R.B.Winter State Park covers 695 acres of the Ridge and Valley Province in central Pennsylvania. Located within Bald Eagle State Forest, the park lies in a shallow basin surrounded by rocky ridges covered with an oak and pine forest. The focal point of the park is Halfway Lake which is filled by spring-fed mountain streams and contained by a hand-laid, native sandstone dam. Open year-round, the park provides diverse opportunities for recreation.
About 150 picnic tables are dispersed throughout the park. Charcoal grills, drinking water fountains, restrooms, horseshoe pits, play areas, and other park facilities are within easy access from picnic areas. Three separate picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved pavilions are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The swimming beach features 300 feet of white sand and is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset. Swim at your own risk. Please read and follow posted rules for swimming. The beach area includes restrooms, dressing facilities, a beach volleyball court and a children’s play area.
A seasonal food and refreshment concession is at the beach house. The limited menu includes hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, cold drinks and ice cream.
The park is a coldwater fishery, stocked with brown, rainbow and brook trout. With the exception of the swimming area, the lake and its tributary streams are open to public fishing. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks the lake and Rapid Run regularly during the season. Many anglers gather near the sandstone dam or the fishing pier.
Hiking: 6.3 miles of trails
The hiking trails pass through a variety of terrains with only short stretches of steep inclines. Trails within the park are marked and maintained, but a map and proper attire are recommended for personal comfort and safety. Many of the park’s trails connect with trails in the surrounding Bald Eagle State Forest, making R.B. Winter an ideal starting point for backpacking trips. Map and trail information for R.B. Winter and Bald Eagle State Forest are available at the park office.
Bake Oven Trail: 0.96 miles, most difficult hiking
This trail runs in conjunction with the Mid State Trail and takes hikers along the ridge top and through areas of mountain laurel and chestnut oak.
Boiling Spring Trail:1.41 miles, easiest hiking
This trail follows the waterline originally installed by the CCC. Hikers can enjoy dense mountain laurel and ferns en route to the original CCC springhouse.
Brush Hollow Trail: 0.73 mile, more difficult hiking
This trail runs in conjunction with the Mid State Trail on the park’s southern border.
Old Boundary Trail: 0.77 mile, easiest hiking
This trail connects Bake Oven Trail and Sand Mountain Road. Hikers cross scenic Halfway Run and its nearby wetland area.
Overlook Trail: 0.33 mile, more difficult hiking
This short, steep trail starts on Sand Mountain Road and climbs through an oak and maple forest to an overlook 300 feet above the park, then continues onto state forest property.
Rapid Run Nature Trail: 1.09 miles, easiest hiking
This scenic trail loops through the Rapid Run Natural Area. The old growth hemlock and white pine trees shade wetlands, springs and sphagnum bogs.
West Boundary Trail: 0.64 mile, most difficult hiking
Stretches of steep, rocky terrain make a rugged, yet scenic hike.
Mid State Trail: 250 miles, most difficult hiking
The park is a middle trailhead for central Pennsylvania’s Mid State Trail. Stretching from Bedford County in the south to Tioga County in the north, this wilderness footpath mostly covers public lands as it passes through state forests, state parks and game lands. The remote and isolated trail is excellent for backpacking trips.
Mountain biking is permitted on designated trails. R.B. Winter State Park provides access to 25 off-road mountain bike trails located in Bald Eagle State Forest. Riders will find over 48 miles of trails with nearly 100 miles of connecting forestry roads. The Central Mountains Shared-Use Trail System brochure provides general information about a number of the trails. The brochure also contains a map showing trails of varying lengths and difficulty. Maps are available at the park office and the mountain bike trailhead in the main parking lot.
Stay the Night
Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups
The 58-site campground accommodates tents, trailers and motor homes. Each site is equipped with a picnic table, lantern holder and a fire ring. Most campsites have electric hook-ups. The campground provides showers, hand washing facilities, a sanitary dump station, drinking water and a playground. All campsites are completely shaded, close to a playfield, and within easy walking distance to all other park facilities. Open from the second Friday in April until mid-December, the sites differ slightly in elevation and scenery. Pets are permitted on designated sites.
