Birding hotspots in Westmoreland County, southwestern Pennsylvania.


Directions to Birding Areas & Birding Hotspots in
Westmoreland County, southwestern Pennsylvania


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3rdBridge-Latrobe | Acme Lake | Allegheny Front Hawk Watch | Ann Saxman Nature Park | Beam Rocks & Trail | Beaver Run Reservoir | Bike & Hike Trails | Boyce Park | Braddocks Trail Park | Bridgeport Dam | Brinkerton Wetlands | Bushy Run Battlefield | Canoe Rivers | Cedar Creek County Park | Chestnut Ridge County Park | Clark Run Trail | Coaltown Rd Gamelands | Conemaugh River Gorge | Conemaugh River Lake | Crabtree farmland | Derry Lake | Donegal Lake | Elders Ridge | Guffey Hollow | Hutter's Farm | Jacob's Creek Park (Fay. Co.) | Jacob's Creek Wetlands | Kayak Rivers | Keystone State Park | Latrobe Reservoir | Linn Run State Park | Little Sewickley Creek trail | Livermore | Loyalhanna Gorge | Loyalhanna Creek Lake | Mammoth County Park | Mannitto Lake | Mt Joy Wetlands | Murrysville Parks | Northmoreland County Park | Oak Hollow Park | Packsaddle Gap | Pollins Wetland | Quick&Hill Rds | River Gorges | Rivers Canoe Kayak | Roaring Run & Camp Run | Roaring Run Apollo | Saint Vincent Wetlands | Sewickley Creek Wetlands | Spruce Flats Bog | Twin Lakes County Park | Virginia Farm | West Lebanon | Westmoreland County Parks | Wolf Rocks & Trail | Youngwood Swamp


Binoculars suffice for most birding. For waterfowl, shorebirds, and grassland/farmland/open-country species a spotting scope (20 power) on tripod helps a great deal, and at times is a necessity. Going on outings with groups that include experienced birders is a good and fast way to learn where, when, & how to bird.

Developed park lands - borough, township, county, state, federal - have easy access with parking spaces, trails, restrooms, drinking fountains, etc. A disadvantage of developed park lands are crowds of people, and restricted hours. Undeveloped game lands are more difficult to access, without facilities, sometimes not much in the way of parking space. Hiking in gamelands can be rough. An advantage to gamelands is less people, and an experience of nature more primitive and wild. Farmland and other private land can be birded from public roadsides if the roads can safely be driven slowly, if there is space to safely pull off the road, and/or with the permission of landowners. Bicycling is a great way to bird roadways and bikable trails - parking space is not an issue, other traffic is not inconvenienced, ones senses are unimpeded, it helps keep you in shape.

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3rd Bridge-Sanderson Access Area, Latrobe

Known locally as 3rd bridge, known as Sanderson Access by the Army Corp of Engineers. The bottomlands along the Loyalhanna Creek have American Woodcock (mating flights late Feb to April or May) Yellow-breasted Chat, Willow Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, Indigo Bunting. In the past there has been Red-headed Woodpecker (early 70s), Sedge Wren (May-June 97). The nearby hillside, a reclaimed coal strip-mine, and the Lemmon Farm land (private) on top, has/had many grassland and successional scrubland species; Short-eared Owl (Feb 22 to Mar 1 87, Oct 19 90, Jan 22 91), Whip-poor-will (May-June 1983), Northern Harrier; Grasshopper, Savannah, Henslow's, Vesper, & Field Sparrows, Snow Bunting (Feb 1982); Bobolink, E. Meadowlark, Upland Sandpiper, Horned Lark, Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Red-tailed Hawk, Kestrel. Location is two miles northwest of Latrobe on McFarland Rd (TR896, the north extension of Ligonier Street out of downtown Latrobe). Also accessible via Longs Rd (TR835) from the Latrobe-Crabtree Rd. A wetlands was created in fields near the bridge in the summer of 2001. Best time of year to bird here is May & June.

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Acme Lake, Chestnut Ridge County Park

A 25 acre multi-purpose flood control dam on the headwaters of Jacob's Creek in southeastern Westmoreland County, on TR872 just south of Rt31, west of Donegal, atop Chestnut Ridge. The southern end of the lake abutts County Line Road and Fayette County. Check the lake for migrating waterfowl during spring & fall. [County Parks]

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Allegheny Front Hawk Watch

Located on the Somerset and Bedford County line, north of Rt30, on the crest of the Allegheny Front. The hawk watch is maintained by the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society of southcentral PA. Click Here for more information, map & driving directions.

Hawk watches in PA are: Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (Somerset Co./Bedford Co. line), Bake Oven Knob (Lehigh Co./Carbon Co. line), Council Cup Scenic Overlook (Luzerne Co.), WHP/WITF Towers (Dauphin Co.), Everett Hawk Watch (Bedford Co.), Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (Schuykill Co./Berks Co. line), Jack's Mountain Hawk Watch (Miffllin Co.), Little Gap Hawk Site (Northampton Co.), Militia Hill Hawkwatch (Fort Washington State Park, Philadelphia Co.), Rocky Ridge Hawk Watch (York Co.), Rose Tree Park Hawkwatch (Delaware Co.), Second Mountain Hawk Watch (Lebanon Co.), Stone Mountain Hawkwatch (Huntingdon Co.), Tuscarora Summit - The Pulpit (Franklin Co.), Tussey Mountain (Centre Co.), Valley Forge Hawkwatch (Montgomery Co.), Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch (Cumberland Co.), White Deer Ridge Hawkwatch (Lycoming Co.), State Hill Hawk Watch (Berks Co.)

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Ann Rudd Saxman Nature Park

A gem of a small park (formed in 1960 as the first county park) tucked away in the triangle bound by the Rt30 business corridor, the development along Donohoe Road, and Georges Station Road, north of Rt30 just east of Greensburg, opposite the Eastgate Shopping Center. Turn off Rt30 onto Nature Park Road, pass the Barnes & Noble Bookstore and the Burlington Coat Factory store (formerly an Ames and a Hills Department Store). Foot access is possible from this side of the park, but the county has closed off the vehicle turnaround. Use nearby parking lots. The official park parking is at the Donohoe Center on Donohoe Road, 0.6 mile from Rt30 (away from Westmoreland Mall). The park is mostly mature hardwood forest, with some nice Beech, Yellow Poplar, Maple, Oak, & Pawpaw (at bridge on Raccoon Pass trail, upstream); good habitat for woodland species. There are small streams, a meadow, some spruce trees, and a rainwater run-off pond. Year round look for woodpeckers - Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Yellow-shafted Flicker, Pileated - also Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cardinal, Carolina Wren; the hawks - Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's; Screech Owl & Great Horned Owl. In summer look for Broad-winged Hawk, Scarlet Tanager, Rufous-sided Towhee, Wood Thrush, Eastern Phoebe (nest in outhouse), Acadian Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, the warblers Yellow, Cerulean, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Kentucky, Hooded, American Redstart. In spring look for wildflowers - Spring Beauties, Cut-leaved Toothwort, Rue Anemone, Violets, Blue Phlox, Golden Ragwort, Spring Cress, Marsh Marigold. There is a small stand of Pawpaw trees that bloom late April - early May, just before the leaves appear, along a stream at a wooden bridge on Raccoon Pass Trail. [County Parks]

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Beam Rocks

Located in Somerset County close to the county line with Westmoreland. Parking area and path to Beam Rocks is on Laurel Summit Rd which connects the top of Linn Run Road with Rt30 along Laurel Ridge summit. This is a rough dirt road, jointly used by snowmobiles in the winter. Parking area is about 3.5 mile from Rt30, about 1.25 mile from the Laurel Summit picnic area. The rock outcrop is an easy 1/2 mile hike from the Summit Rd. Summer birds include numerous breeding warblers, vireos, flycatchers, thrushes. Look for the warblers Black & White, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Cerulean, Chestnut-sided, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Kentucky, Hooded, Canada, American Redstart; Hermit Thrush, Veery, Winter Wren, Raven.

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Beaver Run Reservoir

Owned and maintained by the Westmoreland County Municipal Authority. Located in the northwest quadrant of the county. Accessible from Rt66 north of Rt22 via Rt286 or Rt380. Seven miles north of Rt22 turn east onto Rt286. The Rt286 causeway crosses the Beaver Run Reservoir 2 miles east of Rt66, but there is no parking available. There is parking available further north at the Rt380 overlook at the breast of the dam. Bald Eagles were being seen in late winter-early spring in 2001 & 2002. A pair of Bald Eagle established a nest at the reservoir in 2003, and two eaglets were fledged. Nine American Avocet were present at the Rt380 crossing on 23 Jul 2002.

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Bike & Hike Trails

Several recreational trails have been established in the county. Five Star Trail from Lynch Field (Rt119 north Greensburg) to Youngwood, length 7.5 miles one way. In Youngwood the trail passes near Youngwood Swamp (cross the bridge over Jacks Run, then make a right). West Penn Trail Conemaugh River Lake Section [website] from the Westinghouse Plant near Blairsville (north of Rt22 west of Blairsville) to Bow Ridge, length 3.3 miles one way. The trail alternates between Westmoreland & Indiana Counties, crossing four large stone arch bridges that traverse the wildly meandering Conemaugh River. The Saltsburg Section of West Penn Trail heads up the Conemaugh River from Saltsburg in Indiana County, pass the village of White Station, length 4.5 miles one way. Youghiogheny River Trail [website] which can be accessed at Cedar Creek Park or any community along the west bank of the Youghiogheny River. This trail is part of the Great Allegheny Passage, a long distance trail that runs between Pittsburgh PA & Washington D.C., passing thru Ohiopyle State Park. See Allegheny Trail Alliance, a group of rails to trails organizations building the Great Allegheny Passage. See also Other nearby trails.

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Boyce Park

A 1,096 acre park located in the suburban area of Monroeville, Allegheny County. The park is a mile or so north of the intersections of Rt22, Rt76 (PA Turnpike), & Rt376 (Parkway East). Plenty of trails. Woodland, small stream, brush, edge, & lawn habitats.

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Braddocks Trail Park

A township park in North Huntingdon Township, southwest of Irwin, 3 miles from Rt30, between Rt30 & the Youghiogheny River, north of Guffey Hollow. About 3 miles west of Rt76 (PA Turnpike) on Rt30, at the traffic light on top of Jacktown Hill (Norwin area), turn south to Circleville and take Robbins Station Rd (64090) to the park. In Circleville go straight thru the traffic light, crossing Clay Pike Rd. In one mile make a left at a Y-intersection to stay on Robbins Station Rd (Ridge Rd goes to the right). In 0.7 mile make a right (making a left onto Mickanin Rd would take you to Guffey Hollow Rd). In 0.3 mile at next Y-intersection make a left to stay on Robbins Station Rd, passing a "No Outlet" sign (Spicher Hill Rd goes to the right). You'll pass Veronica and Providence Lanes, which will be on the right. At the Stanyard Lane intersection bear to the right. You'll pass "Road Closed" signs. Robbins Station Rd is gated at the park entrance. Numerous roads in the area are "No Outlet". At the parking lot a display shows the layout of the hiking trails. The road can be walked to Riverview Rd, overlooking Youghiogheny River and and Turner Valley Rd. Another entrance to the park is on Turner Valley Rd via Spicher Hill Rd to Ridge Rd (0.6 mile), left on Ridge Rd to a 4-way intersection (1.5 mile), make left at stop sign onto Turner Valley Rd (follow sign for Norwin Soccer Fields), go downhill 0.5 mile to a lower entrance (on left) to the park. Habitat is primarily mature deciduous woodland. The park is good for woodland spring wildflowers (Blue-eyed Mary carpets the ground in mid-April) & woodland bird species. The park has been used for ATV & off-road motorbiking.

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Bridgeport Dam County Park

A 50 acre multi-purpose flood control dam on Jacobs Creek near Mount Pleasant. From Rt31 0.25 mile east of Mount Pleasant turn onto Bridgeport St (turn right if heading east on Rt31 away from Mt Pleasant, turn left if heading west on Rt31 toward Mt Pleasant). Proceed 1.3 miles to a 4-way stop sign. Turn left onto Water St. Park entrance is ahead on the righthand side. Or, from Rt31 east Mt Pleasant turn south onto School Rd (at "Mt Laurel View" sign), or turn south onto Mellingertown Rd then left onto School Rd; the park will be on the left at a sharp bend in the road. This lake is a continuation of the wetlands along Brush Run & Jacobs Creek. During migration look for waterfowl, shorebirds, & gulls. During the summer breeding season look for herons, kingfisher, warblers, vireos, flycatchers, vultures. In the surrounding fields look for grassland species. See Mt Joy wetlands. [County website]

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Brinkerton Wetlands

See Mammoth County Park

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Bushy Run Battlefield

A state administered historical site & museum. In eastern side of the county about 2 miles east of Harrison City on Route 993. West of Rt66, north of Rt130. In that area look for road signs pointing the way to the park. [website]

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Cedar Creek County Park

Located in southwest corner of county in Rostraver Township. Accessible from Rt51 1/4 mile north of the Rt70 intersection, between Smithton & West Newton along the Youghiogheny River. The Cedar Creek Gorge trail is good for woodland spring wildflowers (Virginia Bluebell (Cowslip) carpets the ground in mid-April). The park has a field for flying radio-controlled model airplanes. Youghiogheny River Trail (Great Allegheny Passage) runs thru the park. [County Parks]

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Clark Run Trail

Charles F. Lewis Natural Area, Gallitzin State Forest, Clark Run & Rager Mountain Trails. Located in southeastern Indiana County, bordering Cambria County, across the river from Westmoreland County, in the Conemaugh River-Laurel Ridge gorge west of Johnstown on Rt403, north side of the river. The Natural Area is 384 acres set aside "where natural succession will be allowed to occur and the area maintained in a relatively undisturbed manner". Cove & ridgeside hardwood forest, steep stream ravine, rock outcrops higher up, Mountain Laurel & Rhododendron, some Eastern Hemlock. In summer look for Louisiana Waterthrush, woodland warblers, vireos, & flycatchers. Raven year round.

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Coaltown Road Gamelands

Located just outside the villages of Tunnelton and Coaltown in south central Indiana County. The nearby Conemaugh River is the borderline with northern Westmoreland County. From Rt981 at Marshall's Market (about 3 miles south of Saltburg) take Tunnelton Rd downhill, cross the Conemaugh River, thru the village of Tunnleton. Make the second left after the railroad underpass, onto Coaltown Rd. Gameland parking is at the end of the road, less than a mile from Tunnleton Rd. Walk the old road pass the yellow gate and into the gamelands. Bear to the left, across the railroad tracks, to hook up with the Saltsburg section of the West Penn Trail. Good birding is had in May and June for Warblers, Sparrrows, Vireos, Flycatchers, and more. Take precautions for spring turkey/gobbler hunting season, which lasts from the end of April thru May, daily from sunrise till noon, except for Sunday when there is no hunting. Birds present in 2004 include Eastern Kingbird, Acadian Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula Warbler, Cerulian Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler, Wood Thrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-billed Cuckoo, Indigo Bunting, White-eyed Vireo, Field Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Cardinal, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing.

