Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — September 2004

Paddling at Prince Gallitzin State Park

by Dave Coleman

I can get up much earlier when camping. For me, there is something more intriguing about the early morning in the outdoors than in suburbia. It was still dark and I had loaded a few items into a dry bag and had a pot of coffee brewed before my father — who is the most consistent earliest riser on earth — arrived. We were staying at the Crooked Run Campground of Prince Gallitzin State Park — my family and I for a few weekdays, my father for just that night before. After a quick two cups and a few minutes enjoying the pre-dawn setting, we set out for the short 2 mile drive to the Killbuck Launch Area of Glendale Lake.

It was already fairly light as we shoved our separate canoes off the shore and paddled across the Killbuck inlet to the Mud Lick inlet. We were alone on the lake — at least the portion of the lake we could observe from the southwest corner of the Park — except for the abundance of wildlife we observed. As we paddled up Mud Lick inlet kingfishers darted out from the trees over the water and back, wood ducks pretended to be injured as they flapped and fluttered across the water as they led us from their nests. A bare tree hosted a dozen or so warblers, while flickers flew between other trees. Large bass jumped occasionally as Herons (Great Blue and Green) patrolled the waters. Dad saw an osprey over the point between the two inlets.

I followed Dad as he paddled up to the very top of the inlet — where a channel through the Cattails, Tea-berries and Touch-Me-Nots allowed us to get the canoes through a couple of hundred yards. After painstakingly sliding our canoes over a log (while balancing on it) and then passing through a bushy thicket, we were rewarded with 30 feet more of canoeable water. We de-boated and surveyed the marshy-grassy wetland where Mud Lick (also know as Beaverdam Run) weaved a drainage channel too small to navigate. We were not able to explore it much as the boggy terrain was full of holes and thick with grasses and cattails. We re-launched and re-negotiated the thicket and log and paddled out and down the Mud Lick inlet on the other side — investigating the dozen or so Wood Duck boxes mounted along the lake-bog shore.

We returned to the campground after a couple of hours to have breakfast with my family and then afterwards we all returned to the lake to paddle the Killbuck inlet. The shoreline was little different than that of the Mud Lick inlet, and the wildlife observed included the same players as earlier that morning, but since it was later and warmer, we did notice many turtles on the logs and frogs jumping from the shore as we paddled near. And, like the other inlet, we paddled into the feeder stream (Killbuck Run) and followed it a couple of hundred yards upstream of the Bridge (Beaver Valley Road) to where the trout stream was too shallow to paddle. Here the banks were wooded with Hemlock, Maple and Oak predominantly. We waded a little in the cool stream under the cool canopy of hemlocks and ate bananas.

From our few days at Prince Gallitzin, it was evident that this end of the lake was the most biologically diverse — with the inlet-wetland complexes. Other parts of the lake are pretty, but the combination of power boat traffic (20 HP limit) and the artificial shoreline (this is a man-made lake) in the deeper sections limit the natural habitat available. Amid the abundant flora and fauna we observed between the Killbuck and Mud Lick inlets, was the irony that this is the very part of the state park that Governor Rendell is pushing for a private resort development complete with a golf course. This resort would be built in the watersheds of both Mud Lick and Killbuck Run and involve much clearing of forest (to facilitate the layout of the golf course up to the lake), filling of wetlands as well as the resulting water, noise and light pollution. These impacts are exactly what this recovering eco-system does not need.

Prince Gallitzin State Park does not have to have any other amenities to keep the park visitor busy and intrigued. The Crooked Run Campground is very modern with like-new bathhouses with showers, paved roads and site-spurs, a camp store and an amphitheatre. Of the 437 sites, approximately 80 are electric. About as many sites are along the lake front with the campground’s own swimming beach, boat rental and launch area.

Besides the campground, the larger park has many attractions surrounding the lake: Nine public boat launching areas, two large marinas, 26 miles of shoreline to fish, 20 miles of mountain bike trails, 12 miles of hiking trails, two swimming beaches and 1,000 picnic tables scattered across the 6,248 acre park.

Prince Gallitzin State Park is a very good park despite its mediocre reputation (to the recreationist as well as the naturalist, it competes with many other great state parks in the Commonwealth). Our state parks are for the citizens of Pennsylvania (and our visitors) to enjoy our natural heritage. It is difficult to accomplish this without some development of infrastructure, but I found Prince Gallitzin to be developed enough. We were able to explore all areas of the park by canoe, bike or on foot with the facilities already developed. Ill-conceived proposals like the one considered here would compromise the whole purpose of which our parks were created.

Prince Gallitzin is worth your visit, and is worth the protection it, and all of our public lands, deserve.

Dave Coleman is a member of the Moshannon Group and the public lands co-chair of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club.