Pittsburgh, Pa. – June 15, 2022 –
Do you have a young nature enthusiast who loves to learn and explore? These five Western Pennsylvania Conservancy preserves, which feature trails that are short to moderate in length, are suited for small legs and curious minds. Andy Zadnik, director of land stewardship, takes his own children exploring on these preserves.
There’s nothing like splashing in a cool stream on a hot summer day. “If the water level is low, families can carefully wade to look for crayfish and other aquatic creatures,” Andy says. Spring wildflowers are a highlight. The carpet of mayapples makes a forest of tiny green umbrellas. “I encourage kids to get down to a gnome’s perspective and imagine what creatures are living under there,” Andy notes, adding that box turtles love the mayapple fruit. Rest on a rustic wooden bench after a short uphill climb partway around the 1.5-mile loop trail.
Watch for giant anthills built by Allegheny mound ants about halfway around the 3.0-mile blazed loop trail. “Each grain of sand was moved from underground by one little ant!” Andy says. “On a hot sunny day, watch how far into the forest the ants disperse to go about their business.” Note how the types of trees and the natural communities change as you progress through varying terrain. Benches provide resting spots for young and older legs alike.
This is a great destination for fishing and paddling. “Families can fish right from our dock, or launch their canoe—after making sure it’s clean so as not to introduce an invasive species—and paddle down the lake and into the outlet,” Andy says. Look for frogs among the water lilies and spatterdock, a beaver lodge and dam, and pitcher plants growing in the floating mats of sphagnum.
Get up close to a real beaver dam as you walk along a log “boardwalk” that runs parallel to the creation by nature’s architects. “You need good balance to walk on the boardwalk,” Andy notes. “Be prepared for it to be flooded, muddy and possibly slippery.” The 1.1-mile trail loops around a former Christmas tree grove of spruce and fir trees that typically wouldn’t occur in that area unless humans introduced them. “It gives you a feel that you’re much further north than you are,” Andy says.
This popular preserve features an easy half-mile trail to a manmade pond, a great place to look for dragonflies, Andy says. “Kids can watch and listen for frogs and turtles as well as ducks, geese, swallows and other birds,” he adds. Keep an eye out for fish in the pond!
About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy:
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) enhances the region by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, WPC has helped establish 11 state parks, conserved more than a quarter million acres of natural lands, protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams, and assessed thousands of wildlife species and their habitats. The Conservancy owns and operates Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 130 community gardens and other green spaces and thousands of trees that are planted with the help of more than 7,000 volunteers. The work of the Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 10,000 members. For more information, visit WaterLandLife.org or Fallingwater.org.