GUEST BLOG: With Signs of Spring in Pennsylvania, Get Out to Our Great Parks!

By: Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources

March 26, 2016

Spring has sprung, and signs are definitely plentiful across Pennsylvania. Coltsfoot and skunk cabbage are popping up, amphibians are on the move, and Rachel Carson State Office Building peregrine falcon and Codorus State Park eagle have laid their eggs.

Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks offer great places to watch wildlife and plants emerge from their winter sleep, and get some healthy exercise, to boot. All of our state parks are open year-round, but spring brings special opportunities to enjoy rugged waterfalls, migrating birds, emerging spring wildflowers and great fishing.

Go to the DCNR Calendar to find hundreds of programs, hikes and volunteer opportunities, or check in with Get Outdoors PA for guided activities that help you enjoy the outdoors.

There are several state parks where visitors can enjoy the change of season:

Ricketts Glen State Park: Twenty-four natural, free-falling waterfalls, including a 94-footer, all cascading through rock-strewn clefts in an ancient hillside; old-growth timber stands; and diverse wildlife all combine to earn a section of this park National Natural Landmark status. Visitors experience varying degrees of spring greening as they climb rugged slopes, viewing falls — engorged by spring run-off — at their best. The lake also offers picnicking facilities, and good early-season fishing for trout, panfish and other species.


Cook Forest State Park: Monstrous trees. Red efts, or red-spotted newts, scuttling across the forest below. Bald eagles dotting a cobalt sky above. And the wild Clarion River rich in waterfowl, and offering springtime canoeing and rafting. All that — and more — draws springtime visitors to this park in the Pennsylvania Wilds known for its towering, old-growth white pines and hemlocks.

The Wildflower Reserve at Raccoon Creek State Park: More than 500 species of native plants, many of which bloom in the spring, have been documented at the reserve. There are miles of trails along the uplands and onto the floodplains of Raccoon and Traverse creeks. These trails honor the memory of the naturalists who roamed the property. Skunk cabbage is an early bloomer, giving the landscape a green blanket. Several violet species are common. There also are some rarities, including salt-and-pepper or harbinger-of-spring.


Beltzville, Ridley Creek, and Nescopeck state parks and Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center: These parks provide the arena for woodcock courtship displays throughout early spring. Mixed habitat of field and forest edge provide excellent viewing opportunities.

Presque Isle State Park: Springtime visitors may view skies full of migrating birds; savor a still, blue lake; and be surrounded by wildflowers. The park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula arching into Lake Erie and offering a scenic coastline that provides excellent birding, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling and in-line skating. The gateway to Presque Isle is the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, which welcomes visitors and serves as a research and environmental awareness center.

Presque Isle finished first among 10 nominated sites in USA TODAY’s 10Best Readers’ Choice travel award contest. Online voting continued for four weeks, ending in late February, and results were announced March 18.


Poe Paddy and Poe Valley state parks: Excitement builds in April for the opening of trout season, and Poe Paddy and Poe Valley state parks in Centre County are hot spots for anglers. Poe Paddy is located at the confluence of Big Poe Creek and Penns Creek, a trout angler’s paradise featuring the nationally recognized green drake mayfly hatch in late May or early June. Lake angling is popular at nearby Poe Valley. The 25-acre lake at the park is stocked with trout several times per season. There’s a wide range of activities and modern overnight accommodations available at the nearby Nature Inn at Bald Eagle, where migrating birds are a big springtime attraction.

Of course, Pennsylvanians enjoy a bounty of natural areas, and you can find a remote, wilderness experience in 2.2 million acres of state forests, or something closer to home at more than 5,700 local parks.

Make a plan to get outside and enjoy #springPA!


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