The Coast of Lake Erie

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Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie coastline is a place of beauty, drama and hidden environmental treasures. The bluffs and beach along this shoreline and the nearby forested ravines and gorges, seasonal pools and interior tributaries, make a special destination for anyone intent on exploring Western Pennsylvania’s most interesting natural areas.

The bluffs range from five to 90 feet above lake level and provide spectacular views of the lake. Water seeps out of the glacial soils and supports rare plants. Birds such as bald eagles and ospreys forage along the shoreline, and the bluffs provide habitat for nearly 1,000 native plant and animal species. The shoreline itself functions as a flyway for migratory birds.

Above the bluffs, ancient beach ridges — relicts from thousands of years ago when the lake level was higher — support rare and endangered plant species. Efforts are under way to restore the black oak savanna here.

The hiker who explores inland from the bluffs also comes across lake plain swamp forest, which in the spring becomes extensive interconnected pools of water, with deafening choruses of spring peepers and wood frogs.

Threats to the Erie shoreline include development, draining of wetlands, impacts from agriculture, invasive species and excessive erosion. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has protected four miles and 3,600 acres of Erie shoreline, having acquired and transferred to the state both Erie Bluffs State Park and State Game Land No. 314, also called David M. Roderick Reserve. The Conservancy is working now to conserve additional properties in this area — beautiful, magnificent, ecologically significant properties that deserve to be protected forever.

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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