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Conemaugh River Lake

Maintained by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Areas good for birding include the dam area which is accessible from Rt981 north of Rt22 at New Alexandria. Three miles north of Rt22 turn left at "T" intersection. At Marshall's Market (4.7 miles north of Rt22) turn right onto Tunnelton Rd (TR939). After 2 miles cross the Conemaugh River to the village of Tunnelton. On the other side of Tunnelton, after going thru a railroad underpass, make a right onto Auen Rd. Make next right. The dam is about 9 miles from Rt22. Bird the dam area and walk the paved road that leads across the river to the Bow Ridge hiking trails. Underneath the westernmost (Indiana Co.) arch of the stone arch railroad bridge, downriver of the dam, is a maker showing the height of the river during the Great Saint Patrick's day flood of 1936. That flood, and the damage done to Pittsburgh, spawned federal legislation that resulted in the building of flood control projects on western PA rivers. The Livermore access area is parking at your own risk. The abandoned railroad bridge near Livermore Cemetery is a popular spot for shooting firearms year round. It is accessible from Rt22 at Sundial, where Rt982 intersects Rt22 five miles east of New Alexandria, four miles west of Blairsville. Turn north from Rt22 onto Livermore Road. Stay on this road for 2.7 miles. You'll pass a farm with 3 large silos on the right. At a stop sign at a sharp right-hand turn in the road go straight, instead of making the right turn, and cross the railroad tracks (careful, no crossing gate here), onto Livermore Cem Rd, which ends at a gate near Livermore Cemetery. Walk the old railroad grade (veer right after the gate) to a panoramic view of the Conemaugh River Lake from atop an old, massive, stone arch railroad bridge that was built in 1907, 0.2 mile from the gate near Livermore Cemetery. Continuing in this direction there is another old RR bridge 0.7 mile from the gate. This area is heavily hunted in the hunting seasons, & a popular spot for shooting firearms year-round. From Livermore cemetery Bow Ridge is 1.5 mile to the left (west) on the old railroad grade, after crossing two other stone arch RR bridges. The first bridge in this direction is .58 mile from the cemetery, the second bridge abuts Bow Ridge. There are four of these stone arch RR bridges in the Conemaugh River Lake between Social Hall (Blairsville Westinghouse Plant) and Bow Ridge. The distance between the Westinghouse Access & Bow Ridge is 3.3 miles. In 2001 & 2002 the old railroad grade was developed into a hike/bicycle trail called West Penn Trail. In the fall of 2003 a switchback trail was built on the steep eastern side of Bow Ridge. The trail begins to cover with lake water at 917 feet elevation at bridge #2. The entire trail is covered with lake water at 967 feet elevation. [River Level in Conemaugh Lake] Conemaugh River Lake is one of the few places in the county where Red-headed Woodpeckers are seen each year. Numerous standing dead trees remain from the time the land was flooded with the creation of the dam & lake in 1952, resulting in good woodpecker habitat. Bird sightings include Bald Eagle in July & August 2002, and an adult Sandhill Crane in backwater mudflats visible from Livermore bridge in September 2002. [Conemaugh Valley Conservancy]. The Conemaugh River Lake Flood Control Project eliminated four villages; Livermore, Filmore, Social Hall, and Cokeville.
The name Conemaugh comes from a Native American pronounciation of a name for the river, Connu-macht, supposedly meaning Otter River or Otter Creek.
The Hill Road, Quick Road, & Marshall Road (TR452) intersections on the Indiana County side of the Conemaugh Reservoir, in Conemaugh Township, is a hotspot for Horned Larks year round. As is true with any Horned Lark habitat the fields are also worth checking for Snow Buntings & Lapland Longspurs in the winter. Reach these intersections by driving north from the Conemaugh Dam entrance (make right leaving dam area) on Auen Rd. At T-intersection turn right onto Quick Road. At next T-intersection (with Hill Rd) park alongside Quick Rd & check the fields for larks. Virginia Farms access area on the Indiana County side of the reservoir, on SR-3009 west of Rt217 north of Blairsville, is a mixture of fields bordered with shrubs and trees. At dusk in early spring look for the mating flight of American Woodcock. In summer the breeding species includes Yellow Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Mockingbird, Field Sparrow.

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Crabtree farmland

West of Rt119 between Crabtree & Rt22 is a network of farmland roads that is good for grassland/open-country species. Look for Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, & Horned Lark year round. Flocks (50-100+) of Horned Lark in winter. Past winter sightings include Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Brewer's Blackbird. In summer look for the grassland nesters - Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Henslow's Sparrow, etc. In March and April look for Red-tailed Hawk and Great Horned Owl on nest in the small woodlots. The network of roads includes Lone Maple Dr (TR608), DeVinney Rd (TR690), Shady Lane (TR631 TR852), Gears Hill (TR879 TR607); Tucker, Bardine (was Sheerwood Dr) (TR856 TR622 TR606); Bowman Rd (TR638), Kemp Rd (TR642), Keener Dr, Country Hill Rd-Helen Dr (TR741 TR856, can be impassable in winter at snowdrifts), Old Hannastown Rd (TR875), Hillview Rd (TR885), Pine Drive (TR852 TR626), Hannastown Rd (SR1055). Some of the road names and numbers were changed in 2003. This is private farmland so stay on the public roads.

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Derry Lake

(Ethel Springs Reservoir) Owned and maintained by the Derry Municipal Authority. The 30 acre lake is located between routes 217 & 982, on North Chestnut Street between downtown Derry and Derry Middle/High Schools. In Derry turn west off Rt217 onto North Chestnut Street. If heading North on Rt217 into Derry from Rt30 go over the Rt217 bridge that crosses the railroad tracks in Derry, make right after the bridge, make next left at 4-way intersection onto North Chestnut Street. The lake will be after the top of the hill. Park at far end of the funeral home parking lot (beside white house), near the blue walking trail gate, across the road from the Lakeside Lounge/bar. The lake has a resident population of Mallards, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, White Pekin Ducks, & a motley crew of Mallard hybrids. A portion of Derry Lake remains ice-free in the winters, when other lakes in the area are completely froze over. The Derry Municipal Authority (DMA) aerates that portion with air pumped thru a length of pipe, drilled with holes, from the lake bottom. Another smaller area of the lake remains ice-freeze where water from a reservoir on the ridge gushes into the lake from a pipe. The DMA maintains a feeding station for the resident Mute Swans & other waterfowl. Of the six Mute Swans (as of 1/2001), one is free-flying (the "wild swan"). In some Novembers the lake has been used as a rest stop & staging area by flocks of Tundra Swans numbering in the hundreds or thousands. I saw a Cattle Egret at the lake on Nov. 2, 1984. A Sandhill Crane overwintered at the lake from mid December 2007 to 2008. See Municipal Authority Derry.

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Donegal Lake

Maintained by the PA Fish and Boat Commission. Located in the southeast corner of the county. Accessible from Rt711 1.5 miles north of the town of Donegal. Routes 711, 31, and the PA Turnpike (Rt76) intersect at Donegal. From Donegal take Rt711 North, after bottom of hill turn left (west) onto Four Mile Run Road. The lake will be on the right. Osprey have built a nest on a man-made platform in the marsh end of the lake, which can be seen from the road. Pair of Osprey spent two summers (1995 & 96) at the nest, but no young were raised. A pair of Osprey fledged two young in 2001, 3 in 2002, 3 in 2003, and more young in subsequent years. A Glossy Ibis was a rare sighting at the lake.

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Elders Ridge

In adjacent Indiana County. Birders go there during the winter months looking for Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Short-eared Owls. The raptors hunt the fields of reclaimed strip mines and farms. Elders Ridge is 8.65 miles from Saltsburg via Rt286, 5.3 mile north of Saltsburg, pass Clarksburg Valley Inn, turn left onto Phillips Rd, continue 2.7 miles turn right onto Elders Ridge Rd, continue 0.5 mile turn left onto Manifest Rd. Bird along County Line Rd, Long Run Rd. West Lebanon is nearby.

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Hutter's Farm

West of Rt982 between Mammoth & Kecksburg. From Rt982 south in the village of Mammoth turn right at the "Mikey's Landscaping & Storage" sign, onto Springertown Rd. Zeglin's Dairy Farm on the right has Purple Martins using Martin houses and is a designated Purple Martin Sanctuary. Hutter's farm is at the other end of Springertown Rd. Turn right onto Kecksburg Rd, make next left onto Saloom Rd, make next left onto Cherry Lane. Park alongside the road on the other side of the hill. To loop back to Springertown Rd continue down the hill, make next left onto Hutter Farm Rd, make left onto Kecksburg Rd, next right is Springertown Rd. This route covers farmland habitat good for grassland/open-country species such as Upland Sandpiper, Horned Lark, Bobolink; Grasshopper, Savannah, Vesper, & Henslow's Sparrows; possibly Dickcissel. In March & April look for Water Pipit in the fields and along the roads. This is private farmland so stay on the public roads. Bring a spotting scope. Upland Sandpipers use to be present from mid-April into July, but their current status is unknown, none having been found in recent years (none since the late 1990s).

