A pennsylvania Recreational Guide for Bald Eagle State Park

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A Pennsylvania Recreational Guide for

Bald Eagle State Park

The 5,900-acre Bald Eagle State Park is in the broad Bald Eagle Valley of northcentral Pennsylvania. The 1,730-acre lake laps the flanks of Bald Eagle Mountain, surrounded by forests, fields and wetlands. With two campgrounds, boating, fishing, swimming, the Nature Inn, and diverse habitats that are excellent for wildlife watching, Bald Eagle State Park is a great destination in the heart of Pennsylvania.

Recreational facilities are a result of a cooperative effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources-Bureau of State Parks.


Bald Eagle State Park, Centre County, is along PA 150 between Milesburg and Lock Haven.

From I-80 west, take Exit 158 to PA 150 north for about 10 miles.

From I-80 east, take Exit 178 to US 220 north, to PA 150 south for about 13 miles.

From I-99 take Exit 61 to Port Matilda, then US 220-ALT, continue onto 150 north to park.


Make online reservations at: www.visitPAparks.com or call toll-free 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, for state park information and reservations.

Recreational Opportunities

Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir

The 1,730-acre lake is the focal point for water-based recreation in the park. The nearly eight-mile long lake has 23 miles of shoreline.

Because of its role in flood damage reduction and downstream water quality, the operation of the dam is the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Lake levels vary throughout the year. Beginning in November, the USACE begins a five-foot lake draw down to prepare for winter waters. Between mid-February and early March, the water level is lowered an additional 15 feet to maximum flood protection pool. Depending on weather conditions, the reservoir usually reaches the summer recreational pool by mid-May.

Recreational Opportunities

Spend the Day

Boating: unlimited horsepower motors

The speed limit on the 1,730-acre lake is 45 mph. Boaters must follow a counterclockwise traffic pattern on the lake.

Boats equipped with inboard engines with over-the-transom or straight-stack type exhausts are prohibited.

Motorboats must display a boat registration from any state. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration from any state; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks that are available at most state park offices; launch use permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Marina and Boat Concession: Three hundred and sixty-nine marina dockage slips can be rented on a seasonal basis. Transient slips are rented on a daily basis. Boat and trailer storage is available for the summer and winter seasons. Contact the park office for additional information.

When available, the boating concession, located at the marina, rents boats, sells gasoline and does repairs. The concession is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and weekends during the months of September and October, weather permitting. Contact the park office for additional information.

Boat Launches: Most boat launches have picnic tables, grills and restrooms.

Hunter Run West Launch, by the Russell P. Letterman Campground, allows 24-hour access.

Hunter Run East Launch, off East Launch Road, allows 24-hour access.

Winter Launch, located along the lake north of the beach, provides year-round boating, a fishing pier which can accommodate persons with disabilities, and 24-hour access. This launch is usable at all water levels.

Bald Eagle Boat Launch, in the town of Howard, is lighted and provides 24-hour access.

Lower Greens Run Boat Launch, off PA 150, has a fishing pier and provides 24-hour access.

Upper Greens Run Boat Launch, off PA 150, provides 24-hour access.

Fishing: The 1,730-acre Sayers Reservoir and its 23 miles of shoreline offer excellent warm water fishing. Common species are crappie, yellow perch, tiger muskellunge, channel catfish and largemouth and smallmouth bass. The lake is a panfish enhancement waterway and special regulations apply. An ADA accessible fishing pier is at the Winter Launch in the Main Park Area. Ice fishing is permitted. Ice thickness is not monitored. For your safety, be sure the ice is at least four inches thick and carry safety equipment.

Picnicking: Picnic areas around the lake all have picnic tables, grills and restrooms. Picnic areas open at sunrise and close at sunset. Picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Most boat launches areas have picnic tables, grills and restrooms.

Schencks Grove Picnic Area, on the ridge on the south side of Marina Cove, has two play fields and a volleyball net.

