Exploring the Abandoned Lime Kilns at Canoe Creek State Park

The abandoned Blair Limestone Company kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
The abandoned Blair Limestone Company kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

The abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park are remnants of a thriving limestone-processing facility that once operated around the clock in this now-tranquil corner of Blair County.


Origins of the Blair Limestone Company Kilns

In the early 1900s, the steel mills of Pittsburgh had an immense need for lime, used to remove impurities from molten iron as part of the steel-making process.

In order to meet their needs, the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company opened and operated the Blair Limestone Company in the area of Blair County which is now part of Canoe Creek State Park.

Jones and Laughlin Steel Company in PIttsburgh Pennsylvania.
Jones and Laughlin Steel Company in Pittsburgh at the beginning of the 20th century (public domain image).

How the Blair Limestone Company Kilns Worked

Limestone was quarried from the hillsides along Mary Ann’s Creek and loaded into “stone cars”.

A stone car that would have been used to haul limestone from the quarry to the kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
A stone car that would have been used to haul limestone from the quarry to the kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

The stone cars were then pulled along tracks by a cable to an elevated position above the lime kilns, where their payloads were then dumped into the kiln below.

A diagram of what the working limestone kilns at Canoe Creek State Park looked like, from an informational display near the abandoned lime kilns.
A diagram of what the working limestone kilns at Canoe Creek State Park looked like, from an informational display near the abandoned kilns.

The limestone was heated by a furnace (the brick structures on top of the concrete kiln foundations), causing a chemical reaction that produced lime.

The historic lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County Pennsylvania.
The tops of the historic lime kiln foundations, where the furnace would have been located.

The lime would fall down into the openings of kiln foundation, where it was raked out onto the flat concrete area in front of the kilns to cool.

The historic Blair Limestone Company kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
The historic Blair Limestone Company kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

Once cooled, the lime was loaded onto Pennsylvania Railroad cars and shipped off to the Jones and Laughlin steel mills in Pittsburgh.

A Pennsylvania Railroad train engine in the early 20th century.
A Pennsylvania Railroad train engine in the early 20th century.

How to Find the Abandoned Lime Kilns at Canoe Creek State Park

The abandoned Blair Limestone Company kilns are relatively easy to get to via the Limestone Trail, a 1 mile hike from the parking lots above the beach at Canoe Creek State Park .

How to find the abandoned limestone kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
How to find the abandoned limestone kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

The Limestone Trail trailhead is located at the northeast corner of the parking lots at GPS coordinates 40.48496, -78.28334.

The Limestone Trail trailhead leading to the abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
The Limestone Trail trailhead leading to the abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

The Limestone Trail crosses a park road, and then Mary Ann’s Creek, before starting upstream along the old railroad bed.

Bridge over Mary Ann's Creek along the Limestone Trail at Canoe Creek State Park.
Bridge over Mary Ann’s Creek along the Limestone Trail at Canoe Creek State Park.

The kilns come into view approximately 100 yards upstream from the metal bridge over Mary Ann’s Creek.

The abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County.
The abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County.

Visiting the Abandoned Lime Kilns at Canoe Creek State Park

It’s hard to imagine as you stand in front of the silent lime kilns today how much smoke, noise, commotion, and back-breaking work went on in this location for the decade or so that the kilns were in operation.

The 6 abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
The 6 abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

Remnants of the quarries that supplied the limestone are located along hiking trails on either side of Mary Ann’s Creek.

Limestone Quarry above the Blair Limestone Company kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
Limestone quarry above the Blair Limestone Company kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

The foundations, which once supported furnaces, kilns, and smokestacks that rose nearly 80 feet above the ground, conjure up images of medieval castles.

Standing inside one of the abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
Standing inside one of the abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

It’s hard not to appreciate the workmanship that went into building these massive industrial structures.

Looking up through one of the abandoned lime kiln stacks at Canoe Creek State Park.
Looking up through one of the abandoned lime kiln stacks at Canoe Creek State Park.