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Jacob's Creek (Fayette) County Park, Greenlick Reservoir

Located in northern Fayette County southeast of Mount Pleasant. Accessible from Rt982 three miles south of Laurelville (Rt31). Turn off Rt982 at the white church onto Mudd School Rd (TR760), go straight thru the 4-way intersection. The main entrance to the park is less than a mile. The lake is on Green Lick Run, a tributary of Jacob's Creek. This lake can produce impressive "fallouts" of migrating waterfowl during inclement weather in the spring and fall. There was a fallout of 30 Red-throated Loon, March 18 2008, plus other species.

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Keystone State Park

Located southeast of New Alexandria. Accessible from Rt981 in New Alexandria, where a sign points the way. Habitats include deciduous & coniferous woodland, lake-edge marsh & old beaver ponds, brush, lake, shoreline, lawn. March thru April the American Woodcock does its impressive & strange courtship display flight in old fields & brushy areas. In spring look for migrating waterfowl & gulls on the lake, Blue-winged Teal at the marsh, shorebirds at the beach. In summer around the lake look for Eastern Kingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Barn Swallow, Tree Swallow, Rough-winged Swallow, Baltimore Oriole, Green-backed Heron, Killdeer at the beach, Wood Duck at the marsh. On the wooded hillside above the campground look for Red-eyed Vireo, Hooded Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, American Redstart, Cerulean Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood Pewee, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Broad-winged Hawk. In the pines look for ovenbird. Soaring overhead on hot summer days look for Chimney Swifts, Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture. Osprey nest 5 miles away and make daily fishing forays to the lake. Bald Eagle nest 12 miles away and are beginning to be seen over the park. In spring & fall listen for the drumming of Ruffed Grouse along trails in the woods, especially the Davis Run Trails. In winter Swamp Sparrows are in the marsh, Hermit Thrush are in the pine woods. Past sightings include Snow Buntings at the beach, Caspian & Forster's Terns over the lake. In June 2004 an American White Pelican was present on the lake for several days, a very rare sight.

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Latrobe Reservoir

(Trout Run Dam, H. A. Stewart Reservoir) Owned and maintained by the Latrobe Municipal Authority. From Rt30 turn North onto Rt259 (across from Story Book Forest, Idlewild Park). The breast of the dam can be accessed by turning left at the second intersection at a sharp bend in Rt259, 1/2 mile north of Rt30. The most used birding spot is to make the third left off Rt259, onto Austraw Rd (toward Red Arrow Farm), 2.3 mile from Rt30. Lake will be on left at top of hill, a short distance from Rt259. The reservoir was constructed in 1919, expanded in 1959. Year round look for Canada Goose, Mallards, Black Ducks, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Raven. In spring & fall migration look for Opsrey, Common Loon, grebes, any of the diving & surface ducks, gulls (Ring-billed, Herring, Bonapartes), possibly terns (Forster's, Common), & shorebirds on mudflats if the water level is low. Past sightings includes Double-crested Cormorant, Bald Eagle. The woods around the lake have Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, Pileated Woodpecker. A wire nesting basket for Opsrey was installed in 2000. A rare sighting includes Snowy Egret.

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Linn Run State Park

Located in eastern side of county on Laurel Ridge. Accessible from Rt381. Rt381 intersects Rt30 between Ligonier & Laughlintown. From Rt30 go three miles south to the village of Rector. Turn left onto Linn Run Road (SR2043). The park is two miles ahead. Park office phone number is 724-238-6623. The P.W.& S. railroad bike trail follows an old logging railroad that operated until 1916. If you ever want to hear a symphony of bird song & the flowing of mountain stream go to Linn Run State Park, starting at Grove Run picnic area, very early on a late May or June morning, preferrably before dawn, while it is still dark or morning twilight, when the day will be warm & sunny, & walk or bicycle up the road. You will be delighted to hear the songs of Winter Wren, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Louisiana Waterthrush, Wood Thrush, Veery, Eastern Phoebe, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood Pewee, Great-crested Flycatcher, Tufted Titmouse, Red-eyed Vireo, Black&White Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-throated Green Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Scarlet Tanager, Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Eastern (Rufous-sided) Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, & depending on how far up the mountain you go you may also hear Blue-headed (Solitary) Vireo, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Canada Warbler, Purple Finch.

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Little Sewickley Creek trail

The Little Sewickley Creek trail, an old railroad bed, is located just outside Herminie at the Herminie-Cowansburg-Lowber Rd. Herminie is north of Rt136 between Greensburg & West Newton, nearer the latter. Follow Rt136 west 7.3 miles from the Rt30-Rt136 intersection in Greensburg. At a stop sign in Darragh (just beyond Arona) go straight, leaving Rt136, instead of making the sharp left. Herminie is 1.7 miles ahead. At the western end of the main street (Sewickley Ave) in Herminie (facing Fox's Pizza) turn right onto Pike St. Make 2nd left at Mayers Maytag store onto Railroad Street.
If coming into Herminie from Rt136 at Madison make a left in Herminie onto the Lowber Rd. Parking and trailhead is on left near where the road crosses the Little Sewickley Creek.
If coming from the PA Turnpike at Exit 67 - Route 30/Irwin/Greensburg - take the Rt30 East/Greensburg ramp; at the first stoplight on Rt30 turn right; travel 0.5 mile to the first stop sign and turn right; travel this road 3.7 miles to a T; turn right at the T; continue 0.9 miles to a stop sign; turn right; travel a very short distance & turn right onto Railroad St just before Mayers Maytag; continue on this road to the next intersection. Parking and trailhead is on the other side of the road.
Ravine hardwood forest, streams, wetland habitats. Good for spring wildflowers. At the end of the trail, about 1.3 mile, is a wetlands near Cowansburg. This is not a public park. Access is questionable. Debri along the railroad bed and streams is an eyesore, especially when the leaves are off the trees.

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Loyalhanna Creek Lake

Maintained by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The Loyalhanna Dam, damsite & tailwater, is located off Rt981 three miles south of Saltsburg. Turn off Rt981 onto the Loyalhanna Dam Road. The Loyalhanna Dam was completed in 1951.
Bush Recreation Area is located off Rt981 3.8 road miles north of the Rt22 intersection at New Alexandria. From Rt981 turn left one mile north of Rt22, onto Bush Road. Bush Recreation Area is about 2 miles on left, past Mannitto Golf course. At Bush Recreation Area the summer regulars includes Tree, Barn, & Rough-winged Swallows, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Oriole, Warbling Vireo, Great-crested Flycatcher, Great Blue Heron, Green-backed Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Spotted Sandpiper, Red-tailed Hawk. Osprey & Double-crested Cormorant make appearances. Summer raptors could include Broad-winged Hawk & Red-shouldered Hawk. Late summer look for Great Egret. Past sightings include Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, & Black Tern. A rare sighting includes Black-bellied Whistling Duck. Two Bald Eagles, an adult & immature, were seen by various persons 2/21/01, 2/24-5/01. From May 10 to June 12 2001 a Prothonotary Warbler was singing on territory along the western shoreline at Bush Recreation Area. In migration look for gulls & diving ducks. In summer in shallow water there are masses of the moss animal Pectinatella magnifica (Phylum Bryozoa) attached to submerged branches. In late summer there might be outbreaks, or "blooms", of the quarter-sized freshwater jellyfish. Distance between Bush Recreation Area & Keystone State Park is 7 miles. Distance between Conemaugh Dam & Bush Recreation Area is 8 miles.Mannitto Lake, a small body of water, is visible from the road at Mannitto golf course, and worth checking out for waterfowl during migration. of Mannitto Lake & Triple JJJ Farms Access.
Loyalhanna Lake has other access areas, all can be good for birding; Sportsmen (on Koontz Road, Swainson's Warbler was here May-June 1998 & 99), Christopher's Rd (off Salem Road), Moreing Rd (off Salem Road), Sanderson (3rd bridge outside Latrobe), Oasis (off Rt981 one mile south of New Alexandria), Andrico on Rt981 one mile north of New Alexandria, Triple JJJ Farm access road.

