Weekend in the woods: Whipple Dam

When I was first thinking of moving to Pennsylvania, one thing I kept hearing was how many wonderful hiking opportunities there are here. So when I did make the move, I expected to be taking at least one hike every weekend. It then proceeded to rain all weekend the first two weekends I was here. So it goes.

This weekend, however, has been beautiful, and I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and head to a park I see a sign for every day on my way to campus: Whipple Dam State Park.

A view of the beach from the boat ramp

While this park is rather tiny at only 256 acres, it certainly makes the most of what it has. It boasts a small but lovely lake with multiple shelter houses, a boat launch, and a sand beach.There are several great picnicking areas and it seemed to be a popular spot for fishing. It was predictably busy with families spending Memorial Day weekend outside enjoying the sun.

While I’m sure I’ll spend some time on that beach in the future, today the attraction of the park was the 3-mile Lake Trail. It is a loop trail, starting on one side of the lake and following the beautiful stream that feeds it before crossing it and emerging on the lake’s far side. It is a trail that certainly keeps you interested, winding through stands of hemlock, jungles of rhododendron, and tall forests of oak and pine.

The going was a little rough at times, but that’s to be expected hiking in the lowlands by a lake. While many of the wet areas had bridges, some had more creative solutions.

An interesting crossing

One thing I noticed while on the hike was the abundant bird life. I wasn’t exactly an early riser this morning, but there was still plenty of singing when I got out there around 9:30am. I heard several species of warblers, the flute-like song of a Veery, and saw Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows showing off their acrobatic skills over the water of the lake.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow Whipple Dam
A Northern Rough-winged Swallow waiting to strike

Overall, I would call this morning a success. Next time I plan to get out a little earlier to catch more of the birdsong, and probably pack some bug spray for the lowland parts of the trail. I might even bring a swimsuit and cool off in the lake after my hike. However, before I make a return visit to this park I plan on picking another to visit. Next weekend I’ll be visiting the Hoosier state, so look out for Weekend in the woods: Spring Mill.


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