Agency Spotlight: Locust Lake State Park
Known for its popular camping area, Locust Lake State Park nestles on the side of Locust Mountain. The 52-acre Locust Lake is located between two campgrounds and is surrounded by beautiful forests. Hiking and fishing are popular activities in the 1,772-acre park. Tuscarora State Park is nearby.
The 282 campsites are divided into tent or trailer sites that encircle the lake. Tenting is permitted on the north side of the lake and in the trailer facilities are on the south side of the lake. All areas are within easy access to swimming, boating, fishing and hiking.
All campsites are in a wooded area and have a parking pad, picnic table, fire ring and a cleared area for camping equipment. There are also a number of walk-in sites. Campground conveniences include modern restrooms and washhouses with shower facilities. A sanitary dump station is on the trailer side of the lake. Trash/recycling areas are on the north and south sides of the lake.
There are three play areas within the campgrounds. Two playgrounds are in the trailer loops and one is on the tent side of the lake. Playground equipment is designed for a variety of age groups.
The 52-acre Locust Lake has a boat launch. Rowboats, canoes and pedal boats are available at the a boat rental concession.
The lake and beach is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset for swimming. For anglers, the lake is a warm-water fishery and receives several stockings of brown and brook trout annually. Pickerel, bass (largemouth and smallmouth) and panfish give anglers action in all seasons.
There are almost seven miles of trails throughout Locust Lake State Park:
- Oak/Ridge Trail: 0.75 mile, easiest hiking, white/blue blazes. This interpretive trail winds along a woodland creek, through a mature forest and through young woodland areas. Along the entire loop of this self-guiding trail, species of trees and other vegetation are marked and posted with educational signs.
- Oak/Hemlock Trail: 2 miles, more difficult hiking, white/yellow blazes. This trail is blazed through a mature hemlock stand through which flows a woodland stream. The trail also passes by a unique geological outcropping.
- Oak Loop Trail: 4 miles, most difficult hiking, white blazes. The longest of the loop trails, it encircles a ridge covered by a mature deciduous forest.
A paved, 1.3-mile long bike trail circles the lake and gives an excellent view of the lake.
About 1,728 acres of Locust Lake State Park are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are deer, pheasant, rabbit, squirrel, turkey, grouse and dove. Special regulations areas allowing only bow and arrow and flintlock muzzleloader hunting are in several areas of Locust Lake.
Before European Settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, a deep forest of hemlock, white pine, ash, hickory, elm, oak, cherry and American chestnut covered the Locust Valley.
The Lenni Lenape claimed the land, then it was conquered by the Susquehannocks, and finally controlled by the New York Iroquois League of Five Nations.
When settlers discovered anthracite coal in Schuylkill County, immigrants swiftly arrived for the mining jobs reaching the Locust Valley in the mid-1800s. It was not economically feasible to mine the coal in the Locust Valley, but the area did not escape the American Industrial Revolution.
The forests fell to the logger’s ax as sawmills turned the trees into lumber, shingles, tool handles and other wood products. Tanneries crushed hemlock and white pine bark for tanning leather. Colliers burned chestnuts and oaks into charcoal. Strong timbers supported the roofs of mines. The forests were gone by the early 1900s, replaced by shrubby land prone to seasonal floods and forest fires. Some farmers tilled the cleared land.
Purchased by the Marshalonis Brothers, the Locust Lake area became a fishing spot and picnic grove. When digging a lake, the brothers found a dam, boards and the hub of a waterwheel under seven feet of leaves, silt and debris. The remains of an old logging mill and dam were buried under silt from flooding and runoff caused by the removal of all of the trees for lumber during the logging era.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the Marshalonis Brothers land in 1966. Locust Lake State Park officially opened on June 10, 1972.
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