Great features of the Great Lakes Region: Pennsylvania


Erie Bluffs State Park is an undeveloped section of Pennsylvania’s Great Lakes coastline. Image: Pennsylvania Department of Conversation and Natural Resources

By Carin Tunney

Editor’s note:  This is part of a daily series featuring one natural attraction in a Great Lake state or province. Of course, with more than 4,500 miles of coast and a landscape carved by glaciers, each state and province has many more than one great natural feature. So nominate and make the case for your favorite in this state in the comments below. At the end of the series we’ll poll you on the region’s greatest natural feature.

Today: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s portion of the Great Lakes’ shoreline is just a sliver within one county on the shores of Lake Erie. That could make you forget Pennsylvania is a Great Lakes state.

That’s a mistake.

Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie earned the title of “Best Freshwater Beach” from USA Today readers last year.

And about 20-minutes southwest of there is a  quiet lakeshore of relatively untouched beauty. It is worthy of its own recognition as one of the Great Lakes basin’s best natural features.

Erie Bluffs State Park is a natural area used mostly by anglers during spring and fall steelhead runs within Elk Creek, said Mathew Greene the park operations manager for Presque Isle State Park Complex, which manages Erie Bluffs.

Access points along the trail provide a view of Lake Erie. Image: Wikimedia Commons

But the park offers a lot more than fishing, he said.

The 587-acre park features 90 bluffs within dunes that existed before the glacial period. Some of the rounded cliffs are green with trees and shrubs and tower 100-feet above the bluish-green waters of Lake Erie.

What visitors won’t see is infrastructure, Greene said.

The park has only hiking trails and one picnic area.

“It is a great place to take a stroll along Lake Erie to see a really natural beachfront,” Greene said.

The view is forever changing as prevailing northeast winds push sands in one direction and occasionally shift west, Greene said.

“It is always receding, so those bluffs are in a constant state of recession. The shoreline there and the bluffs are changing over time,” he said.

The wooded areas contain some of Pennsylvania’s few remaining stands of Pumpkin Ash. Image: Yinan Chen

The park is also biodiverse. Thriving ecosystems include sandy areas, savannas, wetlands and woodlands.

Some of Pennsylvania’s few remaining stands of pumpkin ash trees live in the park, Greene said.

The quiet park and its busy Presque Isle

neighbor offer Pennsylvanians pride as a Great Lakes state.

“Being such a small state with shoreline responsibility along Lake Erie, it really is a gem to us,” Greene said.

Share your favorite natural feature in Pennsylvania in the comments.

We especially seek suggestions within the Great Lakes basin.  We’ll list the top nominees for each state at the end of this series and submit them all to a vote for the best natural feature within the Great Lakes basin.

Read the rest of the series:

One thought on “Great features of the Great Lakes Region: Pennsylvania

  1. There is no mention of the moving ice covers role in forming Presque Isle. That why it’s there. The N.Y.P.A. ice boom is why it is currently suffering. Those artificial barriers designed to break waves would not be necessary if if the normal conveyor were re-
    Established. Google “Joe Barrett ice boom” for the truth.
    Thx, JBB

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