Two New Major Tourism Assets Open in Pennsylvania Wilds Region

NOTE: Ingenuity Labs, which operates, is currently developing an all new website for the Elk Country Store, which is located approximately 6 miles from the new visitor’s center in the heart of Elk Country.

Two of the Commonwealth’s key tourism investments in the Pennsylvania Wilds region come online this fall, helping to attract visitors, pass foot traffic to local businesses and increase tourism capacity in the region.

The first to open its doors, the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park in northern Centre County, opened Sept. 2. The 16-room inn is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania’s award-winning state park system. It highlights the excellent birding opportunities at Bald Eagle (many bird species are attracted to the park’s ridges, valleys and diverse habitat); and demonstrates and interprets green building technologies, including geothermal heating and cooling, rainwater collection, and energy efficient lighting and appliances. The Inn also features the work of three PA Wilds Juried Artisans, as well as prints by John James Audubon and Ned Smith, the famous late Pennsylvania naturalist and artist who created more than 100 cover illustrations for Pennsylvania Game News. Learn more at

The second asset, the Elk Country Visitor Center, in Benezette, Elk County, unofficially opened its doors Sept. 9. A grand opening is slated for Oct. 6. The center is a premier elk watching and conservation education facility on the eastern seaboard (our region is home to the largest free ranging elk herd in the Northeastern United States). The 8,400-square foot eco-friendly building has a stone fireplace to greet visitors, a “Great Room” with large wooden trusses and a panorama of windows looking out on elk viewing areas and food plots. It also has a “Story Theatre” that presents a multimedia experience complete with fiber optic star ceiling, a ‘smoking’ campfire and other techniques and interpretive exhibits to immerse visitors in the sights, sounds and smells of a mixed hardwood forest, the natural world of the elk and native wildlife and the heritage of the region. The center is also a stop on the PA Wilds Artisan Trail and sells authentic handmade goods by PA Wilds Juried Artisans. Learn more at

Both facilities will serve as a jumping off point for the rest of the PA Wilds region by providing interpretive displays, visitor guides and business brochures to help visitors learn about the many things they can do and see all over the region.

Both facilities are public-private partnerships with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The staff behind each facility has worked hard to involve local residents, businesses and community leaders so as to pass foot traffic in a way that benefits local economies. Together, the two facilities create 12 new jobs. Kudos to everyone who helped bring these projects to fruition!

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