Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Knoebels Amusement Park

Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, PA began as a farm known as Peggy's Farm purchased by a Reverend Henry Knoebel in 1828. His grandson of the same name, but known to all as Ole Hen envisioned the land as a recreational site.

At some time during the turn of the century, the Knoebel farm began to be visited by "tally-hos." A tally-ho was a Sunday afternoon hayride with a destination. On those tally-hos destined for the Knoebel farm participants would sit along the creek banks, picnic in the woods, and some of the more daring would even jump from the covered bridge to the swimming hole below.

Henry welcomed these groups and was even able to profit from their visits. He charged 25¢ to water, feed, and brush the horses that pulled the wagons. Picnic tables and benches were added and a life guard was hired to protect the swimmers. Eventually the sale of ice cream, popcorn, peanuts, and soft drinks was added to Henry's new enterprise. It is from these humble beginnings that Knoebels Amusement Resort arose.

In 1917 a Boyer family from Shamokin added a cottage at the cost of $175.00 and leased the land for a dollar a month. Shortly thereafter, Knoebels began to build cottages to rent. Some of these were unique structures. They included a Covered Wagon, a Trolley Car, a School House, and a Boat. Some of the cottages still remain, some were destroyed in the flood of 1972. Some cottages became something else, for example, Caldwell cottage became the Old Mill ice cream stand

In 1926 a swimming pool and carosel was added in the exact spots were they remain today. However the pool has been improved and the carosel is new. A few games and a restaurant was added, on the spot where the Alamo Restaurant sits today.

It could be said that the covered bridge is the best known symbol of the earliest days of Knoebels Groves. It was from a covered bridge that daring swimmers jumped into the sparkling waters of Roaring Creek and Mugser's Run. Even after the park began to take shape and the pool was built, the bridge remained. It stood until 1940, when the highway department tore it down and replaced it with the steel structure that still serves the park today.

The covered bridge leading to Knoebels Campground was originally built in 1875 over West Creek in Columbia County. When the road was relocated, the bridge was purchased by Knoebels, dismantled, moved 50 miles, and reassembled at the park. This span was dedicated as the Lawrence L. Knoebel Memorial Bridge by the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society in July of 1964. It was severly damaged in the June Flood of 1972 but was repaired and still stands.

The third covered bridge was built in 1975 and serves as a pedestrian crossing for the thousands of people who visit the resort. It crosses Roaring Creek joining Columbia and Northumberland Counties and is dubbed the newest "Old Covered Bridge" in the world. Although the span is relatively new, it already has a history. The main roof support timbers measuring 14" x 16" and 51' long were hand hewn in 1865. They were originally cut for the Berninger Grist Mill which was located a few miles from the park.

On a beautiful summer's day, the sounds of Roaring Creek and Mugser's Run rippling through the park add a beautiful, natural touch to the hustle and bustle of the park. But on Thursday, June 22, 1972 these streams took on a more threatening character. Rains from the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes drove the creeks beyond their banks.

Water spilled onto 24 of the park's 25 rides. 200 electric motors were submerged in muddy flood waters. Six cottages were destroyed, another dozen were no longer usable from the water damage. Nearly everything at the park was covered with mud. Six feet of it covered the bottom of the Crystal Pool. At the roller rink the hardwood floor, waterlogged by the flood, buckled.

Through the efforts of park employees and many friends and neighbors who volunteered their help the park opened nine days later with 11 of the park's rides operating. Although many people volunteered their time, no one went unpaid.

The cleanup statistics: 11,000 manhours; 3,600 tons of fill recovered and redistributed; and 210 truckloads of debris removed. All of this was accomplished without government loans or grants. Although Knoebels qualified for government assistance, the decision was made to rebuild without it.

People camped at Knoebels long before there was a formal campground. There were campers in the groves as early as the 1920s. The establishment of nine sites in 1963 marked the formal beginning of the campground. Approximately two years later 25 sites were added and the first designated campground restroom was constructed.

Over the years more and more visitors to the park wanted to extend their visits and it became necessary to add to the campground. Today the main campground features over 550 sites and 36 log cabins.

After the January 1996 flood, Knoebels purchased and the restored the Lake Glory campground about five miles from the park. Today this facility features over 150 sites and a dozen log cabins. Shuttle service to and from the park is provided.

There are at least sixty different rides in the park, a sky ride that takes you into the nearby mountain area, a miniature as well an eighteen hole golf course, laser runner, boat tag, shooting gallery, XD theater, several museums, a bald eagle exihibit, band shell with live entertainment, children's live interactive theater, and so much more.

My granddaughters of the Sklooosh and Log Flume Rides. One ride on the Sklooosh and you get soaked.

It has every kind of food from potato pancakes, to baked potatoes, candy apples to steak, German as well as Mexican cuisine. Every thing in the park is family oriented, and reasonably priced. There is no cost for parking or admission, and tickets are still sold for the rides like the old days when I was a child.

You can rent strollers built for small and medium sized children, as well as battery operated scooters for the handicapped or those who just can't stand or walk for long periods. The rates are very reasonable. There are plenty of benches throughout the park for resting.

For more information on Knoebels: Click Here

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