It’s Been A Long Time, An Overdue Visit To Beltzville State Park.

It’s Been A Long Time, An Overdue Visit To Beltzville State Park.

Beltsville (4 of 31)
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While on  my hike in the Susquehanna Wetlands on Saturday, I met a nature photographer friend who  told me about seeing a lot of ducks  in Beltzville State Park in Carbon County.  I also have heard reports of  of bald eagles sightings  there too.  Although  Beltzville State Park is the same distance from my home in Hazle Township   as  is the wetlands I  have never hiked there.  In fact, the  only time  I was ever  there  was when I was waterskiing and that was when I was in high school and  college, a very long time ago. 

I don’t know why. Maybe it was the  stories of h9w crowded it is in the Summer kept me away.  And I didn’t think there were many hiking trails there. Well, after chatting about his sightings of lesser scaups, golden eye ducks and hooded mergansers with my friend I decided to visit on Sunday.    Clouds shrouded the sun when I arrived at the lake. It was a seasonably cold 26 degrees. I was the only one at the parking lot near the beach. 

I walked along the deserted beach under the dim sun.  The bare branches of the trees along the lake added to the  somber and dreary wintery scene,

as did this crow sitting in one of the trees as I walked past.

Since it was my first visit here I wasn’t sure of  the trails so I continued walking on the shore of gray and  the desolate lake. Brown  and leafless mountains were in the distance. 

Beltzville  Lake is a large lake, over 900 acres. It is noted for it’s boating and fishing in the warmer months. There wasn’t a single boat on the water during my five mile hike. 

There were  many picnic tables and a pavilion near the lake. I am sure this area is crowed and noisy in the Summer months but it  was quiet on this dreary February  morning.  Not a soul  in sight. 

There is no overnight camping in Beltzville State park. just these  day picnic areas. 

There were no ducks or geese on the lake, in fact, I didn’t see any other birds until I saw a pair of song sparrows,

fluttering about in some shrubs growing along the lake. 

As I was photographing  the sparrows   I saw a flock of ducks I couldn’t identify fly overhead. They were followed by a few more flocks, including this flock of common mergansers which landed near the  dam that created the lake. I decided to try and hike to the crest of the dam. 

I  continued along the shire and on  an inlet on the lake. Here I  walked under a grove of  large hemlock and white pine trees.  These large trees were around  50 years old. I guessed this since they were probably planted  after the dam was built on  the waters of the Pohopoco Creek creating the lake. This was   around 1972. 

Pine cones and pine needles littered the trail along the lake. 

There were are a lot of ferns growing along the trail.  I am not a fern expert but knew these were intermediate wood ferns. 

At first I thought these were Christmas ferns which I have seen before.  On closer inspection they looked different and my Picture This plant identification iPhone app identified it a a marginal wood fern. There were a lot of these  in the pine and hemlock woods. Both these ferns remain green throughout the Winter. 

There were also patches of fan moss.

and,  tree club moss along the trail. 

The trail turned again as it followed the inlet and headed back toward the dam. The woodlands now were a mixed forest of oak, maple and other hardwood trees. I walked down to the inlet, 

and here heard and saw a few northern cardinals singing in he woods. 

I was following the shoreline of the lake, trying to get to the crest of dam  but I came to this gate and sign. I turned back not wanting to trespass.  As I was walking back I encountered a local  gentleman walking his dogs. He told me the gate was only for motor vehicles and it was okay to walk to the dam. . I met a few more friendly locals who all  told me the same thing. As we chatted  they all told me how it is so different in the Summer when the crowds arrive. After my friendly chats,   I continued on toward the  dam. . 

As I did, this  northern raven, they are  larger than crows, flew overhead, carrying some twigs. I never knew these large intelligent birds mate and nest this early in Spring. There were quite a few ravens around the lake. 

The dam was further then I had thought.  I had walked  out around 2 1/2 miles and I had what looked  about another half mile to the dam.  I decided to head back. I took a different route, an access road,  and came to this trail, one of many, I learned  are near the lake. 

I followed it for a short distance and saw a large flock of white breasted nuthatches high in the tree tops. They must have been just passing through since they are usually solitary and found near the ground scampering up and down the trunks of trees. 

I also saw a flock of bluebirds. These beautiful bird, this is a male,

, and this a female,  were closer to the ground and they  fluttered through the branches. 

There were also many black-capped chickadees, but they remained high in the tree tops.  I also saw a few white-throated sparrows which also eluded my camera. I did see this downy woodpecker which was close enough to photograph. 

I walked back to the lake. The trails now had a lot more people out for a morning walk, many with their dogs. On the lake a saw this common loon swimming and diving for a fishy breakfast,

on the far side of the lake I saw some Canada geese, 

and, a good omen, I thought at the time, a bald eagle flying in the distance. I hoped it meant a Philadelphia Eagles  Super Bowl victory. It didn’t they lost in a close game. Next year we will  be back. 

Okay, back to my hike, I walked along the lake and   saw a covered bridge. I learned it was  the Harrity  Covered Bridge.  It was one of only two covered bridges in Carbon County. It was built in 1842 and spanned Pohopoco Creek. It was moved here  from here another location along the creek when the dam was built.

I walked past the beach and followed a wooded trail that  along the shore of the lake. Here I saw a flock of black-capped chickadees feeding in the shrubs  along the trail,

and some more ravens in the treetops. Here is a link to a gallery  on my website with more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Beltzville State Park birds February 12 2023. 

Along the trail were reminders it was still Winter despite the mild weather we have been having. Burdock burrs,

milkweed pods, 

and foxtail grasses added to somber mood of my morning hike. 

I walked back to the beach and reflected on my  carefree days water skiing here as a young man almost a half century ago. Those carefree Summer days of long ago seemed like they were yesterday. it’s been a long time since I saw this lake but I hope to return and explore it’s many trails very  soon. But not on water skis. I   have to admit my  waterskiing  days have been over for a long time. Time passes so quickly. . Here is a link to a gallery with more photos from my hike in Beltzville State Park.    Beltzville State Park February 12 2023. 

“In the wink of an eye, all quaint days of the past, the present, and future will meld together into the bottomless unknown of perpetuity. Only trace evidence of our invertebrate existence will anoint future generations. In the crinkle of time, our houses will crumble apart. Companies that we worked for will go out of business or merge with other nameless conglomerates. What will survive us are our children and our words.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster

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