Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Middle Creek / Project 70

Middle Creek 
Wildlife Management Area
Kleinfeltersville, PA
Golden Meadow Flowers
On this episode of Camp Martin Travels we are off to visit Middle Creek Wildlife Preserve, also known as Project 70.  My grandparents were avid hikers during their retirement years and introduced my brother and I to the great outdoors.  Some of our fondest memories of time with my grandparents were trips to Middle Creek.  We hiked one of our favorite trails and then had a old school picnic with the essential Hibachi portable charcoal grill as the star of the show.  The best thing about preserving land for nature, is that it also preserves memories for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Middle Creek Valley
The name Project 70 comes from the Pennsylvania law entitled The Project 70 Land Acquisition and Borrowing Act, which enabled the state to purchase lands by issuing bonds.  The law opened the door for Pennsylvania to create and expand more than thirty conservation and recreational areas for the public.  The seventy million dollar bond also helped protect many historic sites for future generations.  Originally known as the Oak-Hickory Forest, the 1,700 acre area was expanded to more than 5,000 acres with Project 70 funding.  The low area was flooded to create a 400 acre shallow lake to provide habitat for water fowl.  The best thing about the preserve is that it hasn't changed a whole lot since I was a kid and as a result, my own kids were able to experience it as I did many years ago.

 Conservation Trail / Ending Point
The center point of the preserve is the Visitor's Center, which is operated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  The Visitor's Center houses a small museum that outlines the mission of the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.  There are a lot of kid friendly displays of animal furs, antlers and other wildlife themed exhibits. There are many close-up visual examples of the wildlife in the area, including many displays of taxidermy and colorful paintings.  My favorite display is the three dimensional physical map of the preserved area where you can trace the routes of the trails and locations of picnic area parks. There is a manned Game Commission Ranger Station inside where you can ask questions, pick up maps, and purchase some nature themed items such as a bird watching guidebooks.  It's also a great place to get a cool drink and use indoor restroom facilities.  

 Visitor Center Wildflowers
One of the attractions of the Visitor's Center is the wildflower garden around the two separate front entrance doorways.  Black-eyed Susan, violet lavender, and purple butterfly bushes abound filled with colorful insects at work, such as the abundant yellow swallowtail butterflies that were busy pollinating the flowers.  There were two hummingbird feeders that were vacant on our last visit but have provided an up close view of the tiny hovering birds on past visits.  The back of the center has an indoor observation deck, complete with binoculars to take in the impressive view of the reservoir in the valley below.  On your way out the door you can grab a complimentary copy of the Pennsylvania Game News magazine.  The publication always has a beautiful painting on the cover depicting Pennsylvania's wildlife.  My brother and I always liked to read them in the car on our way back home. 

View of the Reservoir
My favorite trail to hike at Middle Creek is the Conservation Trail that begins in the upper parking lot above the Visitor's Center.  The mile long trail is a nice mix of different types of environments and can be easily completed by the beginner but is fun for people of all ability levels.  The trail starts up a gentle rise through a grass meadow, followed by a turn onto the edge of a cornfield planted for the benefit of the white tailed deer and other wildlife.  The trail turns into the woods for a short time and comes out onto the top of the meadow hill where you started.  This gives you a beautiful view of the reservoir and valley below.  A short walk up to the top of the rise turns you back into the woods where you walk across the top of the ridge.  There are educational displays along the way, including signs that identify many species of trees, birdhouses, and other critter shelters.  Soon you descend the woods and walk between the treeline and the opposite side of the cornfields you previously passed near the start of the trail.  Within minutes, you enter into the wetlands section of the trail.
A Tranquil Pond
The wetlands were always our favorite part of the Conservation Trail because you cross the large swamp on long narrow wooden bridges, passing over the damp ground and several small creeks.  Eventually, you enter into the woods again and soon encounter a rocky flat area that rises up slightly to bring you out of the woods.  You are now on top of a beautiful meadow hillside filled with wildflowers that slopes down to a large lily-pad covered pond.  The Visitor's Center can be seen on the far side of the pond above another colorful meadow.  There are several routes you can take back to the center, each having different sights.  Most of the trails at Middle Creek give you the option to end your hike in close proximity to where you started.  The Conservation Trail enables you to hit the Visitor's Center again to empty your tank in the bathroom and refill your other tank at the water fountain.  Always a plus when Nature calls!