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Mammoth County Park

Between Routes 982 & 981 five miles north of Rt31, eight miles south of Rt30, near the villages of Mammoth & Weltytown. From Pleasant Unity (Rt981) take Rt130 east, then turn south (right) onto Rt982 in Lycippus. Roads to park will be on the right. From the Rt30-Rt981 intersection in Latrobe go south on Rt981, go straight at next 4-way intersection onto Charles Houck Rd which merges with Rt982 south of Whitney. Follow Rt982 south, making a right then left turn thru the offset intersection with Rt130 in Lycippus. Main entrance to the park will be on the right 3.3 mile later . In summer look for swallows at the lake - Barn, Tree, Rough-winged, Cliff; Eastern Bluebird, Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Green-backed Heron, Spotted Sandpiper. A rare sighting includes Cinnamon Teal during a club outing on 4/27/1985. Park office phone number is 724-423-5132. The backroads northwest of Mammoth County Park are good for grassland species. Drive (or bicycle) Blacksmith Rd & Klejka Rd to Hill Churhes Rd. St. Paul's Lutheran Church & St. Paul's United Church of Christ are on this hilltop. Check for Horned Larks along Clark Road year round. A rare sighting is a Western Meadowlark during the summer of 2001. The Mammoth wetlands along Sewickley Creek can be good for shorebirds in the spring, late summer & fall, especially at the Klejka Farm south of the park, where the Mammoth-United Rd crosses Sewickley Creek in a flood prone area. Northwest of Mammoth Park, near Westmoreland County Fair grounds, is the Pollins Farm wetlands on the North Fork of Sewickley Creek - past sightings include Sandhill Crane, American Bittern, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow. Baker Road off Rt981 between Mammoth & the fair grounds, is a place to scan the fields for Horned Lark. A Western Meadowlark was present in the summer of 2001. Except for Mammoth Park the areas are private land, so stay on the public roads. Brinkerton Wetlands where settling ponds have been developed to treat acid mine drainage. From Rt981 at the village of United, south of Westmoreland County Fairgrounds, turn west onto Brinkerton Road. Less than a mile turn left onto Brinkerton Ext Rd., a backroad that will cross Sewickley Creek. The abandoned railroad grade is beside the creek, follow it downstream to the wetlands and old beehive coke ovens. From Youngwood take the Armbrust Road pass the Community College. In Armbrust make a left and then a right onto Brinkerton Road. Follow the road for a mile or so and make a right onto a backroad that will cross the creek. The old railroad grade is there, parallel to the north side of the creek. Plans are for a bike trail to be developed along this grade. Not officially open to the public yet. [County Parks]

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Mt Joy wetlands, Jacob's Creek Wetlands and Environmental Education Area

Located in southern Westmoreland County south of Rt31 between Mount Pleasant & Laurelville. Turn south off Rt31 near an area called Mt Joy, onto White Bridge Rd (SR2005) 1.5 mile east of downtown Mt Pleasant, pass the former Lenox Crystal plant. In less than a mile you'll cross a bridge, entering into Fayette County (SR1013). Park on the left after the bridge, or make the next right just after the bridge, onto a seasonally maintained road, the former Meadowbrook Rd, that leads to another parking lot (less than 1/2 mile) at the Jacob's Creek Environmental Education Area. Look for Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Kingbird, Green-backed Heron, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper during summer breeding, and the possibility of Prothonotary Warbler. The wetlands are the headwaters of Bridgeport Dam County Park where Brush Run & Jacob's Creek converge. Follow the path from the parking lot. In the spring & fall check for migrating waterfowl & shorebirds. Cattail marsh along Brush Run by Rt31 has potential for rails & bitterns, at least in migration. Swamp Sparrows can be present during summer breeding, though hard to hear singing through the traffic noise of Rt31. See Bridgeport Dam.

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Murrysville Municipal & Neighborhood Parks

Located on both sides of Rt22 in Murrysville. See www.murrysville.com for info about & directions to the parks, which includes Duff Park, Townsend Park, Kellman Nature Reserve. Two Barred Owls were seen by a party of four birders in Townsend Park on 7 Feb 2001 along Pine Tree Trail. See also Westmoreland Conservancy.

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Northmoreland County Park

Largest of the county parks, located in the northwest corner of the county in Allegheny Township, off Rt356 north of the Rt66 intersection, south of Rt56. Turn off Rt22 onto Rt66N, approximately 10 miles north of Rt22 turn left onto Rt356. A highly developed park that includes a 17 acre recreational lake, ball fields, pavilions, radio-controlled model airplane airfield, etc. [County Parks]

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Oak Hollow Park

A multi-use park in North Huntingdon Township north of Rt30 at Irwin, south of Rt130 off Nike Site Road, just west of Rt76 (PA Turnpike). Recreational lawns surrounded by shrubs & deciduous woodlands. [Oak Hollow Park] [Map of North Huntingdon Twp. and Vicinity]

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Pennsylvania State Parks, Forests, Natural Areas, Gamelands, Lakes and Rivers

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources [DCNR]
Pennsylvania Game Commission [PGC]
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission [PFBC]

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River Gorges, Water Gaps (or Saddles) in Pennsylvania