Point Picnic Area, on the point of the peninsula overlooking the beach and marina, has pavilions #3 and #4 and a volleyball net.

Beach Picnic Area has pavilions #1, #2, #6 and #7.

Skyline Drive Picnic Area is on a ridge overlooking Frog Pond, the lake and Bald Eagle Mountain. This area has Pavilion #5.

Winter Launch Picnic Area has Pavilion #8, and a fishing pier to accommodate people with disabilities.

Bald Eagle Boat Launch has Pavilion #9.

Swimming: The 1,200-foot long sand and turf beach has a children’s playground, snack bar, changing rooms, public restrooms and parking. The regular hours are 8 a.m. to sunset, Memorial Day to Labor Day, unless otherwise posted. Swim at your own risk. Please follow posted rules for swimming. The swimming area is ADA accessible. Pets are prohibited in the beach area.

A food and refreshment concession is in the beach area and offers hot sandwiches and snacks. It is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weather permitting. Contact the park for additional information.

Hunting and Firearms: About 4,910 acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are white-tailed deer, turkey, waterfowl and rabbit. Hunting is also available on nearby state game Lands 92 and 252.

Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for ADA accessible hunting information.

Use extreme caution with firearms at all times. Other visitors use the park during hunting seasons. Firearms and archery equipment used for hunting may be uncased and ready for use only in authorized hunting areas during hunting seasons. In areas not open to hunting or during non-hunting seasons, firearms and archery equipment shall be kept in the owner’s car, trailer or leased campsite. The only exception is that law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms may carry said firearm concealed on their person while they are in the park.

Stay the Night


Russell P. Letterman Campground:

This modern camping area features 97 campsites, two yurts, three camping cottages, hot showers, the park amphitheater, a sanitary dump station and is less than one mile from the beach, marina and other park facilities. The campground opens the second Friday of April and closes in mid-December. Each campsite has a paved parking spur, picnic table and fire ring. Electric hookups of 30 amps are available at most sites, and some campsites have 50 amp hookups. Two campsites accommodate people with disabilities.

Two yurts, (round, Mongolian-style tents on wooden decks), sleep 6, have electric heat, a cooking stove, refrigerator, beds and a table and chairs. Located in the center of the campground, the yurts offer convenient accommodations for weekly rentals. Shorter stays are available during the spring and fall seasons. One yurt can accommodate people with disabilities.

Three camping cottages sleep five people and have wooden floors, windows, electric heat, porch, picnic table, fire ring and electric lights and outlets. Vehicles are to be parked on the hard surface only, not on the grass.

Primitive Camping Area: This rustic area has 35 walk-in sites for tents and 35 sites reserved for camping vehicles. The tent camping sites are walk-ins and are about 150 feet from the road. Parking spaces for tent campers are along the road. Drinking water is available along the campground road. Restrooms have vault toilets and a sink with running water. A sanitary dump station is available.

The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle

Experience the beauty of Bald Eagle State Park at a new addition to the Pennsylvania State Park system—The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle. The 18,500-square-foot, 16-room building overlooks the park’s lake and provides full-service accommodations. This modern inn, unique to the park system, focuses on outdoor recreation and stewardship, making maximum use of green building technologies, while serving as a premier interpretive facility for bird watching.

Enjoy the Winter

Ice Fishing: About 630 acres of the lake are available during the winter. Ice thickness is not monitored. For your safety, be sure the ice is at least four inches thick and carry safety equipment.

Ice Skating: Ice skating is permitted on the lake. Ice thickness is not monitored.

Sledding and Tobogganing:

About five acres of cleared hillside allows for a 1,320-foot run. The slope faces the modern campground and is accessed from Skyline Drive near Pavilion #5.

Environmental Education and Interpretation

Bald Eagle State Park offers a wide variety of environmental education and interpretive programs year-round. Through guided walks, hands-on activities, and campfire programs, visitors gain appreciation and awareness toward the natural and historical resources.

