Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve
New Hope, Pennsylvania
May 2008

In October 1934, the Washington Crossing Park Commission set aside 100 acres of Washington Crossing Historic Park to become the Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve. This acreage was home to variety of habitats and a great deal of botanical diversity. Since then the Preserve has augmented the rich native flora of the site with plants from throughout Pennsylvania. Today they claim to have nearly half of the 2,000 plant species that are native to Pennsylvania growing on the site. They've done this without altering the basic character of the place so walking the trails feels like a walk through rich native woodlands.

entrance sign

The entrance from the road does not really give you a sense of the place. The entry sign is placed at the edge of a large meadow but the Preserve itself is very wooded. Passing this sign you drive another few hundred yards before passing through a deer-proof gate and into the Preserve. Once you pass through the gate, all is wooded.

Everything about the site is very rustic and low key. The Visitor Center is small and unassuming.

visitor center

The trails are well-graded and well-marked but feel like they are just native paths that have been defined by wood edging.

woodland path

A lovely small creek runs through the property, contributing to the diversity of habitats. The stone dam and 'picket fence' overlook are new but built to maintain the rustic character of the place.

dam on creek

The only thing that really smacks of modern is the deer fence that greets you every time your trail meets the edge of the Preserve. You can pass through the gate and go out into the surrounding park. This picture is obviously taken from the outside.

gate at deer fence

The beauty of the place isn't just the walk through the woods. The forest floor holds an abundance of wildflowers. In keeping with the naturalistic feel of the Preserve, plant labels are kept to a minimum. I saw only a handful during our tour. You can pick up a laminated sheet of flower pictures at the Visitor Center, and a seasonal list of wildflowers likely to be seen in bloom. These were helpful but very limited in scope. You'd need to carry a good field guide to really identify what you're seeing. While I appreciate that plant labels can interfere with the ambience of such a natural site (and they could be a maintenance nightmare), I think the visitor experience would be greatly enhanced by additional plant identification tools. Discrete plant labels would be one answer, but with today's technology maybe they could create a visual handheld tour, similar to the audio tours many places offer. I must admit I've never seen one but I don't think it's unrealistic.

Even if you can't identify the plants, you can certainly enjoy their beauty. My favorite was probably Jack in the Pulpit which might not qualify as beautiful but is certainly interesting.

Jack in the Pulpit

I found the Preserve a wonderful place for a leisurely stroll through the woods. They do a lot of educational programs to promote their native plants, but I'd like to see them do more to educate the casual visitor. Better interpretive material, brochures or signs, would greatly increase the visitor experience.

here to see more photos of Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve.

To visit the official Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve website, click here.

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