Joshua C. Whetzel, Jr. Memorial Recreation Area

Named in honor of former president and board chair of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Joshua C. Whetzel, Jr. Memorial Recreation Area is a 40-acre conservation area in Somerset County that includes an up-and-back half-mile trail that ascends a hillside to a scenic observation area. The lookout provides a breathtaking downstream view overlooking the southern edge of the town of Confluence, portions of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail and the Casselman and Youghiogheny rivers.

The natural area and trail are accessible from the GAP trail in Confluence, Pa., behind the popular Lucky Dog Cafe. This conservation area was dedicated in 2019 and is part of WPC’s Casselman River Conservation Area, which protects 644 acres along several sections of the GAP trail and the Casselman River in Somerset County.

Background

About Joshua C. Whetzel, Jr. recognized the value of protecting and reusing a former railroad corridor as green space for hiking and biking. His efforts led to the preservation of 27 miles along the Youghiogheny River near Ohiopyle, which ultimately became the first segment of the GAP. He served as president and chief executive officer of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy from 1969 to 1978, as chairman of the board of directors from 1978 to 1995, and remained a member of the board until his passing in 2012. He was responsible for many successful conservation projects during his leadership tenure, including his advocacy for state and federal environmental policies, which had a profound impact on Western Pennsylvania and national environmental issues.

Location

  • Confluence Borough, Somerset County

Dates Acquired

2013

Size

Approximately 40 acres

Notable features

Forested hillsides along the GAP trail, scenic vista (seasonal) overlooking the Town of Confluence and the Casselman and Youghiogheny rivers

Recreational Activities

  • Fishing
  • Hiking (Designated Trail)
  • Hunting
  • Scenic Overlook

Recreational Activities

Hiking

From the parking area off River Rd., an approximately 1.2-mile (up and back) hiking trail leads to a small maintained overlook. Sturdy footwear is recommended. Portions of the trail may be wet.

Observing Plants and Wildlife

The property hosts an upland forest dominated by oak and maple, with scattered hemlock on the steep slopes. This property is also within the Youghiogheny Valley Important Bird Area with habitat that may support a number of priority bird species such as various warblers and northern parula.

Hunting

Hunting is permitted during hunting season, except on Sundays. Loaded firearms are prohibited within 50 feet of the GAP. Trapping is prohibited. All visitors should exercise caution and wear blaze orange during hunting season.

Biking

While biking is not permitted in this recreation area, bikers are permitted on the GAP trail, which passes close by this property. The GAP also passes through or in proximity to other sections of the larger Casselman River Conservation Area.

Plan Your Visit

GPS Coordinates: 39.805, -79.363

Directions to the Trail Head Parking Lot

Directions

From PA-281 in Confluence, turn onto River Rd., and follow to the parking lot on the left. Other portions of the conservation area can be accessed off PA-523/Listonburg Rd., or from several points along the GAP.

Visitor Tips

Watch this introduction to Joshua C. Whetzel, Jr. Memorial Recreation Area

Give your bike a break and hike the half-mile trail to the scenic observation area to appreciate a view of the GAP and the surrounding landscape! The trail is purposely managed to have minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. Please be advised that this trail is steep and could be challenging for young children and those with limited mobility. This natural area is free to the public for all to enjoy. Prepare for your outdoor adventure by familiarizing yourself with the preserve, bringing along a map or GPS unit, wearing sturdy boots or shoes and having plenty of water. We also recommend downloading the following files to your device prior to visiting, as cell phone reception is not always available in this area.

Visitor Guidelines

When visiting the Casselman River Conservation Area and/or Joshua C. Whetzel Jr. Memorial Recreation Area, please remember:

  • Motorized vehicles are prohibited
  • Bicycles are permitted on the GAP trail only.
  • Trapping is prohibited.
  • All hunting is prohibited on Sundays.
  • Dumping/littering is prohibited.
  • Dogs must be on a leash.
  • Collecting (animals, plants, rocks, etc.) without permission is prohibited.
  • Review the Guidelines for Public Use of WPC Properties document prior to your visit.