Free Camping for Campground Hosts: one host position
The campground host site has amenities that include 50-amp electric service and water hookup. The host is required to assist park personnel for 40 hours per week with a two-week minimum stay. Contact the park office for additional information and availability.
The three cottages sleep five people in single bunks and double/single bunks, and have wooden floors, windows, skylights, porch, picnic table, fire ring, electric lights and outlets, and a small baseboard heater. The cottages require a two-night minimum stay with advance reservations. A one-night stay is accepted for walk-ins.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Five miles of park trails provide easy skiing and snowshoeing with connecting trails and roads on surrounding state forest land.
Registered snowmobiles are permitted on designated park roads which lead to over 300 miles of roads and trails in the Bald Eagle State Forest. Trailhead facilities at the park include restrooms, garbage cans, parking and unloading areas. Conditions permitting, daily snowmobiling begins after deer season in December until April 1. Maps and information are available at the park office.
The ice on Halfway Lake is not monitored so be sure the ice is four inches thick and carry safety equipment.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
R.B.Winter State Park offers a wide variety of environmental education and interpretive programs on a year-round basis. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding, and develop a sense of stewardship toward the natural and cultural resources.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools, youth organizations and homeschool associations. Group programs must be scheduled in advance by calling the park office. Popular topics for students include adaptations, bird life, amphibians, reptiles, geology, wetland or forest ecosystems, watersheds and aquatic studies.
Teacher workshops are available on the Bureau of State Parks curriculum Watershed Education. Other educator workshop topics include schoolyard habitat, songbird education, and environmental education and children’s literature.
Several special events including a history day and the winter Snowfest are conducted each year. The “Halfway Herald” includes a schedule of upcoming programs and activities and is available from the park office or learning center.
Halfway Run Environmental Learning Center/Sheary-Linn Amphitheater:
Equipped with many educational tools, the center is a classroom and base for educational programs. It features a hands-on science area, a computer center with environmental software, a library of field guides, classic environmental works and children’s books, and displays of native wildlife. Visitors can test their knowledge of lumber on the Wall of Woods display. Others can enjoy sitting at the center’s observation window listening to birds gathered at the microphone-equipped feeding station. Large porches provide opportunities to relax and enjoy the surrounding forest scenery. Near the center is the Sheary-Linn Amphitheater where outdoor interpretive programs are presented.
Various geologic formations are explained in a brochure called the Trail of Geology, which is available at the park office or environmental center.
By hiking the Overlook Trail or driving up McCalls Dam Road, visitors may enjoy the vista that includes Halfway Dam, the Rapid Run water gap and several mountains that surround the park.
Halfway Lake receives a significant amount of water from underground springs, which contributes to the lake’s chilly temperatures. Visitors can observe a small boiling spring at the west end of the beach. Little Bubbler is an artesian spring. The sand bubbles as the water seeps up through the ground. The water temperature reaches highs only in the low 50s. Geologists are not certain about the cause of the Little Bubbler, but they assume that water is flowing through a crack in the bedrock.
Found along the mountain ridges, rock fields are areas where numerous rocks cover the ground. Formed during the last glacial period, 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, cold temperatures caused ice crystals to grow in the natural crevices of the sandstone mountains. Strong quartzite rock was split into loose boulders that eventually slid down the mountain slopes. Once temperatures became warmer, vegetation returned to the shallow soil. Patches of boulders that have resisted new growth are still visible from several park trails.
The Rapid Run Natural Area has many vernal pools. These temporary pools usually contain water through the winter and spring and dry up during the summer. Animals and plants have adapted to this unique habitat. Wetland plants inhabit the special soil in and around the pools. Fairy shrimp live only in vernal pools. Spotted salamanders, wood frogs and many insects lay their eggs in vernal pools. These animals hatch quickly into larvae and then to adults, usually before the pool dries up for the summer. Many animals depend on vernal pools for their survival.
