The Valley That Changed the World: Exploring Pennsylvania’s Oil Region


Oil Region National Heritage Area Logo - Global Heroes News
All photos © courtesy of the Oil Region Alliance

As the birthplace of the petroleum industry and site to the world’s first commercially successful oil well, the Oil Region National Heritage Area is home not only to stories of boomtowns, speculators, innovators, millionaires, and roughnecks. It’s an outdoor recreation mecca with acres of pristine woods and waterways, and miles of trails, making the ORNHA a museum you can hike, bike, float, and fish!

With impressive Victorian architecture dating back to the mid-1800s, the small towns of Titusville, Oil City, Franklin, Emlenton, and Foxburg that make up the ORNHA offer lively local arts, brewpubs, shops, and festivities. Museums include the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry, housed in a 1905 former Post Office that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and DeBence Antique Music World, home to more than a hundred mechanical instruments from the 1800s to the 1940s. Each community has a walking tour with interpretive panels highlighting the most influential people and places.

One of only 55 National Heritage Areas in the U.S., Congress designated the ORNHA in 2004 because of the significant influence the oil industry’s start had on the regional culture and world history. The ORNHA is managed by the nonprofit Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism (ORA).

Investigative journalism pioneer Ida Tarbell grew up in Titusville during the oil era. She wrote The History of the Standard Oil Company, a scathing expose of John D. Rockefeller’s business that led to anti-monopoly legislation. Her historically preserved childhood home is now a house museum and site for special events.

Drake Well Museum & Park commemorates the exact location of the first commercially successful oil well. The museum and grounds celebrate “the Valley that Changed the World,” and showcases how the discovery of oil impacts every day and every life since August 27, 1859.

The OC&T Railroad is the best way to tour the valley. The three-hour tour starts at Perry St. Station in Titusville and follows Oil Creek by Drake Well and through Oil Creek State Park to the turning point at Rynd Farm. The train contains the nation’s only operating railway Post Office car. Mail some postcards right from the train!

© Oil Region Alliance
© Oil Region Alliance

Discover how the birthplace of a world-changing industry has become an amazing place to get away and explore.

Once home to the epicenter of the petroleum industry, scenic Oil Creek State Park is now a treasure trove of outdoor recreation. The 9.7-mile paved trail winding through the park is part of more than 65 miles of paved trail and hundreds of miles of multi-use trails throughout the region, including the longest continuous segment of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail.

The Allegheny Wild and Scenic River Water Trail, a 107-mile section from Kinzua Dam to Emlenton, is ideal for paddling, jetboating, birdwatching, and more for the whole family.

Anglers enjoy world-class fly fishing on Oil Creek and the immaculate French Creek, recognized as the most biodiverse stream of its size in the state. Fish for smallmouth bass, walleye, musky, and flathead catfish on the Allegheny River.

With affordable options for activities including great golf, dining, and B&Bs, the ORNHA is a fantastic place to stretch your travel dollar and expand your mind.

Plan your visit at or request a printed guide at 814.677.3152 or

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A natural setting of breathtaking beauty, high quality schools, abundant cultural activities and proximity to some of the nation’s great urban centers: all of this is available at a very favorable cost of living, much less than surrounding and competitive areas.


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