines carried the power from the central engine to the distant wells.
Benninghoff Farm Tableau
This site has six 35-foot tall oil derricks, an oil barge and an engine house. Oil operators thought that oil could only be drilled on flat, level terrain. In the autumn of 1865, the famous Ocean Well was sunk on the steep hillside. When the well began producing 300 barrels of oil a day, oil opportunists flocked to lease part of the farm and soon Mr. Benninghoff earned about $ 6,000 a day.
Access for People with Disabilities
Accessible picnic tables, parking spaces and restrooms are in the day use areas.
éThis symbol indicates facilities and activities that are accessible. This publication text is available in alternative formats.
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks:
717-558-2710 (local or international voice)
717-558-2711 (local or international TTY)
711 (AT&T Relay Services)
For information on nearby attractions, please contact: Oil Heritage Region Tourist Promotion Agency, 800-483-6264 ext. 18,
The Drake Well Museum: The museum is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and is at the north end of Oil Creek State Park near Titusville. The museum presents a full-size replica of the engine and derrick over this early oil well, plus outstanding exhibits about Pennsylvania oil country.
Pithole: Within six miles of Oil Creek Valley is Pithole, America’s largest oil boom town. Oil was discovered in Pithole in January 1865. By September 1865, Pithole had grown into a city of 15,000. For information on Drake Well and Pithole, contact: Drake Well Museum, 203 Museum Lane, Titusville, PA 16354, 814-827-4888, www.drakewell.org.
Excursion Train: The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad operates an excursion train on weekends and other dates from May through October. The 26-mile round trip travels through Oil Creek State Park from Titusville to Rynd Farm. Call OC&T RR at 814-676-1733 for reservations and information.
Protect and Preserve Our Parks
Please make your visit safe and enjoyable. Obey all posted rules and regulations and respect fellow visitors and the resources of the park.
• Be prepared and bring the proper equipment. Natural areas may possess hazards. You are responsible for you and your family’s safety.
• Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
• Please camp only in designated areas and try to minimize your impact on the campsite.
• Your pets are welcome in many areas, but uncontrolled pets may chase wildlife or frighten visitors. Pets must be controlled and attended at all times and on a leash or otherwise safely restrained.
• Do your part to keep wildlife wild! Enjoy wildlife from a safe distance and do not feed or approach wild animals.
• Prevent forest fires by having a fire in proper facilities and properly disposing of hot coals. Do not leave a fire unattended.
• Please park only in designated areas and obey all traffic regulations.
In an Emergency
Contact a park employee or dial 911. For directions to the nearest hospital, look in the brochure rack at the park office. First aid is available at the Petroleum Centre park office and Drake Well Museum.
UPMC Northwest, Oil City Campus, 174 East Bissell Avenue, Oil City, PA 16301