Butterfly and Bird Gardens
Near the park office and the Halfway Run Environmental Learning Center, several flower and herb gardens attract wildlife. Native plants and garden flowers draw butterflies such as swallowtails, satyrs, fritillaries, painted ladies, admirals, tortoiseshells and monarchs. Hummingbird moths and silver spotted skippers also frequent the gardens. Birds feeding on seeds, insects, or nectar include goldfinches, chipping sparrows, juncos, and ruby-throated hummingbirds. For more specific information on these model backyard habitat areas, a free handout is available at the park office or the learning center.
Rapid Run Natural Area
When colonists first arrived in Pennsylvania, they were overwhelmed with the dense forests. Conrad Weiser, one of the area’s earliest explorers, claimed that “the wood is so thick that for a mile at a time we could not find a place the size of a hand, where the sunshine could penetrate, even in the clearest day...” Even though most settlers found the forest to be an obstacle, it supported abundant wildlife and plants.
Although the forests of Pennsylvania have been logged several times, visitors to R.B. Winter State Park can step back in time and encounter the forest as it appeared in 1850. The 39 acres surrounding the Rapid Run Nature Trail is one of the first State Park Natural Areas. Natural areas are set aside “to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities, and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.”
When exploring the natural area, look for trees containing large, oval cavities chiseled by the large, black and white pileated woodpecker. In the evenings, listen for the “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” call of the barred owl. During spring hikes, a close observation of vernal pools can reveal fairy shrimp, caddisfly cases, and spotted salamander and wood frog eggs.
A discovery guide, called The Shrouded Forest, is available at the park office, Halfway Run Environmental Learning Center, or at the Rapid Run trailhead and describes the one-mile loop trail and suggests activities to explore the trail. Visitors will discover bogs, vernal ponds, wetlands, springs, seeps and a white pine and hemlock forest.
The Bear Truths
Many Pennsylvania state parks are habitat for black bears. Although they appear cute and cuddly like a teddy bear, black bears are wild animals.
A black bear can scramble up a tree like a raccoon and sprint as fast as a race horse. Bears use their claws to tear apart rotting logs to find food, and those claws also work well to open garbage cans and coolers. The size and strength of a black bear are astonishing.
Black bears have poor eyesight and fair hearing, but an excellent sense of smell. Aromatic scents coming from your personal items can attract a curious and hungry bear from a great distance. Bears are attracted to the smell of toothpaste, deodorants, air fresheners, food and even the clothes worn while cooking.
Store all food items concealed inside a vehicle. At primitive, walk-in campsites, suspend food between two trees, ten feet in the air and three feet from either tree.
Black bears normally avoid people, but bears dependent on eating human food can become aggressive when people get between them and food.
If you come in contact with a black bear, try chasing it away by making loud noises like yelling, honking a car horn or banging a pot. Notify a park employee if you have difficulties with bears.
Never approach a bear and be especially wary of mother bears and cubs.
Halfway to Winter
In 1967, Raymond B. winter wrote an account of his time in the Buffalo Valley. The following is an excerpt from his booklet Halfway to Winter. The entire brochure is available at the park office.
A Forester’s Dream . . .
In the mystic beauty of the Bald Eagle State Forest District is the Raymond B. Winter State Forest Park—the day dream of a young forester who was fortunate enough to see his dream come true. ...
I shall n’er forget my gracious welcome to the beautiful Buffalo Valley. My first view of the Valley came from the hill south of Mifflinburg. The late summer scene was glorious—the cultivated fields, the well-kept buildings, the beautiful trees, and the sparkling over flowing reservoir all spoke of abundance and peace. . .rode north to the Forest House, going to work September 1, 1910.
The Brush Valley or 14 Mile Narrows Road was laid out before the turn of the 18th century. It traversed over Sand Mountain through Pine Swamp to the Centre County line. It was later improved by building up Rapid Run to meet the original road. Its principal use was transporting farm produce, mostly in the winter time, with teams and sleds from Centre County to the Susquehanna River.
