The Bucknell University Chillisquaque Creek Natural Area consists of 66 acres located in Liberty Township, Montour County approximately 11 miles east of campus. University and National Science Foundation funds purchased the parcel.
Bucknell students and faculty conduct various types of research at the Natural Area, including studies of vegetation and animal life, and nutrient-element dynamics of the Natural Area's watershed. Summer environmental interns have mapped vegetation, established a self-guiding nature trail, developed a land management program, conducted soil studies, and monitored succession.
This wooded flood-plain forest is noteworthy because of its very high diversity of tree species. The trees that grow here have originated from seeds of upstream and upslope communities, and thus the Natural Area woods incorporate species from many different forest types. The dominant trees are the shagbark and bitternut hickories, basswood, and pin oak. Gaps in the forest occur as a result of aged trees dying and falling. Few mushrooms and other fungi occur in the understory because the soil is frequently flooded and has less organic material than most upland forests.
The Montandon wetlands complex occurs across the Susquehanna River from campus and is frequently used by field courses and for student research.
The area's vegetation contains elements of two geographically different communities, glaciated wetlands and ocean coastal plain. Vegetation associations include shrub marsh, sedge marsh, hardwood swamp, as well as moist and dry upland hardwoods.
The wetlands are interspersed with sand dunes, an unusual feature in central Pennsylvania. These dunes were formed by winds lifting Ice Age outwash during low flow periods from the Susquehanna's river bed. Bucknell students and staff have researched the areas geology, flora, and fauna.
Bucknellians are currently working with a Land Trust to protect critical areas of the wetlands complex.