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Cherry Valley scavenger hunt


Where: Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge is off Cherry Valley Road south of Stroudsburg, Pa. Take Route 191 South past Stroudsmoor Country Inn. At the bottom of the hill, go left on Cherry Valley Road. At Croasdale Road, go right to parking for the refuge. 

GPS coordinates: 40.9710 -75.1714

Trail information: A former golf course, cart-paths at the 193-acre preserve form two walking loops — the Front Nine and the Back Nine. Varied terrain, lots of views, and 3.4 miles of hiking. Trails are hard gravel and well-groomed, with switchbacks, steep hills, and a gazebo at the highest point. Maps in the kiosk near the parking area.


  • Take only pictures and leave only shadows!
  • Open to the public for hiking, birding, photography and contemplation. No picnicking, bikes, motorized vehicles, or dogs. Fishing is allowed in season with license. Creek wading is allowed for children, with responsible adult supervision, at your own risk.
  • The refuge is owned, managed and patrolled by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: fws.gov/refuge/cherry_valley/
  • The Friends of Cherry Valley is an organization of dedicated local residents and conservationists working to protect the valley’s history, agricultural heritage and natural resources: friendsofcv.org.
  • Special thanks to Barbara Case for the videography.

Find a family scavenger hunt at Cherry Valley refuge

By Carol Hillestad

Just over the hill from Stroudsburg lies a nature preserve along Cherry Creek, perfect for kids and their families to explore.

It was once a golf course, humming with mowers and golf carts. The grassy slopes were clipped short right to the creek. Rainwater runoff was laced with fertilizer and insecticides. Unshaded by a natural buffer of shrubs and plants and overloaded with chemicals, the creek was virtually lifeless.

Today, this part of Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators. For children who enjoy the challenge of a scavenger hunt, there are worlds to discover!

Meadows of native wildflowers and grasses have replaced the flat green of the fairways. Wood turtles, bog turtles, rabbits, foxes, bears and bobcats thrive as their habitats return. Fish, aquatic plants, water striders and other bugs are coming back, too. The water of Cherry Creek is healthy again.

“Nature does most of the work,” says Jared Green, refuge manager of CVNWR for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We humans help by cutting out the fertilizers and insecticides that hurt the creek. Then we just get out of the way.”

Jared and I are strolling the cart paths with Deb Schuler, head of the Friends of Cherry Valley. Deb says that humans also helped by seeding the fairways with native plants and grasses, and by placing boulders and logs in the creek. “Trout Unlimited volunteers did that work to create ripples and pools,” Deb says. “They aerate the water and give the fish places to hide and feed.”

Like all the water in our watershed, Cherry Creek flows to the Delaware River, on its way to provide drinking water for millions of people. Pure drinking water depends on the land around it, so restoring the creek banks to their natural, native state protects water quality.

Jared points to a pile of brush near the creek. “Doesn’t look like much,” he says, “but that’s a habitat, too. We left it there on purpose — meadow birds, small mammals like rabbits, and other creatures use it for cover and nesting.”

Sharp-eyed kids will find at least five distinct habitats— the sunny meadows, stream, and brush pile are three of them. Another is the small wetlands where native cattails grow, home to red-winged blackbirds, wetland plants, frogs, salamanders and turtles. Stretches of forest habitat provide a shady retreat along the creek and also line the upland boundaries of the old golf course, where you might see the opening of a groundhog burrow, coyote scat or white-tailed deer.

Humans have been coming to this place for 15,000 years. Evidence of many early peoples has been found here — Paleo Indians, early Woodland Indians, and the Lenni Lenape who lived and hunted here long before the first Europeans arrived.

What will your family find here when you visit? Fresh air, clean water, bird song and beautiful views, the fun and discovery of a scavenger hunt … and maybe a store of happy summer memories, not on the list of scavenger clues: the “remember when” of years to come.


Carol Hillestad of Cresco is a writer and hike leader for Get Outdoors Poconos, a free hike series administered by Brodhead Watershed Association.

Photos by Carol Hillestad; video by Barbara Case

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