My First Visit To The Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County,

My First Visit To The Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County,

Blue Marsh Lake hike (4 of 36)
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I visited Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County for the first time last weekend. I haven’t been seeing many birds or other wildlife on my usual hikes near my home in Luzerne County,  so I decided to  visit someplace new. I searched E-bird for some suggestions and Blue Marsh Lake came up  as a good place  for birding and hiking. It is located near the city of Reading about 55 miles from my home. It was overcast and mild, for February, when I arrived at the Lakeview Pavilion entrance to the lake early Saturday morning.

I drove down to the parking lot near the  lake. I was the only car at the parking lot. I was unfamiliar with the lake and hiking trails so I looked at a map and realized there weren’t many trails on this side of the lake. I took some photos of the large lake, it is over 1000 acres, created by the Army Corp. of Engineers in 1979 for flood control by damming Tulpehocken Creek. It created the Blue Marsh Lake National  Recreation Area.   There are almost 30 miles of hiking trails along the lake and in the surrounding State Game Lands. The question now was which ones do I hike.

I looked at the map and decided to drive to another area of the lake. As I was walking  back to my Jeep I saw a flock of eastern bluebirds singing in the trees near the parking lot so  took a few photos of the colorful birds..

There were a lot of nesting boxes along the shores of the  lake to attract the bluebirds.

On the drive up from the lake   I saw a young lady going to work at the Army Corp. of Engineers office.  I stopped her and she advised me that their were some nice hikes near the Spilling Basin.  I drove to the the Spilling Basin where I found the parking lot full of vehicles.  As the name suggests the  spillway of dam creating  Blue Marsh  Lake  empties here into  Tulpehocken Creek. There were a lot of fishermen along the spillway and creek.

There were two trails here, one the Lake-Border trail,

and another one which I followed along the Tulpehocken Creek. This creek is a tributary of the Schuylkill River and was once part  of the Union Canal connecting the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers.  It’s name comes from the Lenape  Native American tribe and  means  “land of turtles”. It is one of the best trout fishing creeks in Pennsylvania.

The trail was above the creek and passed through a mixed woodland of sugar maple, hornbeam oak and other hardwood trees. I  saw  a few folks  on the trail, many with their dogs.

It was a dreary day, and it was Winter,  the  trees were bare and  there were the seeds pods of last years flowers  scattered along the trail including wild senna

 purple coneflowers,

Indian hemp

and milkweed  all native wildflowers. Although it was dreary on my walk, I think there would be a lot of color here in the Spring and Summer when the flowers are in bloom and there will be a lot  insects, butterflies and birds  visiting these flowers.

  I also saw some green  along the trail.  There was garlic mustard

 Dames rocket, both invasive species but edible.  I have foraged for both on my hikes.

Another invasive species, greater celandine was also  growing along the trail.  This one is poisonous.  I heard the chatter of a belted kingfisher along the creek below the trail but I didn’t see it or any other birds or wildlife on my hike  along the creek. .

The trail continued along the creek  for about a half mile when it ended at a parking lot. Here I saw this  downy woodpecker,

and male northern cardinal in the trees in the trees.

I followed the  access road for the parking lot up to the Lake Border Trail,

and along the way saw some more birds feeding in the woods along the trail, including this tufted titmouse, one of a few traveling in a small flock.

There was also a Carolina chickadee singing on a tree branch , these small birds are close relatives of the black-capped  chickadees found near my home.

The Lake-Border Trail was wider and better maintained than the trail along the creek. It is a popular trail for bicyclists and I saw quite a few of them on my hike.

Here I saw this red tailed hawk perched in a tree,

and this red bellied woodpecker high on s tree top.

I continued , uphill, on the trail, and then through one of the many open fields along  the lake.

I heard and saw a few Carolina wrens singing their cheerful songs  along the lake..

I walked down to  a beach along the lake and here  I saw a few folks with their dogs. some of the dogs swimming in the cold waters of the lake. I learned later this was a dog beach and explained why I saw so many people walking their dogs on the trails.

Along the lake I saw a few Canada geese fly overhead,

and a large flock of ring billed seagulls, 

their loud cries echoing over the lake.

There were also a lot of small boats with fishermen on the lake.

The trail left the lake and took me up to the crest of the dam.

Again I saw a lot of people walking their dogs and bicyclists on the trail. I next followed a trail along the crest of the dam back down to the lake. There wasn’t much bird or wildlife activity on this cool February day but I am sure in the warmer months there will be many migratory song birds on these trails and along the lake.

All I saw were some white-throated sparrows and a pair of

mourning doves. 

There was an osprey platform in one of the fields and I am sure it will soon be occupied when the ospreys return in the Spring.

After walking down to the lake,

I returned to the  large open spillway. On my AllTrails map it showed this as part of the lake. It was dry now and I followed it back to the Tulpehocken Creek Trail.

Along the way some  American crows and

ring billed seagulls flew overhead.

I had walked  about 4 1/2 miles so I walked another 1/2 mile along the Tulpehocken Creek to  complete my usual  five mile  hike.

As I was finishing my hike and returning to the parking lot I  heard a large flock of snow geese flying overhead.  I have heard there were sightings of these birds that breed in the far north on the Artic tundra,. Large flock usually gather at nearby Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County.  It appears they are migrating north earlier this year.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the birds I saw on my five mile hike. Blue Marsh Lake birds February 10 2024.

I walked back to the parking lot and found it still   had quite a few folks fishing along the spillway. I was hoping to see more wildlife on this trip south to Blue Marsh Lake but I have no control over that. It was still a nice hike in  this new  place for me and I hope to return again soon. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from my five mile hike. Blue Marsh Lake  February 10 2024.


“My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through Earth’s loveliness.” Michaelangelo 

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