Historical Markers
Honey Hollow Watershed Historical Marker
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Honey Hollow Watershed

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
Route 2332, Solebury Township

Dedication Date:
September 20, 1997

Behind the Marker

In 1930 a severe drought began to settle in over the western United States. In the years that followed, millions of acres went dry and winds swept the barren top soil into great clouds that darkened the sky as far away as Washington D.C.
Aerial image of contoured plowed fields.
Contour plowing of fields in Pennsylvania, 1982.

The Dust Bowl triggered one of the great migrations in modern American history, as farm families packed up their meager belongings and headed west. It also inspired a wave of federal legislation and the creation of new agencies for the conservation of the nation's soil, grasslands, and water resources. Among these was the Soil Conservation Service, formed within the Department of Agriculture in 1935 to work directly with farmers around the country to create soil and water conservation districts.

In the 1930s, six Bucks County farmers whose properties neighbored each other were facing their own soil erosion problems. Originally part of a William Penn grant, their land had been farmed for over 200 years, and generations of poor agricultural practices had contributed to a significant loss of topsoil. By the 1930s, the farmers could no longer ignore the erosion, which was decreasing the productivity and profitability of their farmland.

The Honey Hollow watershed, which included 700 acres of fields, forests, ponds, a stream, and the farmers' homesteads, quickly became a national model for thousands of watershed conservation areas that appeared across the country.
Image of the Honey Hollow Visitor Center
The Honey Hollow Visitor Center, Solebury Township, PA.

In 1942, Dr. Hugh H. Bennett, the first head of the Soil Conservation Service and father of soil conservation nationwide, acknowledged the pioneering work of the Honey Hollow Watershed farmers. "We owe these men a debt of gratitude for what they have done - not only for the soil they have protected, but also for showing us that it can be done as they have done it."

In the late 1900s, the Honey Hollow watershed experienced another serious threat, far different from soil erosion, but just as serious. Suburban sprawl now threatened both the farms and the watershed, as did plans for a highway that would run directly through the conservation area. Again mobilized to collective action, residents of the watershed headed off development plans by applying for and receiving National Historic Landmark status.

In the last years of the Great Depression, the farmers of the Honey Hollow Watershed showed the nation how cooperative action and federal technical assistance could conserve America's precious land, water, and wildlife. Today, the Honey Hollow Watershed includes an environmental education center and a network of trails operated by the Bucks County Audubon Society. Here, visitors can explore the land that six determined farmers protected with assistance of a federal agency created in the midst of the Great Depression.
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