Pennsylvania State Parks Roll out a Green Welcome Mat for Spring Visitors

Mar 24, 2011, 14:15 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 24, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania's 117 state parks offer great places to watch wildlife and plants emerge from their winter sleep, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks Director John Norbeck said today.

"All state parks are open year-round, but spring brings special opportunities to enjoy rugged waterfalls, migrating birds, emerging spring wildflowers and great fishing," Norbeck said.  

Networks of trails run through all parks, up hillsides and down to lowland creek areas, providing many different settings to see spring wildflowers like the broad-leaved skunk cabbage, the yellow-flowered trout lily and other varieties of foliage, Norbeck said.

Norbeck highlighted several state parks where visitors 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, and traversing acclaimed hiking trails where the air seems fresher and carries more scents to tickle the senses. Comprised of 13,050 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties, Ricketts Glen is among Pennsylvania's larger state parks, and offers 245-acre Lake Jean with a 600-foot beach opening in late May. The lake also offers picnicking facilities, and good early-season fishing for trout, panfish and other species.

Presque Isle State Park: "Pennsylvania's Seashore," gem of Lake Erie, and another National Natural Landmark, this state park in Erie County is tops among state parks in attendance for many reasons. 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 – online at – which welcomes visitors and serves as a research and environmental awareness center.

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. All that -- and more -- draws springtime visitors to this park, which is yet another National Natural Landmark. The 8,500-acre park lies amid Clarion, Forest and Jefferson counties in a section of scenic northwestern Pennsylvania once called the "Black Forest." Known for its towering, old-growth white pines and hemlocks, the park is bordered on the east by the Clarion River, offering springtime canoeing and rafting. No less than 27 marked trails thread through woodlands and rolling hills, and along cool valley streams. Special scenic areas are the old-growth forest, Fire Tower/Seneca Point and the Clarion River.

The Wildflower Reserve at Raccoon Creek State Park: The Wildflower Reserve has been a popular area for many years. It once was a private hunting club in Beaver County, but during non-hunting season, several Western Pennsylvania naturalists would visit the area, and they documented more than 500 species of native plants, many of which bloomed in the spring. 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 -- people such a Dr. O.E. Jennings, former curator of plants and director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Max Henrici, outdoor columnist for the former Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. 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, a small species in the carrot family.

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, found online at, and modern overnight accommodations available at the nearby Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park, also in Centre County.  Migrating birds are a big springtime attraction.

For more information about these parks and Pennsylvania's nationally-recognized state park system, visit and choose "Find a Park."

Media contact: Christina Novak, 717-772-9101

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources