Bendigo State Park
533 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
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.
In 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.
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
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
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
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