Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — December 2011

Millbrook Marsh Nature Center

by Helena Kotala

Burr oak at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center

Dr. Stan Kotala with burr oak at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center · Photo by Helena Kotala

If you’re looking for a great place to enjoy the outdoors close to home, check out Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. Located between State College and Houserville, this local 62-acre park is run by Centre Region Parks and Recreation and offers a landscape dominated by marsh and the three streams that run through the Millbrook Marsh property — Bathgate Springs Run, Thompson Run, and Slab Cabin Run.

This riparian landscape, mixed with some forest and pasture land, makes for an excellent environment in which various wildlife species thrive. On any given day, it is not uncommon to see waterfowl, such as mallards and great blue herons, as well as various marshland plants, such as cattails, jewelweed and various species of sedges and rushes.

Millbrook Marsh is also home to a two-acre calcareous fen, a habitat in which groundwater rich in magnesium and calcium bicarbonates and sulfates seep up through the limestone bedrock to the surface, creating alkaline soil conditions that support only a very specialized set of plants. This habitat is very rare, not only in our region but also in all of North America.

The nature center has several different trails in various forms, including simple grass paths, bike paths, and a boardwalk system that allows for the comfortable yet intimate enjoyment of the surroundings and wildlife. Observation decks in the middle of the marsh are great places to relax, birdwatch, or take photos. A map of all the different trails at Millbrook Marsh can be found at the Centre Region Parks and Recreation website.

Not only does Millbrook Marsh offer great opportunities for hiking and wildlife observation, it also has an interesting historical background. Some of the nature center property contains prehistoric Indian sites. Archeologists have found stone pieces that were left as waste during the making of stone tools by early peoples as well as a hearth, which was radiocarbon dated to the year 745 A.D. The Millbrook Marsh area was most likely a fertile farmland due to its floodplain and a nearby jasper quarry that provided the stone needed to make tools such as spear points, knives, and arrowheads.

If you go: Millbrook Marsh is located at 548 Puddintown Road, State College, in College Township. From SR 26, turn onto Puddintown Road and go approximately ½ mile down the road. The parking lot is next to the visitor center (an old barn). The nature center grounds are open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk.

Helena Kotala is an undergraduate student in Geography at Penn State University and Outings Co-Chair for the Sierra Club Moshannon Group.