Secret Trust Adventure: Columbia Crossing River Trails Center

Update 2

March 25, 2021. While the original treasure has been found, we have decided to keep things interesting by creating a second-place prize consisting of $200 in coins. However, in order to claim the prize, you will need to successfully complete all six weekly challenges in addition to finding the hidden cache.

Of course, the journey is often the reward. Anyone who finds the hidden cache described in the poem can claim a 3D printed Secret Trust Adventure commemorative medallion from the box. Happy adventuring!

The Longnecker family with their hard earned treasure.

Update 1

March 21, 2021. It was a whirlwind of a weekend! Scores of people joined the crusade to find the treasure at the end of the Secret Trust Adventure. The Longnecker family using a single segment of the GPS coordinates and their superior local history skills to decipher the poem located the cache this evening. Congratulations!

Secret Trust Adventure

It’s finally here—Week 1 of the Secret Trust Adventure! A real-life treasure hunt that ends with an 18-pound loot crate filled with over $1000 in one-dollar coins and a fantasy-themed treasure map by Lancaster County artist Scott Cantrell!

Your quest to find the treasure begins at the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center! To complete this week’s challenge, download this PDF (or this black and white printer-friendly version). Next, use Columbia Crossing River Trails Center’s current exhibit to answer its questions.

Remember that to unlock the treasure’s hidden location, you need the decoder paper. Get yours when you become a member of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County. Click here to join. Pace yourself because this six-week race isn’t a sprint but a marathon.

Use the exhibit at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center to answer these questions.

Columbia Crossing River Trails Center

The Columbia Crossing River Trails Center is managed by Susquehanna Heritage for the Borough of Columbia as a gateway visitor education center and trailhead for land and water trails in the Susquehanna Riverlands. Located in Columbia River Park on the eastern shore of the Susquehanna in the historic river town of Columbia, visitors will find maps, guides, and brochures related to river recreation, trails, and nearby historic sites and family attractions, along with exhibits and restrooms.

41 Walnut Street
Columbia, PA 17512

Hours of Operation
Tuesday through Saturday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday – 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Columbia Crossing River Trails Center

Thank you to the Susquehanna National Heritage Area for sponsoring week 1 of the Secret Trust Adventure.

A Brief History of Columbia

Columbia Borough has a rich history dating back to when Native American’s occupied the region.

The first European settlers in the area arrived in 1726. The families of three men, John Wright, Robert Barber, and Samuel Blunston, acquired tracts of land and established permanent homes. John Wright developed a ferry business in 1730, carrying goods and people across the Susquehanna River. Because the ferry business was located here, the name Wright’s Ferry was given to the settlement. Wright’s Ferry became well known throughout the Middle Colonies.

Wright’s Ferry Mansion is a historic home built in 1738.

In 1788, Samuel Wright, the grandson of Wright’s Ferry founder John Wright, laid out 160 lots in what is now the central section of the Borough. Samuel called the town Columbia, naming it after Christopher Columbus. The growing importance of Columbia became evident in 1789 when the town narrowly missed being selected as the nation’s capital.

Later, Columbia was considered as a site for the capital of Pennsylvania. Harrisburg was chosen because it was closer to the center of the state.

The 1800s was a period of rapid growth and prosperity for Columbia. The Borough was officially incorporated in 1814. During that same year, the first bridge across the Susquehanna River linking Columbia and York was completed. In 1830, the borough became the terminal of the first link of the Pennsylvania Canal system. An extensive canal basin was constructed at Columbia to facilitate the loading and unloading of canal barges. Later, the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal was built along the west shore of the Susquehanna River linking Wrightsville with the Chesapeake Bay. A low dam was built across the Susquehanna to facilitate the floating of canal barges across the river and to supply the canal system with water.

View of Columbia and the Susquehanna River from Laurel Hill, looking south. Also shows railroad, canal and destroyed bridge built in 1896.

By 1834, some of the first rail cars reached the Borough via the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad. The railroad shipped goods and people to and from Philadelphia. The goods were transferred on and off of canal barges in the canal basin. Other rail lines were soon added to the north and south of the Borough along the banks of the Susquehanna and across the river to Wrightsville, where the tracks joined those of the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad. In 1857, the Reading and Columbia Railroad was incorporated.

