By Jeff Krause
Common sights at Raystown Lake include fishermen trolling for stripers, bikers on the Allegrippis trails, sun bathers on the beach and campers sitting by the fire ring. These recreational activities are shared among the 1.5 million visitors each year who travel to Raystown to escape their busy lives. Although not often mentioned, there is one common bond between all these recreational activities – the beauty and diverse natural resources that make the Raystown Region special. After all, would visitors still come if the green forest mountains and clear, fish filled waters were replaced with paved parking lots and unclean, unfishable waters. We must remember that our natural resources are the foundation for the outdoor recreational experiences we enjoy so much.
Some of the unique offerings at Raystown include a world class two story fishery that provides common warm water fish such as black bass and walleye while also offering trophy size striped bass and lake trout. Hundreds of annual fishing tournaments and the PA state record striped bass are testaments to the great fishery created by clean water.
The availability of fish have also made Bald eagles common place at Raystown and may be considered the favorite for wildlife viewing. Numerous nesting locations have produced almost 60 young nestlings in the past 13 years and hot spots below the dam and near the Entriken bridges are good viewing locations from December through March.
The rock outcrops common at Raystown contain important shale barren habitat and great natural beauty. These barrens which can exceed 100 degrees in early April provide a rare environment that host both plant and animals that only inhabit the extreme conditions. Observing the evening primrose’s yellow bloom close to the water’s edge is one offering of this unique habitat.
The most dominant natural feature of Raystown is the nearly 18,000 acres of forest land surrounding the lake providing a landscape of mountains, valleys and ridges that surrounds the lake. The plant and wildlife resources utilizing the adjacent forest and habitat include over 20 species of concern such as the bald eagle, osprey, several species of bats, golden -winged warblers and cerulean warblers. Visitors may also see a river otter sliding down a bank, a fisher searching for food, a fence lizard scurry down a tree or one of the American chesntut seedlings attempting to re-establish itself from a century of blight.
When you pause to allow your adrenaline levels to drop after that adventure on the Allegrippis, catching air under your personal watercraft or a ride on the zip lines, take a look around and take note of the supporting natural beauty of the Raystown Region that adds that breathtaking landscape to your experience.
About the Author: Jeff Krause is a Wildlife Biologist in his 19th year with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has spent the past 15 at Raystown Lake.