Nature

The Clarion River

One of the best rivers in western Pennsylvania for paddling and nature watching is the Clarion River, starting about 70 miles north of Pittsburgh. The Clarion River corridor between the towns of Ridgway and Clarion is remote, rich in public lands and hosts large expanses of uninterrupted forest. Today’s Clarion belies its history. About a …

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Forever In Bloom

Gardens are fleeting, as anyone with a green thumb will attest. Within two weeks of neglect, weeds invade; within two years, shrubs perish and pathways disappear; within two decades, the garden is but a memory. Fast forward two centuries, when everyone who even remembers the garden is gone…   The Garden Club of America, founded …

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Great Allegheny Passage

One of the most wonderful trail additions in western Pennsylvania has been the Great Allegheny Passage which runs 150 miles between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md., where it joins the C&O Canal Towpath and continues to Washington, D.C. Some of the most remote and scenic parts of the trail are the portions along the Casselman River …

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Helen B. Katz Natural Area

Although colder temperatures and snow are upon us, there are still many things to do and places to see in our beautiful western Pennsylvania landscape. One is the 284-acre Helen B. Katz Natural Area near Meadville in Crawford County. Part of protecting our region’s rivers and streams is conserving the surrounding land in key locations. …

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The Miller Esker

About 23,000 years ago, a massive sheet of ice, likely a mile high, extended down from the Arctic. It travelled as far south as present-day Moraine State Park in Butler County before melting and shrinking back to the north. It left behind a rare and subtle geological formation known as an esker. As the glacier …

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Elk on the Alleghenies

Benezette, Pennsylvania is not a place you happen upon en route to somewhere else. There are easier ways across the Allegheny Plateau than to snake eastward in Elk County from Weedville along Rte. 555, with the Bennett Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek gnawing at the south berm while pine-studded Allegheny crests soar across the windshield. Benezette, …

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Enlow Fork

Tucked away 40 miles southwest of Pittsburgh is a stream called Enlow Fork, a tributary of Wheeling Creek, on the circuitous border of Washington and Greene counties. Enlow Fork flows nearly 20 miles east to west, before entering West Virginia’s northern panhandle to later join the Ohio River at Wheeling. This corner of Pennsylvania is …

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Jennings Environmental Education Center

Among the many delightful, ecologically interesting places to visit within a short distance from Pittsburgh is the Jennings Environmental Education Center. This gorgeous destination along Route 8 is about 12 miles north of Butler, across from the historic Old Stone House. It is a wonderful place for a quick hike or for exploring five miles …

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Nature’s shape shifter

Pennsylvania stands near the center center of an intriguing and complex natural phenomenon. Across the recent span of roughly three decades, coyotes have exploited every available habitat here, from remote woods of the Allegheny National Forest to Pittsburgh’s urban fringe, while carving out a still-evolving ecological niche. All but unheard-of before 1980, coyotes now live …

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Dutch Hill Forest

One of the many beautiful areas in western Pennsylvania for hiking or paddling is the Clarion River. Designated a wild and scenic river, the middle Clarion runs along the southern boundary of the Allegheny National Forest and is bordered by many other protected lands—state park land, state forest, game lands and privately conserved areas. The …

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McConnells Mill State Park

In southwestern PA, it is a challenge to find remote and scenic hikes. But one is only about an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh, just off of Rt. 422 in eastern Lawrence County, in McConnells Mill State Park. The focus of this park is Slippery Rock Creek and its 400-foot-deep gorge. While you can stop …

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Exploring the Fort Necessity area

One of the most interesting historical sites in the Laurel Highlands is the Fort Necessity National Battlefield. And a new destination for hiking and exploring in the region is a property currently owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and about to be added to Forbes State Forest, adjacent to the national battlefield property. Forbes State …

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French Creek Watershed

When we in Pittsburgh look out on the Allegheny River, it can remind us that the water flowing past has its origins in some faraway places worth visiting and exploring. One of these is the broad valley of the west branch of French Creek in Erie County. Three miles northwest of the town of Wattsburg …

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Oil Creek State Park

Western Pennsylvania has an abundance of extraordinary places to hike. A few of these, such as Oil Creek State Park in northern Venango County, provide substantial regional history along with a scenic landscape. This 7,300-acre forested park along the 12-mile stream valley of Oil Creek contains 52 miles of trails. Some are rugged routes of …

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Bennett Branch Forest

About two and a half hours northeast of Pittsburgh, almost to Benezette, Pa., there is a deeply forested property called Bennett Branch Forest. The 1,500-acre tract is owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and nearly surrounded by Moshannon State Forest. A visitor can hike Bennett Branch Forest on old logging roads and seldom see another …

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Elk Creek in Erie County

Unusual and beautiful places lie just off the beaten path in Erie County—sites that even those who frequently travel to Pennsylvania’s northwesternmost county may not know. Most visitors to Erie County are familiar with Presque Isle, the curved spit of land that juts into Lake Erie and harbors a wide range of unusual flora and …

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A Natural Playground

It’s a sunny summer Sunday afternoon and everybody’s out there. Pittsburghers in pairs and groups and alone, walking or running or being pushed along in strollers, with or without dogs of every size and breed—they lace the trails from Homewood Cemetery to Duck Hollow. An Ultimate Frisbee game electrifies the Fern Hollow playing field, while …

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Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

Many of us from Pittsburgh regularly visit the Laurel Highlands to ski, hunt or fish. But to really get a feel for the forests and streams of the Laurel Highlands, a long hike can be a way to see more and to get a better sense of this exceptional place. One of the best hikes …

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Lost Turkey Trail

One of the more remote hiking trails in western Pennsylvania is the Lost Turkey Trail. The western end of this 26-mile trail is in Gallitzin State Forest in northeastern Somerset County. The trail then passes into Bedford and Cambria counties across State Game Lands 26, and ends in Blue Knob State Park. With one trailhead …

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Hardwood Trails, Bedford County

One of my favorite places to hike and explore is a property not far to the east of the Laurel Highlands. Driving east along the Pennsylvania Turnpike just past Somerset takes you across the eastern continental divide into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where the Laurel Highlands give way to the Ridge and Valley area. This …

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Quebec Run Wild Area, Fayette County

One of the nicest hikes in western Pennsylvania is the Quebec Run portion of Forbes State Forest. Quebec Run is located in the southern Laurel Highlands on the eastern flank of Chestnut Ridge, in Fayette County, and is a property with beautiful streamside trails, rhododendron thickets, sandstone outcrops, eastern hemlock groves, and a mature dry …

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The Urban Bear

State bear biologist Mark Ternent pulls an oversized syringe from an arsenal of gear at the back of his truck, loads it with a strong sedative, and affixes it to a dart with hot-pink fletching. With spring three days away and the mountains around Johnstown energized with emerging life, Ternent and his Pennsylvania Game Commission …

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