Wildlife Watching at Raymond B. Winter State Park
Butterfly and Bird Gardens
Near the park office and the Halfway Run Environmental Learning Center, several flower and herb gardens attract wildlife. Native plants and garden flowers draw butterflies such as:
Hummingbird moths and silver spotted skippers also frequent the gardens.
Birds feeding on seeds, insects, or nectar include:
For more specific information about these model backyard habitat areas, a free handout is available at the park office or the learning center.
Rapid Run Natural Area
When colonists first arrived in Pennsylvania, they were overwhelmed with the dense forests. Conrad Weiser, one of the area’s earliest explorers, claimed that “the wood is so thick that for a mile at a time we could not find a place the size of a hand, where the sunshine could penetrate, even in the clearest day...” Even though most settlers found the forest to be an obstacle, it supported abundant wildlife and plants.
Although the forests of Pennsylvania have been logged several times, visitors to Raymond B. Winter State Park can step back in time and encounter the forest as it appeared during 1850. The 39 acres surrounding the Rapid Run Nature Trail is one of the first State Park Natural Areas. Natural areas are set aside “to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities, and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.”
When exploring the natural area, look for trees containing large, oval cavities chiseled by the large, black and white pileated woodpecker. In the evenings, listen for the “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” call of the barred owl.
A discovery guide, called, “The Shrouded Forest,” describes the one-mile loop trail and suggests activities to explore the trail. The guide is available at the park office, Halfway Run Environmental Learning Center, or at the Rapid Run trailhead. Visitors will discover:
The Rapid Run Natural Area has many vernal pools. These temporary pools usually contain water through the winter and spring and dry up during the summer. Animals and plants have adapted to this unique habitat. Wetland plants inhabit the special soil in and around the pools. During spring hikes, a close observation of vernal pools can reveal:
Fairy shrimp live only in vernal pools. Spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and many insects lay their eggs in vernal pools. These animals hatch quickly into larvae and then to adults, usually before the pool dries up for the summer. Many animals depend on vernal pools for their survival.
The Bear Truths
Many Pennsylvania state parks are habitat for black bears. Although they appear cute and cuddly like a teddy bear, black bears are wild animals.
A black bear can scramble up a tree like a raccoon and sprint as fast as a race horse. Bears use their claws to tear apart rotting logs to find food, and those claws also work well to open garbage cans and coolers. The size and strength of a black bear are astonishing.
Black bears have poor eyesight and fair hearing, but an excellent sense of smell. Aromatic scents coming from your personal items can attract a curious and hungry bear from a great distance. Bears are attracted to the smell of toothpaste, deodorants, air fresheners, food, and even the clothes worn while cooking.
Store all food items concealed inside a vehicle. At primitive, walk-in campsites, suspend food between two trees, 10 feet in the air, and three feet from either tree.
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, try chasing it away by making loud noises like yelling, honking a car horn, or banging 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.
By hiking the Overlook Trail or driving up McCalls Dam Road, visitors may enjoy the vista that includes Halfway Dam, the Rapid Run water gap, and several mountains that surround the park.
Halfway Lake receives a significant amount of water from underground springs, which contributes to the lake’s chilly temperatures. Visitors can observe a small boiling spring at the west end of the beach. Little Bubbler is an artesian spring. The sand bubbles as water seeps up through the ground. The water temperature reaches highs only in the low 50s. Geologists are not certain about the cause of the Little Bubbler, but they assume that water is flowing through a crack in the bedrock.
Found along the mountain ridges, rock fields are areas where numerous rocks cover the ground. Formed during the last glacial period, 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, cold temperatures caused ice crystals to grow in the natural crevices of the sandstone mountains. Strong quartzite rock was split into loose boulders that eventually slid down the mountain slopes. Once temperatures became warmer, vegetation returned to the shallow soil. Patches of boulders that have resisted new growth are still visible from several park trails.