Curriculum-based outdoor investigations and hands-on environmental activities are available to local schools, youth and community organizations, and homeschool associations. Programs for children to learn about the environment are presented annually through the Pennsylvania State Park’s DiscoverE day camp. This program is open to children ages 4-17 and their parents. Group programs must be scheduled in advance by calling the park office. For more information on park programs, check the activity schedule on the park bulletin boards or at the park office. A complete listing is available online.


A network of hiking trails guides hikers through a variety of habitats that offer scenic views and wildlife watching opportunities. Additional unnamed extension trails lead to recreational facilities like boat launches, the marina, the modern campground and the beach. Some trails wind through areas open to hunting. Hikers should wear fluorescent orange clothing during hunting seasons. Trails are open year-round from sunrise to sunset.

Tell us about your hike at: www.ExplorePAtrails.com

Butterfly Trail: 1.5 miles, easiest hiking

This mowed trail, created for the conservation of butterflies, has opportunities for close encounters with butterflies in their natural setting. The trailhead is west of the beach area near Pavilion #6. The Butterfly Trail loops around Frog Pond and through a mix of grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and young trees that are host and nectar plants for butterflies throughout their lifecycle. An interpretive area provides information and examples of butterfly habitat components. In September, migrating monarchs are often seen drinking nectar on the abundant goldenrod. This trail is a popular family hike.

Hunter Run East Trail: 2.3 miles, more difficult hiking

Following the northwest border of the park toward Hunter Run West Boat Launch, Hunter Run East Trail winds up and down beneath a mixed forest and through open shrub areas providing favorite habitat for chickadees, towhees, and catbirds. Hikers will encounter an intermittent mountain stream home to various salamanders and aquatic insects. This trail has a scenic view of Hunter Run Cove. Some wet areas do not have bridges or boardwalks. This trail begins at the PA 150 underpass of West Launch Road.

Hunter Run West Trail: 2.2 miles, more difficult hiking

Hunter Run West Trail weaves around the foothills of the Allegheny Plateau. This mowed pathway slopes through a mix of forested areas and field habitats and guides hikers through natural forest succession. In the summer, songs of common yellowthroats and song sparrows may be heard as you pass through the open, shrub areas and northern pearly-eyes and wood nymphs may be spotted hiding in the shaded areas. Signs of old fencerows along the way are evidence of the area’s farming heritage. This trail begins at the PA 150 underpass of West Launch Road.

Lakeside Trail: 2.9 miles or 4.4 miles, more difficult hiking

This very rocky, flat trail runs along the base of Bald Eagle Mountain. The trail begins at Bald Eagle Boat Launch Access Area. After 1.5 miles to the Primitive Campground, the trail branches into a 2.9-mile loop. With the lake below and mature hardwoods such as oaks, maples and hickories towering above, this trail is a shaded summer hike, providing glimpses of the lake. Look for signs of raccoons, squirrels, and pileated woodpeckers. Signs of the old charcoal hearths where timber was burned in large earth-covered mounds to create charcoal for iron furnaces in the 1800s can also be seen along this rugged trail. Mountain streams are not bridged. The trail crosses beneath the railroad line through tunnels at both ends of its loop. Please use these tunnels while hiking.

Skyline Drive Trail: 2 miles, easiest hiking

This trail begins on Skyline Drive and meanders through a small forested ridge of mixed hardwoods to Warbler Way. Quiet hikers might catch a glimpse of white-tailed deer hiding in the undergrowth. Most of the trail is forested, but portions contain dense shrubbery reminiscent of earlier ecological succession. This area is favorite habitat for eastern chipmunks, great horned owls and black-throated green warblers and other woodland warblers. At each end of the trail it is possible to hike on connector trails to Butterfly Trail, for a longer and more diverse hike.

