Archbald Pothole State Park
Dalton, PA 18414-9785
Elevation 1,211 feet
Coordinates 41°31′24″N 75°33′59″W
Archbald Pothole State Park
Archbald Pothole State Park is a 150-acre park
in northeastern Pennsylvania. The park is named for Archbald
Pothole, a geologic feature that formed during the Wisconsin
Glacial Period, around 15,000 years ago. The pothole is 38 feet
deep and has an elliptical shape. The diameter of the pothole
decreases downward. The largest diameter is 42 feet by 24 feet. At
the bottom it is 17 feet by 14 feet. The pothole has a volume of
about 18,600 cubic feet, so could hold about 140,000 gallons. It
would take 35 fire truck tankers to fill the pothole.
Archbald Pothole is in Lackawanna County, nine miles north of
Scranton. The park is easily reached from Interstate 81. Take Exit
191A to Business US 6 east towards Carbondale. The park entrance
is six miles on the right.
A coal miner, Patrick Mahon,
discovered Archbald Pothole in 1884. Mahon was extending a mine
shaft. When he set off a blast of explosives, water and stones
came pouring into the mine shaft. He and the other miners fled the
scene fearing for their lives. The manager of the mining company,
Edward Jones, came to investigate. Jones ordered that the area be
cleared of the fallen debris. Almost 1,000 tons of small rounded
stones were removed and Jones soon realized that the vertical
tunnel discovered by the coal miners, was a large pothole.
After serving as a ventilation shaft for the mine, the pothole
was fenced in by the owner of the land, Colonel Hackley, for
tourists to look at it. The pothole soon became a renowned tourist
attraction. Edward Jones led the tours for the locals and famous
geologists. Archbald Pothole was turned over to public ownership
in 1914, when the widow of Colonel Hackley deeded 1-acre
surrounding the pothole to the Lackawanna Historical Society.
Lackawanna County gained ownership of the pothole and the
surrounding 150 acres in 1940. Archbald Pothole was a county park
until 1961 when the property was transferred to the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania. Archbald Pothole State Park was formally opened
While the pothole and surrounding park were long a popular
tourist attraction, by the 1990s attendance had fallen and the
facilities were in need of repair. The park was closed for a
$170,000 "facelift" and when it reopened in 1997 it had been
repaved and had new landscaping and new trash receptacles. Despite
the improvements, attendance remained low and litter thrown into
the pothole was still a problem, including "bottles and paper
bags... a parking meter, a park bench and a "Wet Floor" cone".
Another problem was the park's "unsavory reputation" as a place
for "men looking for sex", with plainclothes police arresting 29
men there for "lewd behavior" in one 2002 sweep. In an attempt to
address these issues, in 2002 the Pennsylvania State Legislature
approved more improvements to the park, including "least two
soccer fields, a basketball court, a tennis court, a walking
trail, a playground, roads and parking areas".
Archbald Pothole is 38 feet deep
and 42 feet wide at its maximum diameter. The pothole cuts through
layers of sandstone, shale and coal. A pothole, in geologic terms,
is a hole that is worn into the bedrock of a stream in strong
rapids or at the base of a waterfall. The force of the water spins
rock fragments, sand and gravel into a small indentation in the
bedrock. After years and years of constant spinning, the stones
and sands carve out an elliptical hole. Potholes are also formed
by the action of glacial meltwater. Archbald Pothole is an example
of just such a pothole.
Archbald Pothole was formed during the Wisconsin Glacial
Period. As the glacier melted, a stream that flowed on top may
have fallen into a crevasse and then fell to the bedrock. The
force of the falling water created a pothole in much the same way
that a waterfall creates a pothole. The pothole was filled by
falling sand, rocks and gravel as the glacier retreated and
created other potholes. Archbald Pothole was preserved underground
for nearly 13,000 years until its discovery by Patrick Mahon. The
park is at an elevation of 1,211 feet.
A small loop trail follows an
old coal mine tram road for hiking. The trail passes along a rock
ledge and through a forest.
Hunting is permitted on over 100 acres of the park. The most
common game species are squirrels, turkeys and white-tailed deer.
The hunting of groundhogs is not permitted. Hunters are expected
to follow the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania State Game
Some of the parkland was stripped off in the past by strip
mining. This land is currently undergoing a reclamation process
and there are plans to use the reclaimed land for recreation and
to build athletic fields.