Here at the base of Blue Mountain and within the City of Harrisburg's northern tier lies the 212-acre Wildwood Lake Sanctuary, the last vestige and magnificent preserve of the Susquehanna flood-plain wetlands which at one time were common prior to the filling of land for the development of Harrisburg. As early as 1901, the emerging plans of Harrisburg's City Beautiful Movement called for the establishment of a great park at what had been traditionally known as Wetzel's Swamp, a park that would become a principal destination for hiking, outings and lake oriented water and boating activities. By 1904, the first in a series of land acquisitions was undertaken by the Harrisburg Park Commission, which would continue until 1913 when the entire Park was assembled. In 1908, noted landscape architect Warren Manning was retained to plan park improvement including the construction of a dam to raise a portion of the swamp's water level for recreational and boating use. hiking trails and boardwalks were created adding further dimension to the park, which also became popular for horseback riding and bird watching. By 1929, a zoo had been established featuring an assortment of animals including lions and elephants. Although the zoo closed during World War II and portions of the park were deeded for other uses, such as the campus of Pennsylvania's first community college, Harrisburg Area Community College which opened in 1964, the preserve took on new life as furthered by the environmentally "green," $4.3 million Olewine Nature Center completed in 1999. Home of the Great Egret and a variety of heron as well as to such flora as water lilies and the American lotus, the Wildwood Lake Sanctuary has survived the pressure of surrounding development and beckons enthusiasts of nature and the outdoors as one of the most unique natural setting within any American City.
Boating activities at Wildwood Lake in 1915.
1915 postcard view of serene Wildwood Lake.