Dear Old State… Parks: Black Moshannon
I decided to skip celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in downtown State College this year, and instead headed to another one of Happy Valley’s state parks. I took a recommendation from a friend and made Black Moshannon the destination of the day and it turned out to be a great experience.
The Black Moshannon area was first settled with the opening of the Philadelphia-Erie pike in 1821 and the establishment of the Antes House. The park centers around the lake, which had been used for hunting and fishing by Seneca Indians long before the pike opened.
The “Moshannon” half of the name means “Moose Stream” with the “Black” part of the name being used to describe the dark waters of the lake. The water is fresh and clean of course, but as it flows down through plant roots and into the bog that surrounds the lake it becomes colored by plant tannins and takes on the dark, tea-like color.
The most important source of development for the area was the Beaver Mill Lumber Company, an operation so large it was floating 11 million feet of logs in a single year and supporting 20 saws, more than any other operation in Pennsylvania. Around the turn of the 20th century, the area also featured a one-room schoolhouse, which still stands today.
For a park that lives on its water access and the ability to boat and fish, I picked a bad day to visit. Sure, the weather has been warmer lately, but the lake is still covered in a thick layer of ice. I did have the opportunity to see a few other visitors taking time to ice fish while I made my way around the lake, but there was no chance I was trekking quite that far out onto the lake.
The concessions stand wasn’t open for the season yet, so it was a good decision to bring food with me again. I’ve got to say — I have never seen more picnic tables in one place at one time.
Even more interesting than the abundance of picnic tables was the bison farm that I stumbled across as I made my way back one of the roads in the park. I have no information about who owns the farm or why they chose to put it atop a state park, but as I made my way around a bend, there were bison everywhere.
The best part of wandering around a park for an afternoon is just never knowing what to expect. The area is rich with trails to follow, like the Sleepy Hollow trail — is a short one with a quarter mile loop right near the beach just in case you aren’t able to make use of the lake itself.
Black Moshannon is a beautiful area, and I wish I came to visit once it was warm enough to take a boat out.
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