On the east side of the Wissahickon Valley, high above the creek, is a 15-foot statue of an Indian. He was placed there in 1900 to memorialize the Lenni-Lenape tribe, who were the first people to walk the steep trails of the Wissahickon.
When colonists arrived in the mid-1600s, the hunting and fishing grounds of the Indians were transformed into the first industrial area of North America. Waters of the Wissahickon Creek were dammed to supply power for more than 25 mills built along its banks.
Co-existing with the mills in the 1800s were numerous taverns and roadhouses as the interior of the Valley became accessible by road and the Wissahickon Turnpike. Throughout the 19th century, the beauty of the Wissahickon's rock, forest, and water was celebrated in poetry and prose; paintings and prints. The Valley achieved international fame as visitors to Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition of 1876 took home tales of its wild scenery.
Fairmount Park acquired the 1,800 acres of the Wissahickon Valley in 1868 in order to preserve the purity of the City's water supply. Mills and taverns were demolished leaving scant historic evidence in the form of dams and foundations. The wide Wissahickon Turnpike paralleling the creek was closed to vehicular traffic in 1920 and became Forbidden Drive.
Today, the Wissahickon Valley is a unique, urban wilderness park providing recreation for thousands of visitors yearly from the city and the region. With minimal municipal resources available, preservation of the Valley must depend on the dedicated efforts of the Friends of the Wissahickon and other non-profit groups.