This post is part of a series on The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip, our 10-month, 15,000-mile tour of the top pet friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states.
The Lehigh River, known for it’s churning rapids, cut the Lehigh Gorge over millennia as it coursed through Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. For most of history, only the dense forests of white pine and hemlock tracked it’s progress. But when European settlers arrived in America, they quickly burned through this easily-accessible building material and fuel. By the 1790s, the deforestation of the East was nearly complete and our fledgling country was on the hunt for another source of fuel.
In 1791, anthracite coal was discovered in Pennsylvania, and canals and railroads were quickly constructed to move the new “fuel of choice” downriver to Philadelphia, Trenton, and Wilmington. It took 20 dams, 29 locks, and numerous reservoirs to tame the upper Lehigh’s 26 miles of twisty whitewater before loads could be moved down the 600-foot elevation change between White Haven and Jim Thorpe.
As the wheels of progress continued to turn, man and mule power were overtaken by the more affordable and predictable locomotive. And Mother Nature send a reminder that she will only be thwarted for so long … after an especially wet spring in 1862, on June 4th an earthen dam above White Haven let go, triggering a cascade of failing dams down river. It’s estimated that between 100 and 200 people were killed, and the Pennsylvania State Legislature forbade rebuilding the canal on the upper Lehigh River.
Fast-forward 110 years to 1972 and we find the railroad through the Gorge abandoned. It was just the opportunity the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania needed to purchase the real estate, create the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and turn the former rail road bed into a 26-mile, multi-use trail.
In 2005, with the completion of a railroad bridge across the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway was born. They offer narrated, pet friendly trips into the State Park on their vintage coaches, departing from the old railroad station in historic downtown Jim Thorpe. Powered by diesel engines, the 16-mile route follows the river as it winds through the gorge and lasts about 70 minutes.
When we told the boys we were taking them on a train ride, Ty was happy, but Buster could barely contain his excitement!
Well behaved dogs on leash are welcome to ride the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway – free of charge!
Pet Rules on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
- Pets on leash are welcome in both the standard coach and open-air cars
- Please clean up after your pet
Deciding between the standard coach, built in 1932 by Bethlehem Steel, with its padded seats and operating windows – or the open-air car with bench seating and a nice breeze, was a not difficult. Being the dogs that they are, Ty and Buster chose the open-air car … for its enhanced sniffing opportunities.
The ticket agent and all the conductors were very nice about having Ty and Buster along for the ride. They genuinely seemed to enjoy having dogs on the train – and, clearly, the boys enjoyed it, too! The scenery through the gorge is fantastic, and we even happened to be there when the Mountain Laurel were blooming.
Of course, it wasn’t long until the vibration lulled Ty to sleep … while Buster enjoyed the scenery.
At the half-way point, the engine disconnects from the front of the train, travels down the track beside the cars, attaches to the other end, and pulls you back to the station. So, if you missed any photos on the way out – you’ll have another chance on the way back!
Once you’ve arrived Jim Thorpe, there’s a shady park just across the street from the train station, places to get snacks and ice cream, and some antique shops and other stores to explore. Of course, if you haven’t gotten your fill of the gorge, hit the Lehigh Gorge Trail – it runs 26 miles to White Haven, and leashed pets are welcome!
Visiting these attractions with Ty and Buster is a dream come true. We’ll be blogging about each one as we go along, so fasten your seatbelt and stay tuned!
The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip wouldn’t be possible without the support of our wonderful sponsors: Winnebago, 2 Hounds Design, Alcott, goDog®, PetGuide.com, Red Roof Inns, Sleepypod, The Bark, PetHub, RVPetSafety.com, and The Honest Kitchen. Please be sure to visit their websites and social media pages and thank them for their participation!
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