The discovery of Chestnut Hill iron ore deposits led to the beginning of the iron industry in Columbia. Furnaces were erected in Columbia during the 1840s and 1850s, and rolling mills were added shortly thereafter. The prosperity during the mid part of the nineteenth century resulted in a doubling of the borough’s population between 1830 and 1850, growing from 2,046 to 4,140 persons.

Map of Columbia from 1851.

During the last half of the nineteenth century, Columbia’s industry changed. The iron furnaces were shut down with the depletion of the Chestnut Hill iron ores. Eventually, the rolling mills ceased operations. The canal operations waned due to the increased use of the railroads. The lumber industry declined as the surrounding woodlands were depleted, and log rafting was replaced by railroads, which could haul lumber greater distances. These industries were replaced by the rise of the textile and other industries. Factories producing silk textiles, stoves, baked goods, and machinery were established in the borough during the late 1800s.

The twentieth century brought in a period of economic change. The railroad facilities were moved to the Enola (PA) Yards. During this century, while surrounding suburbs experienced rapid job creation, the borough lost a significant portion of its once large industrial base. This resulted in a semi-depressed economic climate in the borough, presenting new challenges for local officials.

Today, as the twenty-first century begins, there is a renewed commitment to the economic health, welfare, and development of the borough. To better preserve its historic architecture, a historic district was recently established. The Columbia Historic District takes in approximately 950 structures spread over an area that incorporates about one-third of the borough. While aiming for the future, Columbia is proud of its past and remembers its founders by naming streets in their honor.

Today, the town’s outstanding architecture is recognized in the National Historic Register in Washington, D.C.

Side Quests

If you are looking to supersize your adventure while visiting the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center, consider the following side quests. Side quests are not required for completing the Secret Trust Adventure.

St. Charles Furnace

Inside of St. Charles Furnace
Inside of St. Charles Furnace

Are you brave enoght to step inside the cold heart of Columbia’s St. Charles Furnace?

You can find the stone monolith less than a mile away on the edge of Columbia hidden in the brush along the Northwest River Trail. While you can safely climb inside the structure today, things would have been very different 150 years ago when the internal temperature ranged between 1,600 and 2,300°F. Click here for more details.

Rock Point Tunnel

Rock Point Tunnel

Just a 1,000 feet further north on the Northwest River Trail north is the 180-foot Rock Point Tunnel. The tunnel was constructed between 1850-1851 for the original Pennsylvania Railroad Columbia Branch.

The railroad was built on a tight shelf along the Susquehanna River’s east bank between Columbia and Chickies Rock. When it came to Rock Point, the railroad had little choice but to blast through. What little land remained between mountain and river was barely wide enough to accommodate the canal already in place.

Legend holds that the tunnel is haunted by the spirit of a man struck by a train long ago. Click the link to learn more.

Chickies Rock

Looking up from the bottom of Chickies Rock.

Located between the boroughs of Columbia and Marietta is Chickies Rock. At over 422 acres, it is the county’s second-largest regional park. Its most notable feature is the massive outcropping of quartzite rock towering 200 feet above the river. The vista offers impressive views of York County, the borough of Marietta, and farmlands of northwestern Lancaster County.

Today, the park attracts dog walkers, hikers, and picnickers. But it has always attracted mystery. The area is filled with century-plus old stories of ghosts, monsters, and even a curse. The earliest legends involve the Susquehannocks that once lived in the area. Click here to learn more.

Free Beer on tap at Columbia Sewer

Another option is to visit the spot where at the height of Prohibition on June 23, 1932, Columbia residents enjoyed six hours of free beer as 200,000 gallons were dumped into a Fourth Street storm sewer as a result of a police raid. Click here to read the full story.

Need more Columbia based Side Quests?

Click here to learn more about Columbia.

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4 thoughts on “Secret Trust Adventure: Columbia Crossing River Trails Center

  1. My family is so excited to participate in the Treasure Hunt! One request, can you make the .pdf clues more printer friendly? I love the look of the treasure map paper, but it’s tough on my printer.

  2. If someone has already found the location is the hunt over or do you have to solve the weekly clues and final puzzle to win?

    1. The coins and painting have been claimed since one group of adventurers were able to decipher the location from the poem, painting, and a single segment of the GPS coordinates. The remaining clues will still be released every Saturday at 7 am for those wishing to continue the hunt for the hiding spot. The cache has been put back in the same place and filled with commemorative 3D printed medallions.

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