The river gorges in Westmoreland County and adjacent counties are some of the deepest in PA, and among the deepest in the eastern U.S. They have forested steep hillsides good for woodland species and rock outcrops used by Turkey Vulture and Raven. Common breeding warblers include Yellow-throated, Parula, Black & White, Worm-eating, Hooded, Kentucky, Cerulean, Yellow, Black-throated Green, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthush. Hiking in the gorges is rugged due to the steep, rocky, overgrown terrain; some of the wildest, least accessible natural areas in the state. Views from rim rock outcrops are classic appalachian mountain scenic beauty. The gorges have roads and/or railroad tracks at low elevation that parallel the main water course.
The Conemaugh River Gorge through Laurel Ridge at Johnstown has a maximum depth of about 1,578 feet and an average depth from the rim to the river of 930 feet. The river's elevation is 1,120 feet at the upriver (southeastern) end at the outskirts of Johnstown, and just under 1,100 feet at the downriver (northwestern) end. A high point on the east side of the gorge is Rager Mtn at 2,580 feet. A high point on the west side of the gorge is 2,678 feet, where there are communication towers. The gorge is 5 miles long, and roughly a mile wide at the top. The best view of the depth of the gorge is from Rt403 just outside Johnstown, looking west across the river. The best view of the width & length of the gorge is from the roadside park on Rt56 just outside Johnstown. Route 56, Route 403, and a railroad line parallels the river thru the gorge.
The 4 mile long Packsaddle Gap (Packsaddle Narrows) is where the Conemaugh River cuts through Chestnut Ridge between Bolivar & Torrance, northern Westmoreland County, between Robinson & Blairsville, southern Indiana County. Packsaddle Gap has a maximum depth of about 1,348 feet, and an average depth of 1,034~ feet from the rim to the river. The elevation of the river is 1,000~ feet at the upriver (eastern) end of the gorge at Bolivar, 940~ feet at the downriver (western) end at Blairsville. A high point of land on the north side, River Hill, reaches 2,160+ feet, the highest point in Indiana County. A high point on the south side reaches 2,288 feet, in Westmoreland County. The Gap is from 0.5 to 1.0 mile wide at the rim. Packsaddle Gap contains remnants of the historic Western Division of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, in use 1834 - 1857, lingering into 1863. Canal remnants near the village of Torrance includes watery canal channel, stonework of lock #4 & revetment wall, wood beams (w/metal spikes) in the river bed of slackwater Dam No. 1 . Two miles east of Torrance, opposite the base of Oaks Point, is Lock #5, and wood beam remnants in the river bed of slackwater Dam No. 2. In Packsaddle Gap canal boat travel alternated between the canal and two slackwater pools in the river. Lock #5 connected the slackwater navigation pools of Dam No. 1 & Dam No. 2. Lock #4 by-passed Dam No. 1. The wooden dams were built at rocky narrow spots of the river, at the downstream end of natural slow water pools. From Lockport to Bow Ridge the canal followed the south side of Conemaugh River, otherwise the canal followed the north side of the river (for a warmer southern exposure) from Johnstown to Allegheny River at Freeport. An engineering profile diagram, on display at Tunnelview Park at Conemaugh Dam, lists these locks and dams for the Packsaddle Gap area, starting at Blairsville and heading up river;
Dam No. 5 & Guard Lock (0.75') Blairsville Basin
Lock 17 (10'), McGee Run
Locks 1 (8.25'), 2 (8'), 3 (10')
Lock 4 (5')
Dam No. 1 & Guard Lock
Lock 5 (11'), Packsaddle
Dam No. 2 & Guard Lock
Locks 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (12', 8', 8', 7', 8')
Locks 11, 12 (6.65', 6.00), Bolivar
Locks 13, 14 (11', 10')
Aquaduct, Lockport
On the Indiana County side, outside the village of Strangford, off Oaks Point Road, are the remnants of Oaks Point Boy Scout Camp(?) or Resort(?) atop a knoll (1865 ft el.). Downhill from the knoll, towards the river, are the scenic Oaks Point Overlooks of Packsaddle Gap. At one of the overlooks the angle of view from the river to the top of the opposing hill is no less than 45 degrees. When the water in the river is low & clear the remnants of slackwater Dam No. 2 can be seen in the river bed from one of the Oaks Point overlooks. When the leaves are off the trees canal lock #5 is visible on the other (south) side of the river. A river gorge like the Packsaddle Gap would naturally have serious whitewater rapids. Prior to the development of the railroads in the mid 1800s, the Conemaugh River was used for commercial navigation as part of a water route connecting Pittsburgh with eastern Pennsylvania. The river had rapids that cost men their lives, especially during high water. To improve the river for navigation rocks were removed and blasted from the river. A series of slackwater pools were created by wooden dams as part of the PA Canal system. The wildness of the river was tamed, for safety and ease of travel. Today, the whitewater in Packsaddle Gap is a shadow of what it was originally.
Railroad lines parallel each side of the river thru the gorge. Two sets of tracks are on the south side (Westmoreland Co.), the PA east-west mainline tracks. A single set of tracks are on the north side, in Indiana Co., called the Conemaugh line. There are no roads, except for dirt 4WD trails and gated dirt access roads. State Gamelands #153 is on both sides of the gorge, moreso on the Indiana County side. Other features includes old rock quarries, a rocky spot in the river at the mouth of Roaring Run, a 15~ft waterfall & swimming hole with rope swings on Roaring Run outside Robinson. Packsaddle Gap is undeveloped gamelands, access is difficult. Pay attention to the hunting seasons when visiting state game lands, wear florescent orange. Do not interfere with or disturb hunting.
Near Strangford is a dump site of residual radioactive waste material. During the 1950s waste material including Uranium mill tailings from a processing plant in Canonsburg was dumped as fill. The site has been remediated & secured by the Department of Energy.
Packsaddle Gap also has a legend of being haunted since the early 1900s by the ghost of a man who accidently shot & killed his girlfriend during hunting. Other local lore of Packsaddle Gap involves Torrance State Hospital, a mental health facility that opened in 1919 as a custodial care institution . Every once in a while a patient would escape the institution and wonder into the wilds of Packsaddle Gap. As recently as August 2005 a patient escaped the facility and followed the railroad tracks through Packsaddle Gap to the village of Bolivar. After three days being on the lam the individual was found in Bolivar; "... tired, cold, wet, and extremely hungry."
Before the development of the canal and railroad (pre-1830), when the river was used for transportation east-to-west (down river), mules/horses with packsaddles were used to transport cargo over the ridge west-to-east, and during unnavigable river conditions. Hence the name Packsaddle Gap.
Links; [History of Cokeville and Isabella] [History of Strangford] [Topographical Image] [Packsaddle Gap Photos]
There is a geocache at Oaks Points, view the logs & check out the photo gallery.
As the Conemaugh & Kiskiminetas Rivers meander from Blairsville to the Allegheny River at Freeport the river passes hills 300-600 feet high, reaching almost 800 feet high between Salina & Apollo. Some of the hills have rock outcrops and/or cliffs; such as the cliffs between the village of White and Saltsburg, and the Kiski Bluffs opposite Saltsburg.
The Loyalhanna Creek Gorge through Chestnut Ridge, between Ligonier & Latrobe, is 3 miles long & about 900 feet deep max, averaging 700-800 feet deep from the rim to the creek. The creek at Kingston Dam, the western end of the gorge, is at an elevation of 1,010 feet. The creek at Longbridge at the eastern end of the gorge is at an elevation of 1,100 feet. The creek drops 90 feet in approximately 3 miles. A high point of the gorge NNE of Sleepy Hollow Causeway, in Derry Township, is at 1,924 feet. A high point NW of Longbridge, the western edge of Ligonier Township, is 1,862 feet. Route 30 (Lincoln Highway) parallels both sides of the creek thru the gorge. [Topographical Image]
The Youghiogheny River Gorge through the Laurel Highlands between Confluence and Ohiopyle in Fayette County, sw PA, is 11 miles long and has a maximum depth of around 1,700 feet, and an average depth from the rim of around 935 feet. The lookout tower hill near Sugarloaf Knob has an elevation of 2,920+ ft. The river elevation at Confluence is 1,300~ ft, at Ohiopyle the river elevation is 1,220~ feet. The river along the base of Sugarloaf Knob has an elevation of about 1,260 ft, making the gorge about 1,660 feet deep there. A railroad line and bike trail parallel opposite sides of the river thru the gorge. The Youghiogheny River forms a gorge, more or less, from the dam in Confluence to the Monongahela River in McKeesport, a distance of 65 miles.
Jacobs Creek Gorge (Creek Hills area) from Chaintown (near Scottsdale) to the village of Jacobs Creek, where it flows into the Youghiogheny River, is around 700 feet deep. A bench mark at the Jacobs Creek & Youghiogheny River confluence, the western end of the gorge, is at 785 feet elevation. The creek at the upstream or eastern end of the gorge at Chaintown is at 1,000 feet elevation. The creek drops 215 feet through the gorge over a distance of about 6 miles. High points to the north, in South Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, are at 1,460 feet & 1,523 feet elevation. High points to the south, in Lower Tyrone Township, Fayette County, are Roundtop hill at 1,422 feet, & a hill at 1,460 feet. Jacobs Creek cascades over the picturesque Hills Creek waterfalls in the gorge. Peregrine Falcons were reported to have nested in the gorge in Westmoreland County in 1914, as noted in the book 'Birds of Western Pennsylvania' by W. E. Clyde Todd, (c)1940. A railroad line parallels one side of the creek thru the gorge, there are no roads. [Topographical Image]
The Youghiogheny River passes through another nice gorge between Dawson & Layton. River elevation upriver at Dawson is 840 feet, downriver at Layton is 800 feet, a 60 foot drop in 5 to 6 miles. High points of land to the north are a hill at 1,360+ feet and one at 1,400 feet. To the south Kilndigging Hill is 1,285 feet, & River Hills is 1,400 feet. The gorge is around 600 feet deep. A railroad line and bike trail parallel opposite sides of the river thru the gorge. [Topographical Image]