Swamp Oak Trail: 0.5 mile, easiest hiking

This trail can be accessed from the amphitheater in the Modern Campground or from the top of skyline ridge, which has a sweeping view of Foster J. Sayers Lake. Near the amphitheater by the trail is the largest and possibly oldest tree in the park. This swamp oak is in photos from before the park. The trail also passes a line of old, large oak trees. A portion of the trail follows the old farm road to what was the Day Farm.

Woapalanne Path: 1.75 miles, easiest hiking

This relatively flat, partially shaded trail is so close to the lake that portions of it flood during high water events! It is a great trail to see waterfowl, eagles and wildlife that likes riparian areas (near water). The trail meanders between a kiosk near Pavilion 6 and the eastern terminus of F.J. Sayers Road. If you look closely you can see old stone wells, tree lines, and other historic remnants from the valley’s past.

History of Bald Eagle

The valley, creek, mountain and state park are named for the American Indian chief Woapalanne, (wopo lonnie) which means “bald eagle.” In the mid-1700s, the Munsee Lenni Lenape chief briefly dwelled at Bald Eagles Nest, near Milesburg. The village was along the Bald Eagle Creek Path, a portion of a warriors path from New York to the Carolinas, which now is PA 150.

As one of the few navigable tributaries of the West Branch Susquehanna River, Bald Eagle Creek became a branch of the Pennsylvania Canal in the mid-1800s. Flooding destroyed the short-lived canal system and newly developed railroads replaced the canal.

These transportation systems and abundant local resources led to the building of the nearby Curtin Ironworks. Loggers cut trees from steep-sided Bald Eagle Mountain and colliers made charcoal from the wood to feed the hungry furnace. When the demand for wood products soared in the 1800s, once plentiful pine, chestnut, oak and hickory were cleared from the valley and plateaus. Farmland replaced the forest. The fertile valley continues to be cultivated. The forests of Bald Eagle Mountain have regenerated.

To reduce flood damage downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the 100-foot high and 1.3-mile long Foster Joseph Sayers Dam in 1969. Bald Eagle State Park opened to the public July 4, 1971.

The dam and reservoir were named in honor of Foster Joseph Sayers, a private 1st class in World War II. Nineteen year-old Sayers, a resident of Centre County, lost his life while displaying gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in combat on November 12, 1944, near Thionville, France.

During an attack on hostile forces entrenched on a hill, Sayers ran up the steep approach and set up his machine gun 20 yards from the enemy. Realizing it was necessary to attract the full attention of the dug-in Germans while his company crossed an open area and flanked the enemy, he picked up his gun, charged through withering gun fire to the very edge of the German encampment and killed 12 German soldiers with devastating close-range fire. He then engaged the enemy from the flank in a heroic attempt to distract attention from his comrades as they reached the crest of the hill. He was killed by a very heavy concentration of return fire, but his fearless assault enabled his company to sweep the hill with minimum casualties, killing or capturing every enemy solider. Sayers received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

eBird Trail Tracker Kiosks

While at the park, take time to visit the eBird Trail Tracker kiosk at the Nature Inn. Through the cooperative eBird program with Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology, visitors can use these kiosks as electronic gateways to bird sightings at Bald Eagle State Park. Visitors can view which birds are being reported at the park and where, record their own observations, and view photos, audio, video, and life histories of these birds. Park observation records become part of eBird, an online checklist program that scientists, birders, and anyone with Internet access can use to review bird observation information from specific locations across North America.

For more information on eBird Trail Tracker and the eBird program, go to: www.birds.cornell.edu/is/ett

Habitats of Bald Eagle State Park

Bald Eagle State Park’s geographic location and diversity of habitats attract a large variety of birds. The Allegheny Front to the west of the park is a major flyway for migrating birds (along with butterflies and dragonflies). Birds using the flyway stop at Bald Eagle to rest and feed before continuing their migration.

The park is in the Ridge and Valley Physiographic Province of Pennsylvania, which is characterized by wide valleys surrounded by mountains. This feature is mirrored at the park which slopes from Bald Eagle Mountain down to the valley bottom.

