The Legend of Bird Rock
This unique rock formation located atop Jack’s Mountain has been a destination for many local adventurers. One such visit I have been told, included a first kiss for a young couple in love. This is quite apropos since the legend of Bird Rock involves young love.
There have been many versions of this legend, but here is one that has endured, though perhaps a bit embellished. Long before European settlers came to our area, the indigenous people who lived here hunted our vast woodlands, fished the local streams, and enjoyed the abundance of natural beauty and bounty found here. They were led by a great, and powerful chief who proudly led the people alongside his beloved wife and small daughter. Tragically, his wife died which broke the chief’s heart and caused him to hold on tightly to his surviving daughter. She loved her father equally and promised him that she would never disappoint him in any way.
The chief made every effort to fulfill his daughter’s every wish and made sure she had beautiful bracelets, necklaces, and rings, even if it meant traveling a great distance to trade for them. She was his everything. In return, the chief required one thing from his daughter. She must never marry anyone unless they were approved by him. Of course, once she was of age, no suiter was good enough for the chief and his daughter began to fear that she would forever be alone. As is the case with most young people searching for love, the young girl eventually found it with a handsome, young warrior.
Still desiring not to disappoint her father, she was caught in a very difficult situation. What should she do? If she followed her heart, it would devastate her father, but how could she give up on her chance for happiness? She passionately implored her father to reconsider, after he refused to allow the union, but it was to no avail. With a broken heart, she broke the news to her warrior, but he was not willing to let her go. He begged her to come away with him, assuring her that her father would recover.
Confused and overcome with sorrow she frantically ran into the woods and up the mountain with her love following behind. As she ran, she took off her bracelets, necklaces, and rings, tossing them aside, hoping that would distract her love, but alas it was to no avail. She ran until she reached the edge of the mountain cliff and looking down, she knew there was only one answer for her. Without a backward glance and with great resolve, she tilted her head skyward as she threw herself of the cliff.
Her lover arrived just minutes after to find the body of his precious maiden lying lifeless and broken on the rocks below. It is said that at that very moment the Great Spirit who watched these tragic events unfold from his all-seeing perch, immediately turned the warrior into a giant stone bird. This stately bird would now keep a close vigil over the mountain, forever protecting his lost love.
Was this distinctive rock really formed this way by the actions of the Great Spirit or was its inception a natural occurrence perhaps caused by water, frost, snow, and wind? I guess that is for you to decide. The one thing I do know is that these unique stories and legends become part of our local folklore, woven together making us who we are.
If you would like to read more about Bird Rock, or other local facts, stories, and legends from our Juniata River Valley, stop in and visit us at the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau where we have a supply of books for purchase from the Mifflin County Historical Society. We are located in the Historic Courthouse, on the square in Downtown Lewistown. This Bird Rock Story is based on the account found in “It Happened in Mifflin County,” by author Forest K. Fisher. Rhonda S. Kelley, Executive Director, Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce