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Wildlife Watching at Promised Land State Park

Promised Land State Park is located within the Pocono Plateau, a rugged highland with:

  • Rocky soil
  • Nutrient-poor bogs
  • Dark evergreen forests
  • Diversity of wildlife and plants

About 20,000 years ago, a giant sheet of ice about one mile thick covered Promised Land. The park’s rocky soil is comprised of glacial till, providing direct evidence of the glacier. Much of the park is characterized by sphagnum moss bogs, evergreen trees, and thin, rocky soil.

Common to this habitat are:

  • Blackburnian warblers
  • Red-breasted nuthatches
  • Timber rattlesnakes

During the spring, spotted and Jefferson salamanders and wood frogs flock to the bogs and seasonal pools to breed.

Due to logging of the forests during the early 1900s, large portions of the forest have re-grown with a mix of deciduous trees such as beech, oak, and maple. 

Common migratory songbirds that visit these forests are:

  • American redstarts
  • Red-eyed vireos
  • Blackburnian warblers

The National Audubon Society has designated Promised Land State Park as an Important Bird Area.

During early May, before any trees leaf out, serviceberry trees flower with a beautiful display of white. During mid- to late-May, the plentiful mountain laurel blooms, followed in mid-June by the rhododendron.

During mid- to late-July, the lowbush and highbush blueberries bear fruit, providing a feast for bears, birds, and people.

Black bear are common in the park. This omnivore eats plants, grasses, berries, and occasionally meat. Unfortunately, bears find human food to be nearly irresistible. Please observe wildlife from a safe distance and do not feed wildlife.

A wildlife observation station is located on Lower Lake by the Bear Wallow Boat Launch. Approach the area quietly for the best chance to see waterfowl and other animals.

Plants and animals are protected at the park. Take only pictures and leave only footprints when you leave Promised Land. It is illegal to remove natural items such as flowers, feathers, and pine cones from Pennsylvania state park and state forest land.

Feeding Canada geese and other waterfowl at the swimming areas results in large quantities of fecal droppings, which is offensive to park visitors and a potential health hazard. It is also against Pennsylvania state park regulations.

Bald Eagles at Promised Land State Park

A pair of bald eagles began visiting the park in 1995. However, it wasn’t until 1999 when they reached sexual maturity that they built their first nest along Lower Lake in a large white pine tree. The first pair of eggs were laid and fledged in 2000. The nest continued to be successful until October 2008, the combined weight of the nest and a heavy snowstorm caused both the tree and the nest to fall to the ground. Luckily, the eagles were not in the park at the time.

During early spring of 2009, the pair built a new nest in a maple tree directly across from the Wildlife Observation Station, but no young were hatched. Since 2010, the eagles have fledged at least one eaglet per year.

Before leaf-out in May, the nest can be seen with the naked eye, although binoculars or a spotting scope offer a better view. There are few sights more thrilling than a bald eagle at its nest or in action along a shoreline.

Responsibilities come with this enjoyment. You must ensure your presence and behavior do not have a detrimental effect on the eagles or their future use of the area. Eagle nests and young eagles are easily disturbed. Premature fledging can inadvertently cause injury or death of an eaglet that cannot yet fly or defend itself.

During the cold winter, energy is a very valuable commodity for eagles. Flushing eagles from a roost site or a feeding ground causes unnecessary stress and may expose the eagle to additional predators. Please keep your distance from eagle nests and roosts. Respect their space. Enjoy their presence at a distance with good optics.

Federal and state laws prohibit human activity, including camping, fishing, boating, hiking, etc., within 330 feet of a nest. Do not cross the buoy boundary in Lower Lake or disturb the nest on land.

During the nesting season, volunteers monitor the nest weekly from the observation station. Volunteers are always needed. Contact the park office for more information.

Typical eagle nesting season at Promised Land State Park:

  • Late January to early February -- adults return to nest
  • Late February to early March -- eggs laid (35 day incubation period)
  • Around Earth Day (April 22) -- eggs hatch
  • Around July 4 -- eaglets fledge or leave the nest

The Bear Truths

Many Pennsylvania state parks have healthy forests. These forests are perfect habitat for black bears. Although they appear cute and cuddly, black bears are wild animals.

A black bear can scramble up a tree like a raccoon and sprint as fast as a race horse, up to 35 mph. Bears use their claws to tear apart rotting logs to find food, and those claws also work well to open trash cans and coolers. The size and strength of a black bear are astonishing.

Pennsylvania has the largest black bears in the United States, with the majority concentrated in the Poconos. Black bears in Pike County can grow to weigh more than 800 pounds.

Black bears have poor eyesight and fair hearing, but they have an excellent sense of smell. Aromatic scents coming from your food, citronella candles, and toiletries can attract a curious and hungry bear from a great distance.

Keep a clean campsite. Clean up quickly after meals and store all food and scented items inside a locked vehicle. This practice will not only prevent bears from visiting your campsite, but it will discourage raccoons, skunks, and opossums from late night visits. The poles provided at each site are meant to be used for lanterns. Do not hang garbage from the hooks.

Feeding bears is illegal.

Black bears normally avoid people, but bears dependent on eating human food can become aggressive when people get between them and food.

If you come in contact with a black bear, do not run. Walk slowly away while facing the bear. Do not make direct eye contact with the bear. If the bear is not leaving the area, make loud noises, blow a whistle, honk a car horn, or bang a pot. Notify a park employee if you have difficulties with bears.

Never approach a bear and be especially wary of mother bears and cubs.

Geologic History

Detailed information about the geology of Promised Land is available from the:

Trail of Geology 18 - Promised Land State Park Guide (PDF)