Located just to the northwest of Pennsylvania's state capital of Harrisburg, Perry County is surprisingly rural. Covering 550 square miles, the county is home to just over 42,000 people.
Perry County is so rural that it didn't receive its first McDonalds franchise or traffic signal until the 1990s. However the county is home to a dozen or so covered bridges that are still open to traffic more than 100 years after their construction.
Agriculture is the major industry in the county but the majority of county's working-aged persons go elsewhere to earn a paycheck. According the the Pennsylvania State Data Center, 64 percent of the county's workers go to jobs outside Perry County with 31 percent working in Harrisburg. It is the only county of the 67 in Pennsylvania where the majority of its residents work outside its borders.
Originally part of Cumberland County to the south, Perry County was formed in 1820, becomming Pennsylvania's 51st county. It was named in honor of Commodore Oliver Perry, naval hero of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
Perry County is bordered by Blue Mountain to the south, the Susquehanna River to the east and Tuscarora Mountain and Conococheaque Mountain to the west and north.
The imposing mountainous terrain has always been a hindrance to settlement and roughly 62 percent of the county is still in a natural state. With 41,000 acres of state forest and an additional 17,000 acres of state game lands, hunters and anglers flock to the county by the thousands in the spring and autumn for fishing and hunting seasons.
The mountains and forests of Perry County are laced with hundreds of miles of trails, including the famous Appalachian Trail. The western portion of the county is home to much of the Tuscarora State Forest which is covered with short, marked hiking trails.
While it is rather rural, there is still a lot to do in Perry County. The following is by no means a comprehensive listing:
- Hemlocks Natural Area - Located near Big Spring State Park, this natural area consists of 131 acres of virgin hemlock forests in a 1.5 mile long ravine.
- Box Huckleberry - This rare colony of the box huckleberry1 plant is estimated to be 1,300 years old and is located on 10 acres near the county seat of New Bloomfield. An interpretive trail is available to explain why this plant is so special.
- Little Buffalo State Park - Located between the towns of Newport and New Bloomfield, this is the only 'full service' state park in the county. Its 830 acres includes the 88-acre Lake Holman which is open for boating and fishing.
- Blue Ball Tavern - Located within Little Buffalo State Park, this former tavern serves as the museum of the Perry County Historical Society and contains historical artifacts ranging from Native American tools to World War I uniforms. It is open Sundays afternoons in the summer.
- Stone Arch Bridge - A beautiful stone arch railroad bridge which crosses the Susquehanna River between Marysville and the Dauphin County town of Dauphin. This bridge is one of the most photogenic on the entire river.
- Millersburg Ferry - The only ferry still in operation on the Susquehanna River running from just south of Liverpool, Pennsylvania to Millersburg on the Dauphin County side of the river.
- Girty's Notch - Named after 'Dirty' Simon Girty, this rock formation is located along the Susquehanna River just south of Liverpool along Routes 11 and 15. It is such a popular spot that the state Department of Transportation installed some picnic tables and a small parking area at the foot of the rock outcropping.
Perry County also hosts three major celebrations each year - the New Year's Eve party in New Bloomfield, the Little Buffalo Festival of the Arts in Little Buffalo State Park and the Perry County Fair in Newport.
- New Year's Eve - Starting in 1993, this annual event is sponsored by the New Bloomfield Fire Company. At the stroke of midnight, they lower a 50-pound blue huckleberry from the roof of the courthouse in the same manner that New York City lowers the ball in Times Square.
- Little Buffalo Festival of the Arts - Held the third weekend of September in Little Buffalo State Park, this two-day festival draws thousands of visitors. Sponsored by the Perry County Council of the Arts since 1984, the festival features more than 60 arts and crafts vendors as well as entertainers and art demonstrations.
- Perry County Fair - A traditional American county fair, this annual five-day event features farm animal judging, rides, games and food. It is held toward the end of August at the fairgounds outside of Newport and attracts crowds in the thousands each year.