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Archbald Pothole State Park

c/o Lackawanna
Dalton, PA 18414-9785

Elevation 1,211 feet
Coordinates 4131′24″N 7533′59″W

Website: 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 State ParkDirections
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 in 1964.

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 Commission.

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.

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