Visiting Freedom Falls and Rockland Furnace near Emlenton, Pennsylvania, had been on my list for a long time. In fact, I had tried to visit them during a previous visit to Venango County, but the dirt roads were muddy and common sense prevailed. So, when I was passing through the area for a trip to Erie, I knew I had to stop and see this great area.
Freedom Falls and Rockland Furnace are located within 100 yards of each other in Rockland Township, Pennsylvania. The area around Freedom Falls is sparsely populated, with miles of dirt roads separating you from the nearest small town. Despite this isolation, if you can find the trailhead, it only takes about five minutes of hiking to get to this very cool area.
Freedom Falls is located along Shull Creek, roughly half a mile from its confluence with the Allegheny River and the Allegheny River Rail Trail. Freedom Falls is roughly 50-60 feet wide and 20 feet tall. This width makes for an incredibly impressive waterfall with many angles for photography.
This waterfall is rather unique in that its wide breadth allows it to actually have two different types of waterfalls. On the left side, the water slides down the face of the waterfall before falling the last few feet into the pool below. On the far right side, the water plunges off the rocks and into the water below. The plunge pool below the waterfall is a very unique color that seems blue, green, and brown at the same time.
I’ve visited Freedom Falls twice during my travels through the area. The first time I visited was during drier conditions, and the waterfall was not flowing very well (as can be seen below). The second time I visited was during the spring, and Freedom Falls was flowing really well. If you can visit during the spring or after a heavy rain, I’d highly recommend it, but even if you can’t, it’s well-worth checking out this area for its beauty and history.
Before leaving the area, I walked along Shull Run for about 100 yards, until I reached the ruins of Rockland Furnace. Rockland Furnace was built in 1832 by Andrew McCaslin and was in operation until 1854. Its location near the Allegheny River and in the middle of a forest made for an ideal location to produce iron. According to several old maps, this furnace may be the only remaining evidence of the town of Freedom, Pennsylvania, which gives its name to the nearby waterfall and sat just upstream.
Rockland Furnace is one of the best preserved iron furnaces I’ve come across in Pennsylvania. The entire structure is still standing, and it’s even possible to squeeze inside and stand up in the middle. The wheel race next to the furnace still exists as well and is also beautifully preserved. It’s quite amazing that so little work has gone into maintaining this structure. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
Unfortunately, it looks like this is also a popular area for local teens, and there was an unfortunate amount of trash and graffiti around the furnace (though surprisingly not around the nearby waterfall). Hopefully, the graffiti gets cleaned up soon and this beautifully preserved furnace can retain its lost-world quality.
Another worthwhile stop in the area is the Rockland Tunnel along the Allegheny River Trail. Completed in 1915 for use by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the trail is now only open to pedestrians and bicyclists.
The tunnel is located just a few steps from a small parking area at the end of Rockland Station Road. The tunnel is nearly 3,000 feet long and very dark, so make sure to take a bright light if you plan on walking through it.
If you find yourself in Venango County or looking for a great diversion while traveling along I-80 in northwestern Pennsylvania, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Freedom Falls and Rockland Furnace.
How to get to Freedom Falls and Rockland Furnace
Freedom Falls and Rockland Furnace are located in Venango County, Pennsylvania, roughly halfway between Emlenton and Kennerdell. Getting to this area requires driving for several miles on dirt roads, but they were passable without issue in my car. However, use extra caution if the roads are muddy or icy. Cell phone service is very spotty in these woods.
Parking for Freedom Falls is located along Rockland Station Road. There is a very large boulder along the left-hand side of the road, which makes for a convenient road marker. There is space for a handful of cars on either side of the rock. The parking area is located at roughly the following coordinates: 41.237032, -79.747971.
To get to Freedom Falls, hike along any of the trails that head away from the rock, and walk downhill for a few hundred yards until you reach Freedom Falls. Freedom Falls is located at the following coordinates: 41.236661, -79.746500.
To get to Rockland Furnace, head downstream along Shull Run for roughly 100 yards. Those wishing to explore further could go back to the road and follow it for another half mile to the Allegheny River and the Allegheny Rail Trail. The mile-long Rockland Tunnel is just a few steps from a small parking area at the end of the road.
[Click here for information about how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]
Want to see more of Pennsylvania’s best waterfalls? Check out our Pennsylvania Waterfalls page!