Visit Briar Hill Preserve and experience an incredible piece of preserved land in the Wissahickon watershed. Briar Hill Preserve--and the adjacent Cheston Family Preserve and Hughes Family Preserve--is located next to Whitpain Township's Prophecy Creek Park.
Since 1981, Wissahickon Trails has been working with individuals and community partners to protect the area along Prophecy Creek. Thanks to these collective efforts, Prophecy Creek is the healthiest creek in the watershed.
Before stepping onto the trail, visit the small, spring-fed ponds located where the Township’s park meets the preserve. These ponds are behind the Manor House at Prophecy Creek. The ponds are an important habitat for eastern painted turtles and common snapping turtles. Northern water snakes, muskrats, and green and blue herons have also been seen here. You may also see the northern red-bellied cooter, a threatened turtle species.
Continue your journey by walking northeast toward the green bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the signs. From there, cross the bridge installed in 2020 and you'll find yourself on the Turtle Trail (purple), a .8-mile loop that winds along the Prophecy Creek and one of its small tributaries. From the Turtle Trail, you can connect to the Wood Thrush Trail (yellow) for a shortcut through the forest. Follow either and you'll eventually meet up with the Hummingbird Trail (red), a .1-mile spur that passes through the meadow of the Cheston Family Preserve.
As you explore, you’ll find an environment that is filled with early and late forest and meadow habitat. Along the bank of the creek you will see red maple, sycamore, and beech trees. Farther from the creek shore you will find tulip trees. Beneath the forest canopy, look for skunk-cabbage, mayapple, Virginia waterleaf, and sensitive fern.
City and county governments, local residents and landowners have worked together to preserve Prophecy Creek. Over the decades, the Haas family has donated many acres of land and conservation easements near Prophecy Creek to preserve its natural areas. In 2018, the family of James Cheston IV and several conservation-minded community members worked with Wissahickon Trails to protect additional land. In 2020, an additional 31 acres was preserved in partnership with Tim and Aurora Hughes, Saly Glassman, and Ira Berman. This additional land, called the Hughes Family Preserve at Briar Hill, brings the total amount of protected open space along the creek to 230.92 acres.