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Bendigo State Park

Bendigo State Park  - BEST Places to Picnic533 State Park Road
Johnsonburg, PA 15845-0016

Elevation 1,493 feet
Coordinates 41�31′53″N 78�37′41″W

The 100-acre Bendigo State Park is in a small valley surrounded by picturesque hills. About 20 acres of the park is developed, half of which is a large shaded picnic area.

The forest is predominantly northern hardwoods and includes beech, birch, cherry and maple. The East Branch of the Clarion River flows through the park. This beautiful waterway was once polluted by abandoned mine drainage. It now provides excellent fishing and is stocked with trout by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.


Bendigo State ParkIn Jones Township, Elk County, Pennsylvania, Bendigo State Park is four miles northeast of Johnsonburg on SR 1004, which branches off of US 219 in Johnsonburg.

Places to Picnic

Over 150 picnic tables are in several picnic areas. Within these areas are charcoal grills, drinking water, four horseshoe pits, restrooms and three picnic pavilions. 

Picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. Pavilion #1 is accessible.


  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Canoeing/Kayaking



The Bible, boxing and a mystery named Bendigo State Park.

William Abednego Thompson (1811 - 1880) was born into a poor family in Nottingham, Britain. The last of 21 children, Thompson was one of triplets named for three young men who escaped a furnace in the Book of Daniel.

Thompson began bare-knuckle boxing as a way to make money. Due to his bobbing and weaving style, he was nicknamed Bendy Abednego, which eventually evolved into Bendigo. He was popular with fans because of his wild behavior in the ring, like doing flips, taunting his opponent, and avoiding punches. Thompson became the champion of all of Britain, before retiring and becoming a Methodist preacher. There are no records of Thompson ever leaving Britain.

In 1895, Alfred Truman began a lumbering operation on a small creek that fed into the East Branch of the Clarion River.

He built a small town to support the mill. The mill and town lasted for the five years it took to cut the timber, then some of the equipment was shipped away and the rest was razed. The town was forgotten.

It was also forgotten how, why or when the creek and the town were named for a left-handed boxer from Britain nicknamed Bendigo.

The Park

The history of the area in and around Bendigo State Park is an example of why to never give up a dream.

Chartered in 1887, the Johnsonburg and Clermont Railroad linked the towns and mills of the area to haul the timber to the market. Visitors drive the old railroad trace when they drive the main park road. When the timber was exhausted, the railroad, sawmills and towns slowly disappeared.

Bendigo State Park began in the 1920s as a community project of the nearby town of Johnsonburg. Seeking a place for a swimming pool and picnicking area, the planners chose an area that people were already using, the land that had once been the village of Bendigo. The lumber company who owned the property gave 100 acres to the county to be a park.

In 1936, during the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) began building roads and facilities in Bendigo Community Park, but the money ran out before the park and pool could be completed. People swam in the river behind the dam that had been built, and enjoyed the picnic tables and grills.

Floods destroyed many of the facilities in 1942, but the stonewall and dam on the East Branch of the Clarion River survived. Due to the debris, the park lay nearly abandoned, but was still used as a swimming hole and picnic area.

The process began in August of 1948, and in April of 1949, the late State Senator George B. Stevenson introduced the bill that transferred the property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Improvements were made to the park facilities, including the building of a swimming pool. Bendigo State Park opened in 1954, finally realizing the dreams of the community.

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