Finding Jacks Creek

For as long as I’ve known about it I have wanted to find Jacks Creek. Over the last several years it was nothing more than a sign on a bridge on route 322 in Central Pennsylvania. But the first time I noticed the sign I immediately wondered who Jack was and why he had a creek named after him. (You’ll note that there is no apostrophe.) The next time I drove the route I paid more attention to exactly where I was, and at my next rest stop I wrote down “near Lewistown” on the note pad I keep in the driver’s side door pocket.

Cropped image of my notepad

One day at work the creek came up in conversation, and with my co-worker William’s help, we found a Wikipedia page for it! There isn’t much information here, but one click led to another and we stumbled across another page for Jacks Mountain, located in the same general area of the state. This gave us the essential facts: Jack was Jack Armstrong, an 18th century fur trader who was killed by Native Americans after he tried to collect on a debt.

This information sated me for a few years, but I still wanted to see the creek. On Monday, March 29th, I was driving back to Cleveland from visiting my parents, and after passing the sign I felt a sudden burst of inspiration that this should be the day. At the next exit I found a gas station to park in while I looked at the map on my phone and quickly plotted my course.

The creek is 20 miles long, but I only saw the last 2 miles or so, before it feeds into the Juniata River. And I’m pleased to report that the creek was worth finding. Much of what I saw was bounded by private property, but even while driving slowly I could make out a good portion of the creek as it ran behind the houses and yards. As I got closer to route 22 I noticed a small parking lot and decided to park the car to see how close I could get.

The creek at this section was not as picturesque as further upstream, but there was a bridge that I could walk over and learn a little bit of history while doing so. This was the in-person equivalent to searching Wikipedia–literally stumbling across a historical marker that told me the bridge was built in 1813 as part of the turnpike connecting Harrisburg to Pittsburgh! Isn’t it amazing that 200+ years later it still exists?

I’m not sure if other people ever wonder about creeks the same way I do, but no matter, what’s important here is the fact that I followed a question through to the end. How many times do we think that we could do something or go somewhere if only we had more time? My answer is: make the time, it’s usually worth it.

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