Native Americans once fished the streams that are now called Buck and Doe runs. Millworkers harnessed the water for gristmills and a steel rolling mill during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. For decades in the 20th century, the King Ranch grazed cattle in lush pastures adjacent to the streams.
The preservation of this area reached a milestone in the 1980s under the leadership of the Brandywine Conservancy when a limited partnership purchased the 5,367-acre Buck & Doe Run Valley Farms property, owned by the King Ranch cattle operation from Texas. In the largest, at that time, conservation project in Pennsylvania, the partnership donated conservation easements to the Conservancy, permanently protecting the natural, scenic and historic resources of the property. The partnership also donated an additional 905 acres to the Conservancy to create the Laurels Preserve.
Woodlands and Wildlife
The Laurels Preserve contains almost 500 acres of hardwood forest including mature red, black, white and chestnut oaks, tulip poplar, beech, white ash, and hickory species. The understory of the forest features the namesake mountain laurel, spicebush, witchhazel, alder and viburnum. A rich mix of herbaceous plants including black cohosh, Solomon ’s seal, jewelweed, and several fern species can also be found.
The Laurels and surrounding land has been named an Important Bird Area by Audubon Pennsylvania in recognition of its many bird species. Approximately 160 species have been observed nesting in or migrating through the Laurels. Bobolinks, dickcissels, eastern meadowlarks, grasshopper and savannah sparrows, and other grassland-nesting birds whose populations have declined elsewhere in the state abound in the area. Many of these birds are found in higher numbers here than in any other place in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Laurels is home to a variety of wildlife, including beavers, wild turkeys and other animals native to the area.
The Laurels Preserve is open to members of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art everyday from dawn to dusk. Visitors should carry their Brandywine membership cards.
If you would like to visit the Laurels Preserve but are not currently a member, please click here to join online.
The entrance to the Laurels is 100 yards off of PA Route 82 on Apple Grove Road, four miles west of Unionville, PA. Parking for 10 cars is located about ¼ mile from the main gate. If the parking lot is full when you arrive, please return at another time. Horse trailers are not permitted. Please avoid parking on neighboring properties and blocking gates or roads.
To protect its wealth of natural and cultural resources, and to facilitate scientific research and environmental education, the Laurels is managed as a limited-use preserve. Visitors use the Laurels at their own risk and can help the Conservancy protect the Laurels by:
- staying on existing trails, roads and path
- refraining from cutting, removing or disturbing vegetation
- keeping dogs on leashes
- picking up litter
- avoiding marked scientific research sites
- not taking any motorized vehicles beyond the parking lot
- hunting by permit only
- no fishing
- no foraging
- no smoking, building fires or consuming alcoholic beverages.
Please note that fishing is not permitted at the Laurels Preserve.
If you would like to request a group visit, please call 610.388.8340 or send an e-mail to [email protected].
Members of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art may take photographs at the Laurels Preserve for their own personal enjoyment. Commercial photography (including Weddings or any photography with a model or models) requires a permit. Requests for photography permits should be emailed at least two weeks in advance to [email protected]. The Brandywine Conservancy reserves the right to grant or deny a permit and to charge a reasonable fee. All photographers are subject to posted rules and regulations applicable to all visitors. Drone photography is not allowed.
Visit RecreateResponsibly.org for important guidelines on how to best protect yourself, others and the outdoors while enjoying the Brandywine's preserves and our region's parks, trails, and beaches.