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For over 150 years people have been making their way to the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania to enjoy the beautiful waters of Lake Ariel. Originally known as Jones Lake or Jones Pond, Lake Ariel is a natural, deep, spring-fed lake with a long rich history as a resort area.
In 1803 the Jones family settled the south end of Lake Ariel, in a settlement that eventually became known as Jonestown. A dam constructed at the outlet at Five Mile Creek, which flows into Wallenpaupack Creek, raised the lakes levels and flooded the surrounding glacial bog. The influx of water adversely affected the bog, but there are still endangered and threatened species in the area including a type of sedge wren and butterfly. Settlers also built a sawmill at the outlet.
By the mid 1800's vacationers were traveling to Lake Ariel to fish, picnic and relax. The Pennsylvania Coal Company Gravity Railroad delivered guests to the north end of the lake. The railroad made its last run to Lake Ariel in 1885, but the Erie & Wyoming Valley Railroad continued its run until 1910, carrying thousands of passengers a day to the lake area during the summer.
In addition to the deep mountain waters of Lake Ariel, visitors were drawn to the Lake Ariel Amusement Park. The park had games and rides including a merry-go-round with wooden horses. In the summer gypsies moved into the area and told fortunes in the park. There was a picnic and band pavilion, and in 1929 a new roller coaster. Across the road from the park, a swimming beach on the shores of Lake Ariel provided a bathhouse, refreshment stand, and a water slide. The Lake Ariel Hotel, built in 1880 next to the park, is still standing but abandoned today.
During its peak up to 10,000 people a weekend visited Lake Ariel Park. The park's popularity continued through the 1930's, but it shut down during World War II and never completely recovered after the war. It closed for good in the mid 1950's after passing through several owners.
Lake Ariel is less than twenty miles from Scranton, and the lake was the location of summer homes for Scranton's leaders. In 1964 residents bought the lake and lakefront. Lake Ariel remains a private lake today with no public access. It has evolved from a resort community to a private residential community. For residents who are avid anglers, there are healthy populations of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, and walleye.
The Pocono region is dotted with lakes. Nearby is Lake Wallenpaupack with almost 6000 acres of water for boating, waterskiing and fishing. The region has downhill ski resorts, National Forests to explore, and the NASCAR Pocono Raceway. Although there aren't rentals around Lake Ariel, the town of Lake Ariel has restaurants, shopping, and various accommodations.
Surviving the Great Depression and two world wars, Lake Ariel has evolved from a very public recreation community to a private residential community. It will be interesting to see what the next 150 years bring.
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