This varied geology leads to many different habitats in the park, which creates more places for birds and animals to find homes and places to eat.

Park Office

The area by the park office is composed of fields slowly reverting to forest. Unmowed grassy areas slowly bristle with shrubs, becoming great habitat for birds that hide and forage hidden in the thick vegetation. In winter, the northern shrike, (1) which breeds in northern Canada, winters in the park because of similar habitat. The grassy fields and shrubby areas are just like home and provide habitat for mice, moles and voles (2) the winter food of the shrike, which sometimes stores spare food on the thorns of the hawthorn trees. (3) The northern mockingbird (4) is a gray bird often confused with the shrike. Dead and dried joe pye weed, (5) teasel, (6) goldenrod (7) and Queen Anne’s lace, (8) also called wild carrot, are perching spots and seed repositories for year-round birds like song sparrows. (9)

This shrubby area has many tasty plants for cottontail rabbits, (10) which use the thick underbrush to hide from bobcats. (11)

The trails in this area have a maze-like quality as they pass through tall shrubs and grasses. Walking quietly can create close encounters with birds that think they are hidden, but also can be frustrating because a bird can be heard but not seen.

Skyline Drive

An amazing aspect of the Skyline Drive area is that you can park your car, take a few steps and feel like you are in the middle of a forest. May apples (12) bloom in late spring, although the small, tree-covered hill has little undergrowth, giving it an open feel. Mature trees, like white oak, (13) blanket the hill, making good habitat for resident and migrating warblers. Walking on the top of the Skyline Drive provides views into the upper layers of trees where these warblers live, making them easier to see than in a flat forest. Skyline Drive is a great place for beginner birders.

The red-eyed vireo (14) prefers the tops of trees where it hunts for insects. The scarlet tanager, (15) one of the most vibrant birds in the forest, prefers the middle of the tree. The ovenbird (16) hunts and nests on the ground. Its teacher, teacher call is common spring through early summer.

Next to Skyline Drive is Frog Pond, a great place to see the beautiful wood duck. (17) Cattails (18) line the pond, making hiding places for green herons (19) that lurk in the shallows hunting small aquatic creatures. The aquatic phase of the red-spotted newt (20) is bypassed by the hungry heron because they taste terrible. The lily pad-like leaves of spatterdock (21) line the pool, making hiding and sunning locations for green frogs (22) that make their rubber band twang call in early summer. American woodcock (23) use their long bills to probe the soft soil by the pond for earthworms.

Fields near the pond are home to eastern bluebirds, (24) which perch on their houses or on the small redbud (25) tree before flying out and snatching flying insects. Please don’t disturb the bluebird nest boxes.

Milkweed, (26) the host plant for monarch butterflies, (27) flourishes in the fields.

Lake and Shoreline

Water attracts wildlife. Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir and the lands near it abound in animals and plants, many of which live only in riparian zones (near water). Great blue herons (28) wade in the shallows of the lake hunting small fish and crayfish. In among the sedges and rushes, (29) greater yellowlegs (30) work the shore and shallowest water looking for any small creatures, sometimes joined by killdeer, (31) a small sandpiper. In the open water, ring-necked ducks (32) feed on aquatic plants and insects. During spring and fall migration, flotillas of ducks rest and refuel at the lake. Green darner dragonflies (33) hunt for insects over the lake.

Under the water is a hidden world sometimes glimpsed on the hook of a fishing rod. Largemouth bass (34) engulf anything it can in its huge mouth. Muskellunge (35) patrol the lake hunting small fish. Black crappie (36) and yellow perch (37) hunt aquatic insects while hiding from the bigger fish. Snapping turtles (38) lurk on the lake bottom eating whatever wanders too close.

