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Wildlife Watching at Black Moshannon State Park

Black Moshannon State Park is high atop the Allegheny Front and enjoys cool summer days and cold winters due to the unique geology of the area.

Two features chill the park:

  • High elevation
  • Slight basin shape that traps cooler, heavier air

Because of this, many plants and animals that are normally only observed farther north, like leatherleaf and Canada warblers, can be seen in the park.

The wildlife you observe depends greatly on the habitat types you visit and your observation techniques. Look for wildlife in the wealth of different woodland and wetland types, along shorelines, and in edges where one habitat borders another.

Mornings and evenings, when many animals are active, are great times for viewing many species. Be quiet and leave pets at home. Walking slowly along trails, like Star Mill and Sleepy Hollow, is best, especially to see songbirds. 

Reading wildlife signs, such as tracks and droppings, can add to your enjoyment. Take part in park environmental interpretive programs or use a wildlife watching book to enhance your understanding and skill.

Black Moshannon Lake

Black Moshannon Lake is a great place to see wildlife, especially the upper (southern) end. Explore by boat or walk Bog or Star Mill trails. Enjoy the flying stunts of barn and tree swallows from Lake Loop Trail, or look for:

  • Mallards
  • Canada geese
  • Beavers
  • Muskrats
  • Great blue herons
  • Secretive wood ducks

Spring and fall are great times to observe migrating:

  • Loons
  • Mergansers
  • Scaups
  • Buffleheads
  • Grebes
  • Tundra swans
  • Snow geese

Rafts of fragrant water lilies, watershield, and spatterdock on the lake shelter in the waters below:

  • Tadpoles
  • Sunfish
  • Catfish
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Bass

Bogs, Marshes, and Swamps

The park is known for spectacular bogs, marshes, and swamps. Discover wetlands by walking the Bog and Moss-Hanne trails.

There is leatherleaf, steeplebush, blueberries, and sedges. Look for carnivorous plants, such as pitcher plant and sundew, other unusual wildflowers, and colorful damselflies and dragonflies.

Sharp-eyed visitors may encounter:

  • Frogs
  • Salamanders
  • Northern water snakes
  • Black bears

Many birds make their summer homes only in wetland habitats making the park a great place for birdwatching. The National Audubon Society designated the park as an Important Bird Area.

Forest

Forest visitors see chipmunks, songbirds, and in clearings at dusk, bats. The more observant may see:

  • Deer
  • Raccoons
  • Opossums
  • Porcupines
  • Flying squirrels
  • Woodpeckers
  • Turkeys
  • Grouse
  • Hawks

Occasionally, visitors come upon:

  • Fox
  • Weasels
  • Bobcats
  • Coyotes
  • Ravens

Creekside explorers on Shingle Mill Trail may see:

  • Kingfishers
  • Salamanders
  • Crayfish
  • Trout

Spring brings out woodland wildflowers. Mountain laurel blooms during mid to late June; look along the Ski Slope trail.

During late September to early October, exploding fall colors paint Black Moshannon in autumn’s glory.

The common birds brochure lists the birds most likely to be seen in the park and in which habitat:

The bird checklist is a comprehensive listing of all birds found in the park, their season, their habitat, and the likelihood of being seen:

Feeding wildlife is prohibited. Feeding makes wild animals lose their natural fear of people and makes them more dependent on people. Therefore, potentially dangerous situations can arise.

PLEASE NOTE: Black bears are present at Black Moshannon and can cause injuries or damage to equipment.

Canada geese create unpleasant and unsanitary conditions when they leave droppings in the same place each day.

We ask your cooperation in managing the wildlife in the park. For safety, campers should store food in their trunk or camper, but not in a tent. Keep the wild in wildlife.

Discover the Bog

In 1994, Pennsylvania gave additional protection to a 1,592-acre collection of unique and scenic bogs, marshes, swamps, and forests by designating it as the Black Moshannon Bog Natural Area. This special area is one of the best examples of a bog ecosystem in the Allegheny Plateau region. Its designation as a State Park Natural Area assures that its ecological values are preserved.

Bogs are freshwater wetlands with lots of sphagnum moss. Sphagnum moss absorbs water like a sponge.

Dead sphagnum moss decomposes so slowly that layers build, forming peat moss under the living sphagnum.

Many bogs in Pennsylvania were formed as glaciers but none ever covered Black Moshannon which sits high on the Allegheny Plateau. Here, sloping bedrock directs water from the surrounding hills into the bog area. The shallow groundwater table makes the soil wetter than usual.

The bog’s sphagnum moss creates acidic and low nutrient conditions. When these factors combine with cool temperatures, only specialized plants can thrive. Seventeen species of orchids and all three carnivorous plants found in Pennsylvania grow in or near the bog.

The bog also has a sea of:

  • Sedges and leatherleaf shrubs
  • Fuzzy tufts of arctic cotton grass
  • Multi-colored viburnums
  • Cranberries
  • Blueberries

Those looking for wildlife may see amphibians, beavers, and uncommon birds.

A great way to explore these natural areas is to hike the Star Mill Trail or Bog Trail. Those who like boating can investigate the wilder, upper end of the lake by canoe. The more adventurous can hike the Moss-Hanne Trail.

Explore natural areas for more information.