MORAINE STATE PARK
Moraine State Park features 3,225-acre Lake Arthur, an outstanding warm water fishery that is also great for sailing and boating. Visitors sometimes see osprey that were reintroduced to the park. Of special interest is the Frank Preston Conservation Area and a 7-mile paved bike trail that winds around the north shore of the lake.
The park is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to sunset. Park information, launch permits, cabin information and assistance can be obtained at the park office near the entrance to the South Shore. It is open year round Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and weekends during the summer.
A secondary office at the Davis Hollow Marina on the North Shore can provide marina applications and general park information. It is open 24 hours a day April 15 through October 30th.
The gently rolling hills, lush forests and sparkling waters disguise a land that has endured the effects of continental glaciers and massive mineral extraction. Thousands of people visit the 3,225-acre Lake Arthur yet never realize that many people helped restore the park from prior coal mining and oil drilling practices. Today, the park is an outstanding example of environmental engineering achievement.
Lake Arthur provides over forty miles of scenic shoreline. Its tributaries include Muddy Run, Big Run, Swamp Run, Bear Run and over 75 intermittent streams. Ranging from an average depth of 12 feet to about 36 feet deep near the dam, the shallow waters are home to a variety of warm water fish. Frogs, newts, turtles and water snakes prowl the edges of the lake. Avian anglers like the tall great blue heron, its short cousin the green-backed heron and the small belted kingfisher prey on minnows and fish fry, too small to be caught by human anglers. In the early spring, common loons stop at the lake on their migration to the far north.
Osprey may be seen flying over Lake Arthur. Once extirpated from Western Pennsylvania, these "fish hawks" have been reintroduced to Moraine through a four-year hacking program begun in 1993. The first osprey pair to nest along Lake Arthur as a result of the reintroduction effort raised three young in 1996.
A moraine is soil, rocks and debris that accumulates at the edges and underneath a glacier. Moraine State Park received its name because at least four continental glaciers have reached their greatest extent near the park, leaving their signatures on the landscape.
During the third great ice advance about 140,000 years ago, a continental glacier dammed area creeks making three glacial lakes. To the north, Slippery Rock Creek filled giant Lake Edmund. To the southeast, extinct McConnell's Run filled tiny Lake Prouty. In the middle, Muddy Creek filled the medium-sized Lake Watts.
Before the glacier dam, Slippery Rock and Muddy creeks flowed north while extinct McConnells Run flowed south. The glacier dammed Lake Prouty on the edge of the drainage divide. Eventually Lake Prouty spilled over and rushed to the south, carving Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. Lakes Watts and Edmund drained into the gorge, digging it deeper and making Slippery Rock and Muddy creeks flow south. Areas of the Slippery Rock Gorge may be seen at nearby McConnell's Mill State Park.
The glacier created a landscape of rolling hills topped with hardwood trees and swamps in the valley bottoms. Moraines containing gravel, sand and clay were draped upon the landscape and silt was left on the extinct lake bottoms.
American Indians found the land to be excellent hunting grounds. In the 1800s, settlers cleared the forests and drained the swamps to make farm fields. Sand and gravel deposited by the glaciers were mined and sold. Limestone and clay were mined to make ceramics. Local shale was used to make bricks. Deeper underground, the discovery of bituminous coal ushered in a boom time for the region. Seven coal beds were deep-mined and later the land was strip-mined.
In the late 1800s, gas wells were drilled to extract oil and gas. When the wells dried up, they were abandoned and left unsealed.
The Western Allegheny Railroad transported a majority of these extracted minerals to Pittsburgh. The railroad ran the full length of Muddy Creek Valley and through the Village of Isle, where the Route 528 bridge is today. Abandoned in 1939, the old railroad grade is still visible west of the dam and in the Muddy Creek finger of Lake Arthur.
Much of the park area lost its topsoil and many streams were polluted with acid mine drainage. The land remained largely unoccupied.
In 1926, Frank W. Preston of England moved to the town of Meridian and opened a glass research lab. A leader in glass research, Dr. Preston was also a geologist and naturalist. On a trip to the Muddy Creek Valley, he noticed how the hills changed their shape and attributed it to the glacial periods. Preston studied the land for decades and named many of the landforms after Edmund Watts Arthur, a prominent Pittsburgh attorney and naturalist. With the support of friends, Preston formed the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to purchase land to recreate the glacial landscape and preserve open space. Muddy Creek was dammed to create modern Lake Arthur as a smaller version of glacial Lake Watts.
The former Department of Forests and Waters and the former Pennsylvania Department of Mines and Mineral Industries combined forces to reclaim the abused land. Deep mines were sealed, strip mines were back-filled and graded, and 422 gas and oil wells were plugged. Soil was treated with fertilizer, thousands of trees, and grasses and clovers were planted to restore the land.
By November of 1968, the dam was complete and two years later Lake Arthur reached its full level. Moraine State Park was dedicated on May 23, 1970.
Lake Arthur reminds us that our use of natural resources to meet human needs requires decisions that affect the quality of the environment.
Eleven modern cabins are available for rent year round. These electrically heated cabins sleep six people and have two bedrooms, bathroom with shower, kitchen, dining/living area and a dock on Lake Arthur. Renters must provide their own linens, towels, cookware and tableware. Play equipment for children is in a central area.
A paved, seven-mile bicycle trail winds near the shoreline between the Marina Restaurant and the Bike Rental Building in the northwest corner of the park. This trail is not a loop. The trail can be accessed at many places in the Lakeview Beach and Watts Bay Marina areas.
A bicycle rental and vending area is located at the beginning of the bike trail on the upper northwest corner of the north shore. Bicycles for the whole family may be rented every day between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, and weekends in April, May, September and October. Weather permitting, vending machines and restrooms are available in the Bike Rental Building and Watts Bay areas.
There is a six-mile loop trail for mountain bikes on the North Shore. Trailheads are located off of Mt. Union Road and Alexander Ridge Road.
Organized Group Tenting:
There are two camping areas available for organized groups, Muskrat Cove and Five Points camps. These primitive camps have picnic tables, cooking grills and water wells, but no showers. Advance reservations are required.
Swimming is permitted at two beaches along the shore of Lake Arthur. The Pleasant Valley Day Beach on the South Shore is a 1,200-foot turf and sand beach. Lakeview Beach on the North Shore is a 550-foot sand beach. Showers, changing facilities and food concessions are available at both beaches. To keep these areas clean and safe, pets are not allowed in the beaches.
Boating: up to 20 hp motors permittedNo boating is permitted in the Game Propagation Area. 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.
There are 10 boat-launching areas around Lake Arthur. Sailing is especially popular. Races and regattas for sailboats are held throughout the summer. At the Crescent Bay Area, sailboats, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, motorboats and pontoon boats may be rented in the summer, and paddle boats and canoes are available in the off-season. Canoes and paddleboats may be rented at the Pleasant Valley Day Use Area on the South Shore only on weekends. These boat launches are accessible: Bear Run, 528, McDanel's and Davis Hollow public launch.