 Middle Creek Trail / 2005
(Tyler and friend Alexander Chavez)
The most challenging route is a combination of three separate trails that form a triangle over the Oak-Hickory Forest.  The start of the trail's route is a little hard to see along Kleinfeltersville Road just past the reservoir's dam.  Look for a sign marking the start of Middle Creek Trail.  The trail cuts a straight line right through the woods a few feet away from the creek that gives the trail its name.  The pathway is a little rocky because it was once used as a trolley railway for a local business and you are walking on the stones of the former rail-bed, an early example of Rails to Trails conservation.  The trail rises above the creek providing beautiful views of the cascading water that is fed by a multitude of mountain springs along the way.  At times the trail rises thirty or more feet above the creek and passes by some nice cottages nestled along the far bank of the creek.  The trail suddenly ends at a parking lot where you can pick up the start of the next trail.

Elder's Run Trail / 1999 
(Tyler at Homestead Foundation)
Elders Run Trail is a wide stone trail that resembles a road more than a pathway up the mountain.  It is frequently traveled by people on horseback.  The trail is a little challenging because it ascends the mountain and can be a little steep at times.  As you get close to the summit there is an abandoned  homestead off to the left hidden just beyond some evergreen trees.  The place is a mystery, built of red sandstone in the colonial style.  All that remains is the foundation that consisted of two rooms and a root storage cellar below one side.  A large slab of stone marks the location where an entrance once existed with the tall stone fireplace hearth and chimney rise just inside.  There is a matching spring house nearby that still flows with cool water.  I have asked rangers about the small isolated homestead but no one seems to know much about its history.  Former fields, if they ever existed, are long overgrown and lost to the forest once again.  It is a great place to stop and take a break before starting the last leg of your journey.

 The Horseshoe Trail
Within a few yards after leaving the old homestead your path will intersect the Horseshoe Trail, which will take you along the crest of the mountain.  Take the path to the right, up a slope to the crest of the ridge.  The trail is wide and well marked resembling an old country rural road from a bygone era.  Soon the path narrows and you follow the trail as it begins to wind downward through thick woods.  Suddenly, you enter into a power-cut gap that houses tall electrical trusses that are spaced far apart.  Sometimes you can see birds of prey roosting on the steel towers searching the briers and tall weeds of the gap for prey.  On the other side you reenter the woods and continue you way down.  Small tree frogs and toads can sometimes be found here.  Eventually, you can hear unseen vehicles traveling down Kleinfeltersville Road, a sure sign you are almost back to the start. 

Willow Point Trail
There are a few other short trails to explore, each with its own unique personality.  Millstone Trail is a steep climb straight up the mountain with a grand view as a reward at the top.  Across the road is Deer Path Trail, a short walk along the edge of the bank of the large reservoir.  On the road toward Kleinfeltersville is a nice wide paved trail called Willow Point Trail.  This wheelchair accessible trail takes you to a view of the reservoir from the opposite side.   It is a good spot to take in the spectacle of the waterfowl in season.  There is a new pavilion at the end that serves as an observation point.  All the trails give a different perspective and hiking experience in each of the four seasons.  Fall is my favorite time to take in the bright colorful foliage of the preserve.  The main attraction of the year is always the huge numbers of migrating snow geese who appear in February into late March but... that's another story for next time!

Deer Path Trail
So next time you want to get out and experience nature, head to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and explore the Visitor's Center, hiking trails, and multiple views of the water. It hasn't changed a whole lot in the past forty years, with the exception of the seasons. Just the way Mother Nature and the Pennsylvania Game Commission intended.  You might want to try your luck fishing but my brother and I never had much success.  Most people down by the reservoir are hoping to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or great blue heron fishing.  Cars pulled off on the shoulder of Kleinfeltersville Road are a sure sign there is something to see.  Birdwatchers are the only hunters you will ever see in the preserve with the exception of the occasional deer spotter at dusk.  I would have to agree with historian and filmmaker Ken Burns who created the phrase... National Parks, America's Best Idea!  You don't have to go to Yellowstone, land preserved for nature anywhere is a national treasure!

Please See My Additional Photos of Middle Creek at...

As Tyler often said... Ya all come back now... ya hear!


1 comment:

  1. My husband and I visit Middlecerek at least once a month. We were there Saturday at 7am to see the amazing snow geese. It is definitely worth getting up early to see!!!!!!!!!!
    Deb Herr


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