Industry Along the Tulpehocken Creek
The Union Canal and the Gruber Wagon Works
at the Berks County Heritage Center
By Dan Shugar
The Tulpehocken Creek. Waist-deep in many places, it's popular for fly-fishing.
The Berks County Heritage Center was created around the Bicentennial to help preserve the history of the Berks County Area. Located at the site of the Reeser Farm, the Heritage Center contains part of the Union Canal, a museum devoted to the canals of the area, the Gruber Wagon Works, the Deppen Cemetery, and a number of other buildings and exhibits.
The Tulpehocken Creek runs through the Heritage Center, as well as the Union Canal Towpath Trail, a 4.5mile walking/ jogging/ bicycling trail created following the actual towpath, where the mules walked as they towed the canal boats, from the Blue Marsh Project Area to Stonecliff Recreation Area near Reading.
Blue Marsh Lake was built to reduce flooding downstream along the Tulpehocken Creek and the Schuylkill River. Its construction required the flooding of low-lying areas along the Tulpehocken, including the original sites of the Gruber Wagon Works and Deppen Cemetery.
Tulpehocken means "land of the turtle" in the language of the Lenni Lenape, the Native Americans who lived in this region before its settlement by Europeans. The turtle holds a special place in Lenape beliefs, as they believed that the land of the world was on the back of a giant turtle. Attesting to its name, turtles can often be found along the edges of the Tulpehocken Creek and in the remains of the Union Canal.
The Heritage Center is open from May through October. Tours are available for the canal museum and the Wagon Works. Special events are also held periodically, including Civil War encampments and demonstrations of the uses of herbs in the 1800's.
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