There are plenty of additional activities to occupy and inspire the imaginations of explorers young and old when visiting the abandoned limestone kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

Mary Ann's Creek near the abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
Mary Ann’s Creek near the abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

There are no shortage of places to splash around or climb.

A limestone quarry along Mary Ann's Creek near the abandoned limestone kilns.
A limestone quarry along Mary Ann’s Creek near the abandoned limestone kilns.

The abandoned Blair Limestone Company kilns, now part of Canoe Creek State Park, are easy to get to and make for an enjoyable history lesson and hiking destination when visiting Blair County.

Exploring the abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.
Exploring the abandoned lime kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

Want to make your trip to Canoe Creek State Park even MORE epic?

Rent a one-of-a-kind vacation home near Canoe Creek State Park through Vrbo!

A rental cabin in a wooded setting in the Laurel Highlands.
Photo courtesy of Vrbo.

Check out HUNDREDS of cabins, cottages, and lodge homes close to Canoe Creek State Park by clicking on the Vrbo logo below.

Disclaimer: If you book a vacation rental through this Vrbo link, I get a small commission (at NO additional cost to you!), which helps offset the expense of hosting the PA Bucket List website.

In neighboring Centre County, the ghost town of Scotia is an abandoned iron-mining boomtown built by another Pittsburgh steel-making icon, Andrew Carnegie.

View from above of the ore washer remains at Scotia.
Remains of the ghost town of Scotia on State Game Lands 176, near State College.

Today the ruins of Scotia can be seen on State Game Lands 176, and are a popular hiking destination for folks visiting nearby State College.

The ruins of Scotia are a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers near State College.
The ruins of Scotia are a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers near State College.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was a critical partner in moving the lime manufactured in Blair County to the steel mills in Pittsburgh, and the Horseshoe Curve in Blair County is a world-famous remnant of that railroad, still in use to this day.

Westbound train passing through the viewing area at the Horseshoe Curve.
Westbound train passing through the viewing area at the Horseshoe Curve.

Considered one of the “engineering wonders of the world” at the time of its completion in 1854, the Horseshoe Curve continues to offer railroading fans an up-close opportunity to experience the thrill of trains passing by along this 2,375 foot-long curved stretch of tracks, along with a chance to explore the attached museum full of memorabilia and interpretive exhibits.

One of the many exhibits inside the Horseshoe Curve Museum and Visitor Center.
One of the many exhibits inside the Horseshoe Curve Museum and Visitor Center.

Chimney Rocks Park in Blair County is a former stone quarry turned public park that features 3 fantastic scenic overlooks as well as hiking trails, a playground, and picnic areas.

October at Chimney Rocks Park in Blair County.
October at Chimney Rocks Park in Blair County.

From the overlooks you can see into downtown Hollidaysburg, a town important to the development of the railroads in Pennsylvania.

A view of downtown Hollidaysburg from Chimney Rocks Park.
A view of downtown Hollidaysburg from Chimney Rocks Park.


Hell’s Hollow Falls at McConnells Mill State Park is named for the “hellish” smoke and red glow given off by the lime kiln built next to the falls.

Looking into the lime kiln on the side of Hell's Hollow Falls from the bottom opening in the kiln.
Looking into the lime kiln next to Hell’s Hollow Falls from the bottom opening in the kiln.

Today Hell’s Hollow Falls is a popular hiking destination along Hell Run in Lawrence County.

The author at Hell's Hollow Falls.
The author at Hell’s Hollow Falls in Lawrence County.

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Pennsylvania’s Best Travel Blog!

Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

2 COMMENTS

  1. There is so much about Pennsylvania which I did not know. Thank you, Rusty, for making it possible for me to know about and, maybe, one day see in person for myself. But, until then, I can see these amazing places through your eyes.

    • Thanks Craig – glad you are enjoying the write-ups. I checked out some of your film score examples on your website – very impressive!

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