Other gorges/gaps in PA

Pine Creek Gorge, the "Grand Canyon" of Pennsylvania extends 53 miles from Ansonia in western Tioga County to Jersey Shore in Lycoming County, where the creek enters the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Pine Creek Gorge is over 1,000 feet in depth along much of its length. The maximum relief of Pine Creek Gorge over its entire length is 1,993 feet as referenced from the 2,543 ft high point on Cedar Mountain in Tioga County to a river elevation of 550 feet at its southern, downriver end at Jersey Shore, Lycoming County. The 2,543 ft high point in Tioga County is located 1.6 mile west of the rim of the gorge. The elevation of Pine Creek at that latitude is 1000~ feet, the rim is 1800~ feet, making the gorge 800 feet deep there. In Tioga County the gorge is narrower, steeper, and less developed than in Lycoming County, where it is deeper and wider and with more complex topography. The gorge appears to be deepest at Waterville where a hilltop adjacent to the river just east of Waterville has an elevation of 2020+ feet at the head of Cemetery Hollow; the base of the hill at river level is 600 feet elevation, for a depth of 1,420~ feet. Just downriver and southeast of Ramsey the gorge is over 1300 feet deep; Houselander Mountain is 1920+ feet high, the river at the base of the Houselander Mountain is less than 580 feet elevation. Route 414, Route 44, and railroad line parallel the river in Lycoming County. A railroad line and bike trail parallel the river in Tioga County.
The West Branch Susquehanna River in Clinton County forms a long meandering gorge with depths over 1,400 feet. A hillside on the south side of the river downriver of Farwell is 1,420 feet high. River hillsides around Renovo are 900 to 1,100+ feet high. The highest land point in Clinton County is 2,375 feet elevation. In Clinton County the West Branch Susquehanna River ranges from 790~ ft to 520~ ft in elevation. The Sinnemhanoning Creek passes hills over 1,100 feet high at Round Island in Clinton County. In Cameron County the hills rise over 1,300 feet above Sinnemhanoning Creek in the areas of Jericho; at Driftwood the hills rise 1,393 feet high, and almost 1,300 feet near Bucktail State Park. The Sinnemhanoning Creek leaves Cameron Co. with an elevation of 730~ ft. The highest landpoint in Cameron County is 2,380 feet elevation.
In eastern PA the Delaware River Water Gap, where the river cuts through Kittatinny Mountain, has a max depth of 1,180~ feet on the PA side east of Stroudsburg; 1,269~ feet deep on the NJ side.
The Lewistown Narrows of the Juniata River, about 6 miles in length, has a depth of 1,623+ ft. A high point north on Shade Mt is 2,040+ feet, a high point south on Blue Mt is 2,063 feet. The river in the gap is around 440 feet el. William Penn Highway (Rt22) passes through on the north side of the gorge. Kishacoquillas Creek Gap through Jacks Mountain between Reedsville and Yeagertown along Rt322 in Mifflin Co., about 1.25 mile in length, has a river elevation from 580~ ft upriver side to 540~ ft downriver side, the nearby high points on Jacks Mt are 1,889 ft on the north side; 1,950 ft on the south side, for a gap depth of roughly 1,400 ft. Juniata River elevation in the narrows passes the 440 ft topo map contour line. A high point on Shade Mt (north of river) is 2,040+ ft, a high point on Blue Mt (south of river) is 2,063 ft on the Mifflin-Juniata County line. Jacks Narrows in Huntingdon County where the Raystown Branch Juniata River and Rt22 cuts through Jacks Mountain between Mapleton and Mount Union, about 3 miles in length, is 1,554 feet deep. A high point on Jacks Mtn is 2,104 feet, river level is 550~ feet elevation. Little Juniata River Water Gap through Tussey Mtn is 1,353~ ft deep. A high point north on Tussey Mtn is 2,083 feet, a high point south on Short Mtn is 1,811 feet, the river in the gap is around 730~ ft el (topo map contour line crossings are 740 ft upriver of gap, 700 ft downriver). Frankstown Branch Little Juniata River Water Gap is just over 1,100 ft deep. A high point north on Short Mtn is 1,800 ft, a high point south is 1,540+ ft, the river is 700 ft el. just downriver of the gap. Lehigh River Gorge from Lehigh Gorge State Park to Jim Thorpe, about 15 mile in length, is just over 1,000 feet deep. There are clusters of water gaps of varying size around Lockhaven and Jersey Shore, and around the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area. The hills along the Clarion River are in the 300-500 foot range. The hills at Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona rise just over 1,000 feet.

Depending on how exactly the depths of the gorges are measured and compared, their rankings according to depth could vary. Generally speaking, the deepest gorges in PA if measured from specific deep spots would rank thus: 1) Youghiogheny River Gorge 1,700~ ft, 2) Lewistown Narrows 1,600+ ft; 3) Conemaugh River Gorge and Jacks Narrows 1,500+ ft ; 4) Pine Creek Gorge, West Branch Susquehanna River, and Kishacoquillas Creek Gap 1,400+ ft; 5) Packsaddle Gap, Sinnemhanoning Creek Gorge, and Little Juniata River thru Tussey Mtn at Short Mtn 1,300+ ft.

For comparison the New River Gorge in West Virginia has a depth of 900 feet. Deep gorges are in western North Carolina; the Nolichucky River Gorge & the Linville Gorge. The Tallulah Gorge in Georgia has a depth of nearly 1,000 feet.

The average depth of a gorge from the rim excludes the high points of reference that are located away from the rim, uses the average river elevation of the upriver and downriver ends of the gorge, and averages a sampling of elevations along the rim of the gorge. The rim of a gorge is where the contour lines start to separate (more or less) on an online topo map at a detailed resolution of 4 meters per pixel.

Not all of the high summits in PA are named. There are unnamed summits higher than some named summits, such as the lookout tower summit (2,920+') east of Sugarloaf Knob (2,667') at Ohiopyle. See PA Highest Named Summits, PA county high points, Peakbagger.com PA county high points.

As the water quality of the rivers recovers from past coal mining and industrial activities the increasing fish populations are supporting Osprey, Bald Eagle, migrating gulls and waterfowl. River Otters have been reintroduced in some places. The river gorges offer great float trips for rafts, canoes, kayaks; and rail-to-trail bike paths.

Related links: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District | Saltsburg River and Trail Outfitters | Hazelbaker's Bottom Yough Outfitters | Exkursion Outfitters | Rocky Mountain Kayak | Benscreek Canoe and Kayak Club | Kiski-Conemaugh River Water Trail | 2005 Pennsylvania River Sojourns | Conemaugh Valley Conservancy | Rails-to-Trails Conservancy | Pine Creek Outfitters | Lehigh Gap Outfitters

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Roaring Run & Camp Run Trails

Located in southeastern Westmoreland County, on the western flank of Laurel Mountain. The Roaring Run Natural Area is south of Rt31, east of Rt711/381 & the village of Jones Mill, in the area of Bear Rocks village. Parking lots are also available on backroads in the Roaring Run area. The Camp Run Trails are on the north side of Rt31. See Forbes State Forest & Natural Areas.

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Roaring Run near Apollo

Located in southern Armstrong County across the Kiskiminetis River from Oklahoma, northern Westmoreland County. Just east of the Rt66 bridge in Apollo take the roads that follow the river upstream from the traffic light - Kiski Avenue and Canal Road - to the trail parking lot 1.25 mile from Rt66. Follow the walking path upriver 1.5 mile & make a left onto the trail that leads up the Roaring Run ravine. There are waterfalls on Rattling Run, a tributary of Roaring Run. [Roaring Run Watershed Association]

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Saint Vincent Wetlands

Monastery Run Improvement Project. A series of man-made wetlands, each consisting of a series of ponds or "cells", built to treat coal mine drainage that effects the waters of Four Mile Run, Monastery Run, & Loyalhanna Creek. The first wetlands was dedicated in 1997. Worth checking for migrating shorebirds in spring & fall. Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Dunlin, have been seen. Nest boxes are used by Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, House Wrens, Wood Ducks, & possibly Hooded Merganser. Palm Warbler & Wilson's Warbler have been seen in spring (April-May) migration. Yellow Warbler is present during the summer. The cattail marshes provide habitat for rails & bitterns. The wetlands & surrounding farm fields are good for sparrows; Song, Chipping, Swamp, Field, Savannah, Vesper, Grasshopper, & in winter/migration White-throated, White-crowned, Tree, Fox, Lincoln. Saint Vincent lake is nearby, on the other side of Four Mile Run (not to be confused with the Four Mile Run on the eastern side of nearby Chestnut Ridge). The wetlands are located at Saint Vincent Archabbey off Rt981 southbound just south of Latrobe, off Rt30 westbound just west of Rt981 & Westmoreland County Airport. Parking is at the historic Gristmill building. The wetlands are also a good place for seeing frogs & dragonflies. [St. V. Environmental Education Center]

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Sewickley Creek Wetlands

A man-made wetland & interpretive area built by the PA Turnpike Commission to replace wetlands effected by the construction of the Amos K. Hutchinson Expressway (Toll Rt 66) and donated to Westmoreland County. Located just north of RaceTrack Rd between Youngwood & New Stanton. In Youngwood go west on Depot St for 0.7 mile, turn left (south) onto RaceTrack Rd & go 0.7 mile to the wetlands (on the right) near Rt66. In summer look for the showy aquatic plants Pickerel Weed & Water Lily.