The original name was Halfway House. It came from the fact that at one time a tavern with barn was located there. Teamsters could stop and feed their teams—even stay all night, about half way through the mountains.
The Pennsylvania Railroad, that was built up Penns Creek through Coburn, was opened for operation in 1873. This method of transportation made the former methods more or less obsolete. No doubt during this time some logging of the Virgin forests was going on here in the Park area.
Later logging was started in earnest. Lumber shacks, a saw mill, and a timber dam were built. Some of the finest white pine ever cut in Pennsylvania came from this area. I am told that trees six feet across the stump and about two hundred feet tall would cut 5,000 board feet of lumber—each enough to build a good size home. One can still find old stumps to prove it.
Later the big lumbermen came in. They built large logging camps and also narrow gauge railroads connecting the land with large mills and railroads in the valleys. By the turn of the 19th century, in about one hundred years, the timber which nature had built over the centuries was gone. What was left, in many places, was burned over through careless logging and sparks from their dinky engines.
The park area was purchased from J.K. Reish in 1905. Previous to that the State took over the surrounding land to give it ownership and to rehabilitate it. Through lack of understanding and organization during the drought of 1909 thousands of acres were burned completing the destruction. In many places nothing was left but bare rocks and mineral soil. ...
The Fourteen-Mile or Brush Valley Road was the only driveable road left, and it was little used and neglected. At Halfway there were several small clearings. The largest one was at the site of the present Park Shop, another on the ten-acre plot reserved by Rash Kleckner when the land was purchased by the state. This land and a small area east of it were saved from the 1909 fire and now contain some beautiful second growth timber for our enjoyment. On this clearing then known as the Kleckner place a logging shack and a horse shed were left. This was owned by the Martin G. Reed hunting and fishing party. Kleckner then lived below the crossroad south of the Forest House. ...
During the spring of 1912 Steve Roadarmel and Leslie Stover were appointed Rangers, giving me permanent help. We started clearing and burning the dead brush and debris which were left from the 1909 fire. Then planting was started in the cleared areas. This was kept up the following springs and in a few years the Park area was cleaned and planted. ...
While working on Bake Oven Trail and other advantageous points Ranger Stover and I recognized the natural beauty of the place and day dreamed of a beautiful park in the area someday. Putting our thoughts into action we built some crude fireplaces, picnic tables, and other improvements. Later we succeeded in getting some funds and about 400 acres were set aside for a park. The beavers moved toward the east end of the area and built dams. They were a real attraction and helped fishing. This brought in wild ducks for the hunters. ...
One fine day in early 1933 lightning struck. The Bald Eagle State Forest District was to get four CCC Camps of 200 boys each. One was listed for the Halfway Park Area. We pooled our meager tools and equipment, leased, borrowed, even begged more. While other Camps over the State were sulking in their tents waiting for plans and equipments, we were off to a flying start.
The first big job was the dam. Forester Sayers, Engineer Wagner, Camp Superintendent, Foremen, and boys labored hard and willingly with the excellent cooperation from our Army Commander, Lieutenant Sheppard, who later was promoted to general and headed the U. S. Marines. In a little over a year they had cleaned a seven acre area of brush debris including stumps. They removed the old dam and constructed the first cement and stone dam ever built by CCC in the United States, making a beautiful seven acre lake. The Fish Department stocked it with rainbow trout to improve fishing. A bathing beach was soon built and a diving tower in deep water was put in for swimmer’s enjoyment. ...
July 1, 1955, my 45 years of doing the best I could, with the handicaps we had, came to an abrupt end.
That same year (1955) Senator Samuel B. Wolf introduced Senate Resolution Serial No. 151 into the State Senate. Supported by Mr. Harry Haddon and his Sunbury Daily Item—as also many other influential friends—this Resolution passed, paying me a wonderful tribute as here recorded.
17215 Buffalo Road, Mifflinburg, PA 17844-9656