Safe Harbor Adventure

Update: This adventure is over, as a majority of this property has recently been posted as no trespassing (April 2023).

Uncharted Lancaster: Safe Harbor Adventure

Difficulty: 🤠🤠
Distance: 1.25 miles round trip.
What to bring: Appropriate footwear and an internet-connected device.

If you want to learn more about the three Safe Harbors—Safe Harbor Hydroelectric Dam, 1930s Village at Safe Harbor, and the mid-1800s Safe Harbor Iron Works—before starting the adventure, click here.

If you are looking to round out this adventure with a side quest, check out this walking tour of Safe Harbor.

Finding Safe Harbor Park and Arboretum

You can park near the tennis courts and pavilion at 5365 River Road. Click here for directions. The parking area is highlighted in red on the map below.

There is ample parking available at Safe Harbor Park.

Safe Harbor Trail

Follow the blue and white trail markers on trees.

The tennis courts mark the footprint of what was once the Safe Harbor Iron Works rolling mill.

The Safe Harbor rolling mill was so large it covered an acre of ground. It sat where the tennis courts are today. 

Nearby there is a stone monument with a faded picture of the historic village at Safe Harbor and iron works. This is where the trail begins. The plaque reads:

On this site in 1846, 70 houses were built on streets named Water, Mill, Hall, Walnut, and Race for the employees of the Safe Harbor Iron Works. Many villagers worshipped at nearby St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and are buried it its cemetery.

Erected by the Safe Harbor Water Power Corp.
May 1993


Begin walking uphill on what was once Cedar Street. There’s nothing there now but grass and giant trees, many of which were planted around the homes. The trail is marked by blue and white markers.

The trail is marked with these blue and white markers.

Soon, a sign instructs you to make a sharp left.


There on the facing hill is a large stone mansion that once belonged to the “ironmaster.” The home actually predates the historic village being built in 1725 by Benjamin Eshelman, an early Mennonite settler.

Safe Harbor Ironmaster’s House.

Once you reach the hill that the home sits on, the trail turns right. You are now walking along a stone wall that once fronted Spring Street, the village’s main thoroughfare. If you look carefully, you can see the paver stones marking the curbs of the street.

Stones marking the curbs of Spring Street in Safe Harbor.

Before entering the woods, on your left, you will see the Odd Fellows Hall built in 1848. Meetings were held every Saturday. It was said that the meeting room on the third floor was finely furnished and could accommodate 200 people. Later the Masons met there too from 1871 until 1899. The building even housed classes for the Safe Harbor Independent School District in 1882 until it’s closure.

Conestoga Lodge No. 334 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Can you imagine the clamor of a payday night in buildings like this? Safe Harbor was known as one of the “booziest” towns anywhere in the county with its five taverns, three liquor stores, and six beer halls.

The blue and white trail as it enters the woods.

As you enter the woods, depressions off to each side of the trail mark the sites of former homes. There are scores of them through the forest in neat rows. Reeves Abbot & Company, owners of the Safe Harbor Iron Works, built 70 homes to house the 250 workers and their families in this company town. The buildings were duplexes with a shared central chimney that was used for heating and cooking by families on both sides of the house.

Indentations like these mark the location of former Safe Harbor duplexes. Most of a mound in the center where the fireplace and chimney were.

While almost all the homes are gone today (a few remain on Main Street, formerly known as Willow Street). If you are willing to leave the main trail, you can explore the depressions looking for foundation stones and chimney debris.

Mossy stones are all that’s left of the 70 homes that once filled the area.

Further up, the trail is the site of the Safe Harbor Independent School built in 1850. Originally, Safe Harbor had two one-room schoolhouses. One was the Safe Harbor School on the Manor Township side of the Conestoga River. The other was here. However, the Safe Harbor school was destroyed in a storm before 1883, leaving only the Independent School.

Sign marking the location of the Safe Harbor Independent School.

A sign marks along the blue and white trail marks the location of the Safe Harbor Independent School.

Safe Harbor Independent School circa 1850.

All that remains today of the Safe Harbor Independent School are a few foundation stones amid some moss and weeds and a sign with a faded photo of the school.

Foundation of the Safe Harbor Independent School.

Continue East on the trail. Eventually, the woods open to a clearing. It was here that St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church once stood. Atop a pedestal of stones salvaged from the walls of the church is a circa 1955 picture of the already abandoned church. It is the only existing photo of the building.


The church was built by the Irish puddlers of Safe Harbor. It served the workers and their families from 1853 to 1883.

The cemetery at Safe Harbor.

The clearing also has several tombstones; a few are Civil War veterans, while others are victims of shootings and stabbings. Another section of the cemetery contains the unmarked graves of at least 50 Italian immigrants who helped build the Enola Low-Grade Line. There is a plaque to mark the area. (Click here for more information about the Enola Low-Grade Adventure).

Finding the Treasure Cache

It is here at the site of St. Mary’s Church you will begin your search for the treasure cache. To start, find this tombstone.

Start your search by locating this tombstone.

Traveling in the direction of the headstone’s writing, walk 32 paces towards the tree, the arrow is pointing.

Walk 32 paces.

As you approach the tree, look for a pile of rocks and sticks.


X marks the spot!

X marks the spot.

If you want to learn more about the three Safe Harbors—Safe Harbor Hydroelectric Dam, 1930s Village at Safe Harbor, and the mid-1800s Safe Harbor Iron Works—before starting the adventure, click here.

Thanks for playing!