Above the lake, ring-billed gulls, terns and double-crested cormorants flap the length of the reservoir. Feathered mostly in brown, immature bald eagles (39) dive for small fish. Fish crows (40) eat anything they can, stealing food when possible.

Bald Eagle Mountain

On Bald Eagle Mountain, tall trees looming high overhead in this rocky, remote forest can make visitors feel short and maybe insignificant. In the fall, the tree leaves blaze in yellows, oranges, reds and browns. The nuts of the oaks and hickories provide food for many animals, including black bear, (41) gray squirrel, (42) wild turkey (43) and ruffed grouse. (44) The evergreens, like white pine, (45) add green color year-round and are a favored nesting place for bald eagles. (46) Hairy woodpeckers (47) and red breasted nuthatches (48) feast on insects in or under the bark of the trees. At night, great horned owls (49) patrol the forest for small prey animals, while porcupines (50) climb to eat the inner bark of trees.

Conservation Volunteers

The Conservation Volunteer Program encourages individuals, groups, and/or corporations to help the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources carry out its mission of stewardship in state parks and state forestlands. Contact the park office for more information about volunteer opportunities at Bald Eagle State Park.

Access for People with Disabilities

Access to boating on the lake for people with disabilities is available at the Marina. Pavilions #6 and #7 in the Beach Picnic Area are ADA accessible.

This symbol indicates facilities and activities that are accessible. This publication text is available in alternative formats.

If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.

Nearby Attractions

For information on nearby attractions, contact the Centre County Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visitpennstate.org

or, the Clinton County Economic Partnership. www.clintoncountyinfo.com

Explore Pennsylvania Wilds

Pennsylvania Wilds is two million acres of public lands for hiking, biking, fishing, boating, hunting and exploration in northcentral Pennsylvania. Within the 12-county region are: 29 state parks, including Bald Eagle; eight state forest districts (1.3 million acres); 50 state game lands and Allegheny National Forest (500,000 acres).

Highlights of the area are: elk watching, scenic PA 6, Pine Creek Gorge (PA Grand Canyon), the darkest skies in the east at Cherry Springs State Park, and hundreds of miles of trails, bike paths and trout fishing streams. For the more adventurous, whitewater rafting through Pine Creek Gorge and hang-gliding at Hyner View State Park offer exciting challenges.

Protect and Preserve Our Parks

Please make your visit safe and enjoyable. Obey all posted rules and regulations and respect fellow visitors and the resources of the park.

• Be prepared and bring the proper equipment. Natural areas may possess hazards. Your personal safety and that of your family are your responsibility.

• Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

• Please camp only in designated areas and try to minimize your impact on the campsite.

• Firewood Advisory: Firewood may contain non-native insects and plant diseases. Bringing firewood into the park from other areas may accidentally spread pest insects and diseases that threaten park resources and the health of our forests. Campers should use local firewood. Do not take wood home and do not leave firewood - Burn It!

• Prevent forest fires by having a fire in proper facilities and properly disposing of hot coals. Do not leave a fire unattended.

Pennsylvania State Parks Mission

The primary mission of Pennsylvania state parks is to provide opportunities for enjoying healthful outdoor recreation and serve as outdoor classrooms for environmental education. In meeting these purposes, the conservation of the natural, scenic, aesthetic, and historical values of parks should be given first consideration. Stewardship responsibilities should be carried out in a way that protects the natural outdoor experience for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

In an Emergency

Contact a park employee or dial 911. For directions to the nearest hospital, look on bulletin boards or at the park office.

Nearest Hospital

Lock Haven Hospital

24 Cree Drive

Lock Haven, PA 17745


From the main park entrance, go north 13 miles on PA 150 and follow hospital signs.

For More Information Contact

Bald Eagle State Park

149 Main Park Road

Howard, PA 16841

814 625-2775

e-mail: baldeaglesp@pa.gov

An Equal Opportunity Employer


Information and Reservations

Make online reservations at: www.visitPAparks.com or call toll-free 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, for state park information and reservations.


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