Nestled within Bald Eagle State Forest in central Pennsylvania lies a natural, historic gem: Poe Valley State Park. Our family decided to spend the day there this Independence Day weekend, and once the sun finally came out and it warmed up into the seventies, we had a great time.
This park is one of several state parks in Pennsylvania that was built or greatly improved through the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, otherwise known as the CCC. This park has special significance to me since my grandfather was one of those young men who built the dam at this park when he was 22 years old.
The man-made lake and beach area were nearly vacant when we arrived shortly before noon, but it did fill up by the time we left later in the day. The Poe Valley Dam can be seen off in the distance.
We couldn't find our beach buckets and had to make do with the plastic cups we brought, but the children had a great time trying to build sandcastles around the 25-acre Poe Lake.
I thought the water was freezing, but our younger ones didn't seem to mind. The beach area has a new bath house and concession stand that served plenty of hot foods to warm us up as well as ice cream and other cold foods for the sunny late afternoon.
As I watched my children play and have a great time today, I wondered what it was like for my grandfather here in 1935 as he worked to build the dam, create roads, and plant pine trees. The photographs I have seen show a young, attractive man looking proud and happy with his accomplishments.
Next to the swimming area are kayak, canoe, and paddle boat rentals.
Our 14 year old son enjoyed his first kayaking experience, especially after he came back for his fishing gear.
According to him, (and he is our family fisherman) the lake was full of bass, muskies, and perch. I'll take his word for it because I didn't see any fish at all.
Next to the beach and small boat dock, there is a terrific playground and climbing wall.
This was definitely a treat since we were cooped up all day yesterday due to more heavy rain and temps only in the sixties---for a second Saturday in a row!
Of course, there are also plenty of hiking trails, which we didn't get to today. There are also campgrounds with a few available cabins that have electricity and heat, but no running water. My girls and I are not camping kinds of girls, so we didn't do that either.
There are also numerous picnic tables, pavilions, and grills, but these fill up quickly during holiday weekends, especially near the beach area. We lucked out because when we arrived at 11:30 AM, it was cloudy and still only 65 degrees, so we practically had the park to ourselves. When we left at 4, however, most of the good spots were spoken for.
When I was growing up, most families I knew had annual reunions at state parks such as this. I don't see that as much anymore, which makes me feel a bit sad. Funding has been cut for many of these parks, and swimming pools, concessions stands, and other amenities have been closed while lifeguards and other personnel have been let go. It did my heart good to spend this Independence Day weekend with my family continuing this tradition on a smaller scale, especially knowing that we would not be able to enjoy this beautiful place without the hard work of my grandfather and the other 199 CCC boys who were here 80 years ago.