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Twin Lakes County Park

Northeast of Greensburg off the Donohoe Rd. Three miles north of Rt30. Donohoe Rd intersects Rt30 at Westmoreland Mall. From Rt30 take the Donohoe Rd. There will be a 4-way intersection with a stop sign at the top of a hill. Go straight. Make the next left. The park is on the left, after a railroad underpass. [County Parks]

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West Lebanon

West Lebanon is in Indiana County. Like the nearby Elders Ridge, birders go there during the winter months looking for Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Short-eared Owls. The raptors hunt the fields of reclaimed strip mines and farms. West Lebanon is 10.81 miles from Saltbsurg. From Saltsburg take Rt286N for 5.7 mile, pass Clarksburg Valley Inn, turn left onto Park Rd, continue 1 mile, go straight onto Blackleggs Rd, continue 1.7 mile turn left to stay on Blackleggs Rd, continue 1.6 mile turn left to stay on Blackleggs Rd. Turn left onto Shade Plain To West Lebanon Rd (Old Rt56), make next right onto Campbell Rd. Scan the fields from Campbell Rd. On March 9 2008, 14 Short-eared Owls were seen, 1 Rough legged Hawk, 2 Harriers, and an American Kestrel.

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Westmoreland County Parks

Descriptions of county parks are online at Westmoreland County Parks & Recreation

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Wolf Rocks & Spruce Flats Bog

Within Forbes State Forest, Wolf Rocks trailhead is at the Laurel Summit picnic area at the top of Linn Run Road, seven miles uphill from Rt381 (Rector village), a scenic drive through Linn Run Hollow. The Wolf Rocks Trail is a 2.6 mile hike through some rocky terrain, but well worth the time & effort for the inspiring view from Wolf Rocks of the Linn Run Hollow. Spruce Flats Bog is a short hike from the picnic area on a gravel path, starting at a trail sign near the restrooms. The bog is a unique habitat. It contains the carnivorous Sundew & Pitcher Plants. There is Cranberry, Cotton Grass. In June in the bog area can be heard Veery, Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Canada Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Blue-headed (Solitary) Vireo. Year round is Raven, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, & a possibility of Saw-whet Owl. This is also Bear, Bobcat, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, Timber Rattlesnake country. In summer the nearby Hickory Flats Road is good for Least Flycatchers. See Forbes State Forest.

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Youngwood Swamp

Located between Youngwood & Westmoreland County Community College. From Rt119 in Youngwood turn at the traffic light onto Depot St & head toward the college. Swamp is on the other side of Jack's Run, on the right-hand side of the road if heading from Youngwood toward the college. Park at the Five Star Trail parking just after the railroad tracks, walk across the bridge & turn right onto the trail into the swamp. Migrating shorebirds, rails, herons can be seen here. A rare sighting includes Black-crowned Night-Heron. The Five Star Trail passes nearby.

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River Kayak & Canoe Floats, Put-ins and Take-outs.
Flat water, Class I, Class II at low (to mid) river levels.

This section will become a separate web page. Distances, times, directions will be included. A river access that is "developed" means there has been a ramp (R), albeit maybe a primitive carry-in but effective path, that has been cleared and might be maintained. There might be parking (P) at the access or nearby. A river access that is undeveloped has not had a ramp or path cleared, there might not be parking at the access, or there might be "unofficial" space for parking at site or nearby. Carry in/out might be rough and steep. River floats in/near Westmoreland County are on the Loyalhanna Creek, Conemaugh River, Kiskiminetas River, Youghiogheny River.

Loyalhanna Creek put-ins and take-outs, from upstream to downstream, are: Rt217-Rt30 at Kingston, creek right at bridge, undeveloped P nearby; Rt982 bridge, creek right, undeveloped P nearby; Legion Keener Park downtown Latrobe, creek right, developed RP; 3rd bridge (Sanderson Bridge) on McFarland Rd (north extention of Ligonier Street) just downstream from the bridge off Longs Road, creek left, developed RP; bridge on Oasis Rd (Craigs Mill Bridge) upstream of New Alexandria, creek right, undeveloped w/P nearby; Old Rt22 bridge site, creek left, west of New Alexandria, just upstream from Rt22, developed RP; Bush Recreation Area of Loyalhanna (Creek) Lake, river right, developed RP; Loyalhanna Dam, creek left, difficult hillside path for portage, P at dam site park; Loyalhanna Dam Tailwater, creek left, undeveloped; bridge on Loyalhanna Dam Road, creek right, undeveloped; Saltsburg across the Conemaugh River, river right, developed RP. Loyalhanna Creek is floatable from Kingstone Dam down stream when the Kingston gage reads 2.5 feet (w/some scraping), 4 feet being optimal (no scraping), anything over 5 ft is muddy, swift, with high water debri. Loyalhanna Creek from Ligonier to Kingston (thru Loyalhanna Gorge) is more rocky whitewater, a busy obstacle course. Latrobe to Bush Recreation Area is an easier, leasurely 4 hour float. Loyalhanna Dam to Saltsburg is a 1 hour float. Summer low water will read at 1.13 feet at the Kingston gage, too low for floating.

Conemaugh River put-ins and take-outs; New Florence 9th Street extension (Old River Hill Rd) at the railroad bridge, river left, undeveloped; Robinson (Packsaddle Gap Access) on Caroline Street, behind the Robinson Community Club, river right, developed RP; Blairsville at the Bairdstown Bridge River Access, river right, developed RP; Conemaugh Dam Tailwater, river right, developed RP; Tunnelton bridge, river left, undeveloped RP; Saltsburg, river right, developed RP. Floatable when the Seward or Tailwater gages read 2.5 feet (some scraping at 2.5 ft), 3 to 4 feet is optimal. New Florence to Robinson is a 2 hour float, with a whitewater drop (single roller wave) approaching Robinson. Worth scouting and maybe portaging for inexperienced paddlers depending on water height. Packsaddle Gap, where Conemaugh River cuts through Chestnut Ridge, from Robinson to Blairsville is a 4 to 5 hour float. Conemaugh Dam Tailwater to Saltsburg is a 3 hour float.

Kiskiminetas River put-ins and take-outs; Saltsburg, river right, developed RP; Avonmore, at the Avonmore Municipal Authority Water Collection site, a mile down river from the bridge, river left, developed RP; Salina, river left, undeveloped; Apollo, river right, developed P w/o R; Hyde Park, undeveloped; Leechburg, developed?; Freeport, developed?. Saltsburg to Avonmore is a 4.5 mile, 1.5 hour float. Avonmore to Apollo is a 7.5 mile, 4 hour float.

Youghiogheny River put-ins and take-outs: Connellsville riverside park, at the Rt119 bridge, river left, developed RP; Dawson, river right, undeveloped; Hazelbakers, near Perryoplis, river right, developed RP; Smithton at the Rt981 bridge, river right, undeveloped; alittle further down river from Smithton Rt981 bridge, around a left river bend, natural beach shoreline, bike trail parking nearby, river left, undeveloped; Ceder Creek Park, river left, developed RP; West Newton, developed?; Boston, river left, developed RP; McKeesport, developed?.

Canoeable Streams in Western Pennsylvania | USGS Real-Time Data for PA Streamflow
American Whitewater - PA State Rivers | American Whitewater - ViewAccident
PA Boat Access Areas | Boat Registration & Titling

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