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  • Why were the Pocono Mountains Called the Shades of Death?

    Nothing comes upon the nickname "Shades of Death" lightly and true to it's moniker, the swampy valley in the Pocono Mountains known as the "Shades of Death" has a dark history. (Pictured below: Set of falls at Hickory Run State Park, Poconos, Pennsylvania)
    Why were the Pocono Mountains Called the Shades of Death?


    There are a few historical accounts about how 'The Shades of Death' got its name.

    As one historical retelling goes, in 1778 during the American Revolution, settlers of the Wyoming Valley fled into the dark mountains to escape the Battle of Wyoming between the American Patriots and the Loyalists fighting with the Iroquois Indians. During the battle, more than 300 Patriots were killed. In addition to the deaths of the Patriots, history states that as many as 200 civilians decided to flee the area instead of surrendering to Colonial Butler. They escaped into the swamp and died of exposure, earning the swampy area the nickname 'The Shades of Death.' The Pocono Record also reports this story. 

    The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources simply states that the first colonists named the area "The Shades of Death" for its "dark forests, numerous swamps and rocky, unfarmable soil." 


    The Shades of Death area has many pine, hemlock and spruce trees with lots of roots and rocks that can be slippery when wet. 


    According to "Carbon County" by Rebecca Rabenold-Finsel, a century after the massacre the Shades of Death would become known for the Sunnyrest Sanatorium, a health resort that sought to heal those with tuberculosis. 


    Today, Hickory Run State Park in the western foothills of the Pocono Mountains marks the beginning of the Shades of Death Trail, a 1.3-mile trail popular with bird watchers. The trail also features a waterfall. Hickory Run State Park is a 15,000-acre park with over 40 miles of hiking trails. The Shades of Death Trail is rated as moderate and good for all ages and skill levels. 

    Article Written By Angela Harris

    Angela Harris is a freelance writer in Greensboro, North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Communications from Appalachian State University. Her work has appeared in High Country Magazine and the Watauga Democrat Newspaper.

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