Agency Spotlight: Bald Eagle State Forest
Bald Eagle forest district lies in the beautiful ridge and valley section of the state. From the limestone-rich Susquehanna Valley in the southeast to the Allegheny Mountains in the northwest, the forest district is dominated by a series of sandstone ridges some of which reach heights of 2,300 feet above sea level. The confluence of the west and north branches of the Susquehanna River occurs on the eastern boundary of the district, opposite the town of Northumberland. The many streams within the area have their origin in the forested ridges and flow in several directions eventually emptying into the Susquehanna River. Public watersheds comprise over one-third of the Bald Eagle State Forest, making the wise management of this land essential.
This area of the Pennsylvania was settled in the late 1700s and was the last stronghold of the mountain buffalo in the state. The large landholdings that make up much of the present-day Bald Eagle State Forest were assembled from original land grants given to Revolutionary War soldiers. They were purchased by the major logging and lumbering companies in the late 1880s and 1890s. Over 120,000 acres were either sold to the state following extensive logging or were bought at tax sales. The average price for land at that time was $2.30 per acre, a great bargain for the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Bald Eagle State Forest has over 200 miles of hiking trails.
Mid State Trail:
The Mid State Trail, (MST) is a 189-mile cross-country hiking trail that parallels the route of the old Penns Creek Indian Path. Following the MST across the Bald Eagle from south to north, it follows the ridge top northeast from Route 322, through Poe Paddy State Park, across Penns Creek, and into Hairy Johns Picnic Area. It then continues through The Hook Natural Area, R.B. Winter State Park, and continues north into the Tiadaghton State Forest.
The Mid State Trail is a rugged and demanding mountain top trail, and hikers must assess their own ability to cope with the difficulties and possible dangers involved. The MST is marked with orange rectangles. It was developed and is maintained by the Mid State Trail Association. A detailed trail guide, including maps, is available for a small fee from: Mid State Trail Association at P.O. Box 167 Boalsburg PA 16827 or http://hike-mst.org.
Horses may be ridden on most state forest roads and trails except the Mid State Hiking Trail and within state forest natural areas. Some trails are very steep or rocky, and their use may be limited. The Central Mountains Shared Use Trail is recommended for this activity, and maps may be obtained from the district office.
Mountain bikes may be used on most roads and trails in the Bald Eagle State Forest. The degree of difficulty varies considerably. Only the natural areas and Mid State Trail are closed to mountain biking.
The East Kettle Trail has been designated for winter and summer riding opportunities. ATV’s must be registered with DCNR and comply with other regulations. There are also two designated motorcycle trails within the state forest. One is a dual sport trail and one for off highway motorcycles which is found on Shade Mountain. For more information visit the ATV Information web pages.
Snowmobiling: Bald Eagle State Forest has over 300 miles of state forest roads and trails open for snowmobiling. Maps showing the location of the roads and eight access areas are available from the district office. Properly registered snowmobiles may be operated on these roads following the official closing of antlerless deer season.
Cross-country Skiing: 24 miles of cross-country ski trails have been developed, with trail-heads at R.B. Winter State Park and Hairy Johns Picnic Area.
There are four designated State Forest Picnic Areas located within the Bald Eagle State Forest. Rock Springs and Snyder-Middleswarth picnic areas are located in Snyder County. Fishing is available in Swift Run at Snyder-Middleswarth Picnic Area. Hairy Johns Picnic Area is in Centre County, and Bear Gap Picnic Area, located in Mifflin County, offers fishing in Treaster Run. Picnic tables and grills are also found at the Tea Springs Trailhead in Clinton County.
Motorized camping is allowed at approximately 40 designated locations throughout the Bald Eagle State Forest. These sites have a fire ring and off road parking. Camping permits are required for those sites and are available from the district office. Backpackers may camp along the hiking trails if they stay no more than one night in any location and follow Bureau of Forestry camping guidelines.
Hunting for deer, turkey, grouse, squirrels, rabbits, and black bear is a popular use of the forest during the designated seasons. Other than a few safety zones around buildings and picnic areas, hunting is permitted throughout the state forest.
Fishing & Boating
Fishing is permitted during the appropriate season in the 14 streams within the Bald Eagle District. Particularly noteworthy are Penns Creek and White Deer Creek. Along the Centre and Mifflin County sections of Penns Creek, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has established a “trophy trout” stretch of stream where year-around trout fishing is permitted. An artificial lure, catch and release area is located downstream.
Twenty-five vistas within the Bald Eagle State Forest offer varied views of both state-owned and private land within and surrounding the district. Most of these vistas are marked on the public use map. Driving and walking for pleasure are major recreational uses of the forest. The district has 340 miles of roads and over 200 miles of trails. Deer, turkey, grouse, squirrels, and black bear are common game species that visitors may encounter on the State Forest.
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