My First Visit To Fort Washington State Park In Montgomery County

My First Visit To Fort Washington State Park In Montgomery County

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Fort Washington State Park in Montgomery County wasn’t my first choice for a visit this past weekend. I had originally planned to hike at Codorus State Park in York County. It was rated the third best bird watching spot in Pennsylvania by one of the State  birding groups. I was looking forward to staying in the historic town of Hanover, near the park. Thomas Jefferson would stay here on his trips to Philadelphia.  I hoped to see some of  the many birds now migrating through our State.  Well, waiting until the day of your visit to book a  hotel room  is not a good idea. There  were no rooms available in any of the local hotels. 

 Fort Washington State Park was ranked as the fourth best bird watching spot by the same group. It also has a lot of history, and most importantly, there were rooms available  near the park. So I made a reservation at the Holiday in Express in Fort Washington and took the 1 1/2 drive from my home in Luzerne County around noon. It was partly sunny with temperatures near 60 degrees when I arrived at the  park.  Exiting my Jeep at the  Hawk Walk Observation Deck parking area, I walked  into a different world from  the one I left back home.  It was a green world. Spring clearly had arrived here in southeastern Pennsylvania, weeks before it will show up at my home in Luzerne County.

I walked down to the observation deck,  and  looking at the valley,   I saw many of the trees covered with fresh new green leaves. It was near  these heights that George Washington built a fort in November of 1777. He defended these hilltops from the British for a few weeks before moving his army to Valley Forge. I knew it was a small urban park , around 450 acres, surrounded by highways,  homes and golf courses but  many birds are scene here during the Spring migration. 

  While enjoying the scenic and historic view I noticed the bird feeders below the observation deck.  I decided to watch the birds before beginning my exploration of the park. 

Even in the middle of the day the  feeders  attracted   northern cardinals, 

white- throated sparrows, and, 

a few brown-headed cowbirds.  I enjoyed watching the  birds at the feeders but   I was hoping   to see some of the warblers and vireos that migrate through the park in the Spring. So I set off  on my hike. 

I walked down along the  steep park entrance  road to the Wissahickon Creek. Tall trees grew along the road, 

and many wild flowers bloomed beneath the trees including  invasive species such as garlic mustard, 

and lessor celandine and, 

native species such as the pretty Marsh blue violet, 

yellow celandine poppies and

 delicate Virginia spring beauty flowers.  

I was surprised there were not more song birds in the surrounding trees. I only saw this northern flicker perched on a treetop. 

I was unfamiliar with the park and had decided to walk on the  Preserve Trail that followed  the Wissahickon Creek. I was  hoping to see some waterfowl and migratory song birds. I had anticipated  more woodlands along the creek but  I found the first part of the trail had recently been timbered.  You could see, and hear the traffic on busy highway. 

The trail was nice, it was paved and well maintained. However it was an urban park and there was noise from  the traffic on the nearby  Route 73 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  There weren’t a lot of large old trees  along the  creek either.  It wasn’t a peaceful and  quiet start to my hike. This portion of the trail was owned by Montgomery County and was not part of the State Park. However,  I  saw a lot of folks walking and running on the trail on my 5 mile hike. 

And it was still a nice walk with  the leaves bursting forth on my trees such as  the box elders, 

and many apple trees along the trail which were blossoming. 

There were also some more native wildflowers along the trail including  and common blue violets

and Virginia bluebells. These flowers were growing all along the creek.

There were a lot of short  trail leading to  the creek, probably  used by the many fishermen I saw on the creek on my walk.

The trail became more wooded and quieter when it passed beneath a railroad bridge.

I now saw a few birds in the woodlands along the trail including  downy woodpeckers, 

song sparrows and

a few pretty red-bellied woodpeckers. I was still  somewhat disappointed I wasn’t seeing more migratory birds. 

After about 1 1/2 the trail again entered the Flourtown Day Use area of the State Park. 

I got off of the main trail and took a nature trail down to the creek. Here the woodlands were thicker and there were many older trees. It was a lot quieter here  with no traffic noise. I still didn’t see a lot of birds, 

and as a walked along the creek, which was now very scenic. 

I was again disappointed then the only waterfowl I saw were these two Canada geese.

The only birds I saw were some very common American robins. One of the reasons for the lack of a lot of bird activity was it was mid day and the temperatures were in the 70’s.  Most birds feed in the early morning and late evening hours.

It was still a pleasant hike in the woodlands along the creek

I left the nature trail and I had walked about  2 1/2 miles when I came to the Day Use Parking lot and I began my hike back. 

I took a short detour  to a walking bridge,

that spanned the Wissahickon Creek. 

On my walk back I saw many folks using the trail and a couple of critters, including this one, it was  the only turtle I saw on my five mile hike.

I had seen a lot of gray squirrels but this fellow looked like he was taking an afternoon nap with a black walnut in his mouth . 

It was late afternoon now and the sun was getting lower in the sky as I walked on the trail.

I was finishing my hike and  had just about given up seeing any songbirds when I saw this eastern-wood peewee,

feeding with a small flock of black-capped chickadees in an apple tree. 

Nearby I saw my first warbler, a very pretty palm warbler.  Excited,  I took about 50 photo from a distance when it decided to fly  to a branch next to the trail, 

allowing me to get some close up photos.

  It was almost like it was posing for me. 

I finished my five mile hike by walking up the steep hill to the Hawk Observation Deck, where I stopped to photograph some of the birds at the feeders, including  more  northern cardinals,  white- throated sparrows,  mourning doves , blue jays and this female red-winged blackbird, and 

this common grackle, showing off it’s colors in the evening sun.  Here is a link to a gallery on my  blog website with more  photos of the birds I saw on my hike and at the feeders. . Fort Washington birds April 22 2022. 

It was after 5 p.m. when I finished  my hike. It wasn’t a rugged woodland hike like in the mountains of Potter County but it was a nice walk  along the Wissahickon Creek.  It was nice to see nature this close to my favorite city in the world, Philadelphia. I didn’t see the warblers and song birds I had hoped to find but I enjoyed the birds and  beautiful wildflowers  I found on the trails. 

I was hungry so I headed back to my hotel, showered  changed and drove to the  nearby  quaint little town of  Ambler.

I had  a delicious meal at  the Dettera Restaurant. I started with the best cream of asparagus soup I had ever eaten and  had  trout as my main  dish, it was delicious. 

After dessert  I headed back to my hotel to edit photos and plan my morning hike  in Fort Washington State park. I love visiting our State parks and the nearby  cities and towns, and I  love sharing my adventures  here on my blog. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog with  more photographs from my hike. Fort Washington hike April 22 2022. 

 

 

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere. —Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is my first post

2 Comments

  1. Kathie Tietze on April 25, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    Love all your photos, especially the birds and was glad to see a turtle as well. Thank you!

    • fskokoski@gmail.com on April 26, 2022 at 4:03 pm

      Thanks I love sharing them

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