Helen B. Katz Natural Area

Preserving a piece of the French Creek Watershed
credit: Western Pennsylvania Conservancy A winter’s walk  //  A half-mile hike on a rustic trail through the Helen B. Katz Natural Area leads to a man-made pond. A winter’s walk /​/​A half-​mile hike on a rustic trail through the Helen B. Katz Natural Area leads to a man-​made pond.
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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. The Katz Natural Area is helping to protect Cussewago Creek, which flows north to south in a glacially carved valley. Extensive wetlands border the wildly meandering creek that sluggishly flows to join French Creek in Meadville. Along the adjacent bottomlands are broad forested floodplains that regularly fill with creek water when the Cussewago overflows its banks. These are often inhabited by wood ducks, and the French Creek watershed is nationally renowned for its ecological significance, particularly its abundance of fish and mussel species.

Like all Western Pennsylvania Conservancy properties, the Katz Natural Area is open for recreation. A walking trail leads from the parking area downstream, with the creek on the east and widespread wetlands to the west. Much of the forest is hemlock and northern hardwoods. Elsewhere, fields are gradually reverting to forest.

In winter, you can cross-​country ski on the trail to the pond or look for animal tracks in the snow along the creek and pond shoreline. Where the trail ends, and if the pond is free of ice and snow, you can also see a beaver lodge in the distance. In spring, you will encounter wildflowers, and birds vary throughout the seasons.

The Katz Natural Area is a beautiful destination worth visiting any time of the year. It’s featured on the Conservancy’s website — with a brochure and directions — at www​.water​landlife​.org/​291.

Thomas Saunders

Thomas D. Saunders is president and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the region’s exceptional places.

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