Land Conservation

West Branch French Creek Conservation Area

The Conservation Area includes a variety of upland and wetland areas and more than 4.5 miles of frontage along the West Branch of French Creek. There are extensive areas of forested wetlands, including oxbows and old side channels, which provide important habitat for a diversity of plants and animals.

HIKING

WILDLIFE WATCHING

HUNTING & FISHING

Within the Conservation Area is a unique shrub-fen community known as Lowville Fen. Fens are permanent wetlands fed by calcium-rich groundwater that support species requiring a high pH. As fen ecosystems are rare in Pennsylvania, and limited to the glaciated northwestern region, they contain many rare plant species endemic to these areas. These species include highbush-cranberry, alder-leaved buckthorn, leafy northern green orchid, slender cotton-grass, and mud sedge.

General Information

Location

Venango Township, Erie County

Dates Acquired

1996 - 2012

Size

Separate parcels cover 602 acres

Notable Features

Slow-moving stream, floodplain and associated wetlands, alkaline fen, beaver ponds, hemlock forested wetland

Directions

The primary access is along the east side of Rt. 8, near the village of Lowville, approximately 4 miles north of Wattsburg, Erie Co., PA. Look for a dirt and asphalt pull-off set a short distance from the road. Other portions may be accessed from Page Road to the north, and Half Moon Road to the east. - VIEW ON MAP

Recreational Activities

Picnicing

From the parking area off Rt. 8, a short, paved, handicapped-accessible path leads to a covered pavilion containing tables and grills.

Hiking

Also from the parking area, a 1.1-mile loop unpaved hiking trail leads north to a series of picturesque beaver ponds. A rough-hewn log boardwalk, or puncheon, traverses a wetland located just below a beaver dam. The trail then turns to circle an old Christmas tree plantation, and skirts along the edge of the West Branch French Creek floodplain. Depending on the season, portions of the trail may be quite wet.

From Half Moon Road, visitors can walk along an old farm road through old fields and a reclaimed gravel mine to reach the edge of the floodplain forest. At the end of the trail, a stone bench overlooks a small pond and wetland.

Hunting and Fishing

Both hunting and fishing are permitted in accordance with state regulations, although hunting is not permitted on Sundays. Please exercise caution and wear blaze orange during hunting season.  Trapping is not permitted.

Visiting Guidelines

When visiting West Branch French Creek Conservation Area, please remember:

  • Only foot-traffic is permitted.
  • Camping and campfires are prohibited.
  • If you carry it in, carry it out.
  • Dogs must be on a leash or otherwise kept under control at all times.
  • Collecting (animals, plants, rocks, etc.) without permission is prohibited.
  • Review the Guidelines for Public Use of WPC Properties document prior to your visit

Plan Your Visit

West Branch French Creek Conservation Area GPS Coordinates: 42.044515, -79.843115

Portions of the trail can be quite wet depending on the season, weather, or beaver activity. There’s also a narrow plank walkway to negotiate. Wear boots or shoes that can get wet, apply sunscreen and bring water. Be prepared for your visit with the following resources. We recommend downloading these files to your device prior to visiting.

Maps of West Branch French Creek Conservation Area

ONLINE MAP

Get Directions

PROPERTY MAP

Find Trails & Activities

INTERACTIVE MAP

Explore the WPC Map

For More Information:

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
800 Waterfront Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

toll-free: 1-866-564-6972
fax: 412-231-1414
info@paconserve.org