About the Trail

Learn more about the history of the Indian Creek Valley railroad and the trail here.

 

Enjoy The Trail

Come on up and enjoy the trail! The Indian Creek Bike and Hike Trail has plenty to offer. Click here for more information trail access and finished sections.

 

Build the Trail

There are 8 miles of finished trail, 5 miles of unimproved trail and 9 miles of lots of work to do. We have broken the extension into 12 sections. Find out about each of them here!

Support the Trail

There are numerous ways for you to help be a part of the Indian Creek Valley Trail project. Find out how you can play a role here!

 

About the Trail

The Indian Creek Valley Railroad was established in 1906 for Laurel Hill timbering operations. By 1910, 22 miles of railroad were complete from the Jones Mills to the Youghiogheny River, passing through the small towns of Champion, Melcroft, Indian Head and Mill Run. By this time, four passenger trains were running per day in addition to the freight trains carrying coal from local mines. In 1969 the railroad was abandoned as timbering and deep mining declined and much of the coal that continued to be mined in the valley was transported by truck. 

After abandonment by the railroad, Saltlick Township acquired ownership of the portion of the RR grade in their township, and MWA acquired the grade from Jones Mills to Champion and downstream from Indian Head approximately 2 miles. MWA is currently seeking to expand the trail southward to the Youghiogheny River where it will serve as a spur to the popular Great Allegheny Passage.

The Indian Creek Valley consists of farms, villages, and wood lots, and is located between Laurel Hill and Chestnut Ridge. Portions of the valley feature unique habitat, high quality streams, and extensive forest cover. Some areas bear the scars of years of under-regulated coal mining activities. Mining continues in some parts of the valley today, and MWA is currently pursuing remediation of the numerous abandoned mine discharges that exist.

Donations to help with the expansion of the Indian Creek Valley Trail are welcome. Please visit MWA's website or mail your contribution to MWA at PO Box 408, Melcroft, PA 15462. Mark “trail” in the memo line of your check. Thank you.

 

Area History

The Indian Creek Valley Railroad was established in 1906 for Laurel Hill timbering operations, and by 1908, the line was running from the confluence of Indian Creek and the Youghiogheny River to Mill Run and trains began hauling timber and a few passengers from the valley. By 1910, 22 miles of the railway were completed to Jones Mills, passing Indian Head, Melcroft, and Champion along the way. By this time, four passenger cars per day were running on the railroad in addition to freight trains that carried coal from local mines. The railroad line was extended approximately one-and-a-quarter miles from Jones Mills to Kregar by the Blair Brothers Railroad Company to service the Blair Lumber Company and the Piper and Blair Brothers coal mines in Kregar. To check out a Vanderbilt RR survey map from 1882 of the area, click here.

 

Undated picture of the Indian Creek Valley Railroad.

In 1926, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad purchased the Indian Creek Valley Railway Company. The timber business had declined in the valley, but coal mining kept the freight cars moving. Eventually, as deep mining in the valley began to decline and surface mining became more common, coal began to be transported with trucks instead of by rail. As a result, the Indian Creek Valley Railway Company became economically obsolete and the line was officially abandoned in 1969.

The railroad line had existed for over 60 years and serviced numerous mines in the valley. Coal seams including the Middle Kittanning, Lower Freeport, Mahoning, Upper Freeport, and Upper Kittanning attracted numerous mining companies to the valley throughout the late 1800’s and 1900’s. The Indian Creek Valley Railroad served as a critical link between these mines and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which ran along the Youghiogheny River.

Killarney Park Railroad Station and Dancing Pavilion, c. 1911. Killarney Park was located where Camp Christian is today. Photo courtesy of: www.minerd.com

After the abandonment of the Indian Creek Valley Railroad, Saltlick Township acquired the portion of the railroad grade within their township. The Mountain Watershed Association later acquired the sections between Jones Mill and Champion and from Indian Head downstream approximately 2 miles. These two entities have completed approximately 7 miles of trail which is currently utilized by local residents for a variety of recreational endeavors including walking, cycling, cross country skiing, and access to fishing in Indian Creek. However, the existing trail’s relatively short length and the fact that it does not directly link to any other trails limits its utility.

Almost immediately there was interest among some local residents in extending the existing trail along the Indian Creek Railroad Grade in both directions. Over the years as rail trails gained acceptance and popularity, interest in extending the existing 5-mile ICV Trail increased further. The success and popularity of some local rail trails, particularly the Great Allegheny Passage, contributed to the interest in the expansion.

As part of its mission, MWA is committed to improving outdoor recreational opportunities that will contribute to community awareness and stewardship of the environmental resources within the Indian Creek watershed. In 1999, MWA acquired a key property that contained the old railroad grade in Donegal Township. The River Conservation Plan for the Indian Creek watershed, which was completed in 2001, recommended studying the feasibility of extending the existing Indian Creek Valley Bike-Hike Trail. MWA's trail steering committee held its first organizational meeting in November 2002. This activity led MWA to apply for and receive a Community Conservation Partnership Program grant for the completion of a trail extension feasibility study. The feasibility study officially kicked-off with a public meeting on June 12, 2007.

Refreshment Pavilion, Killarney Park, c. 1911 Photo courtesy of: www.minerd.com

The ultimate goal is the extension of the existing ICV Trail both in a northward and southward direction for a total of 22 miles, with the eventual tie in with the Great Allegheny Passage Trail.

Rare postcard image of the Indian Creek Confluence with the Youghiogheny. Indian Creek passes under the railroad on the right of the picture. c.1911 Photo courtesy of www.minerd.com

 

 

For more information on the Indian Creek Valley Trail contact the Mountain Watershed Association at PO Box 408 Melcroft PA 15462.

(724) 455-4200 www.mtwatershed.com

 

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