When viewed from the lake or the day-use area, Locust Mountain seems to drop right into the southern side of Tuscarora Lake. The scenic picnic area plays host to many day trips and family reunions and the lake is a popular fishing spot. The 1,618-acre park is home to the park office and visitor center for Tuscarora and Locust Lake state parks. Visitors are welcome to gather information about the parks, the environmental education program and local attractions.
Over 250 picnic tables are available year-round. Two 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. Modern restrooms are available April through October.
The beach 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. Swimming areas are marked with buoys and have a maximum depth of 5 1/2 feet.
Lakeside Concessions opens May 21 and is open daily 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Birthday parties are available. Contact Bill Sears, 570-467-2301, e-mail: lakesideconcessions(a)comcast.net
Boating: electric motors only
The 96-acre Tuscarora Lake has a boat launch and boat mooring. The 125 seasonal boat mooring spaces and 20 canoe racks are available April 1 through October 31. A state park mooring permit can be purchased at the park office.
A boat rental near the beach is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day (weekends during Spring and Fall). Rowboats, canoes and specialty craft, like pedal boats and kayaks, are available for rent on an hourly or daily basis.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The 96-acre Tuscarora Lake is a warm-water fishery. Popular species are bass, muskellunge, pickerel, catfish, yellow perch and sunfish. Night fishing is permitted. There is an ADA accessible fishing pier at the boat launch.
The trails wander through several habitats like mature deciduous forest, meadow and agricultural fields.
Crow Trail: 1.4 miles, easiest hiking
This old dirt road passes through many habitats, including mature deciduous forest, pine and larch plantation, grass fields, and overgrown meadow. This trail ends at the southern shore of Tuscarora Lake.
Edge Trail: 0.4 mile, easiest hiking
This grass covered trail winds along the edge of a mature forest and agricultural fields. The trail provides access to Log Trail and the park office/visitor center.
Lake View Trail: 1.4 miles, yellow blazes, more difficult hiking
This trail goes through the primary use area of Tuscarora State Park. It parallels the lake and provides several views including a nice view of the beach. Park employees sometimes drive this dirt trail.
Laurel Trail: 0.4 mile, easiest hiking
Accessed from Log Trail or Edge Trail, this grassy road was used to cut trees that died from severe gypsy moth damage. This short loop provides views of mountain laurel and a mature forest.
Locust Mountain Trail: 0.4 mile, more difficult hiking
An old fire access road winding through a mature deciduous forest on a fairly steep slope, this trail takes you from Crow Trail through Chestnut Grove Trail to the top of Locust Mountain.
Log Trail: 0.3 mile, easiest hiking
This old logging road winds through a mature deciduous forest. It has a slight grade and connects to Laurel and Edge trails and the west end parking area.
Spirit of Tuscarora Trail: 4.5 miles, more difficult hiking; red, white and yellow blazes
This is a trail of varying terrain and land features. The trail meanders along Tuscarora Lake and Locust Creek and through several habitats like mature deciduous forest, mature eastern hemlock stand, late successional field, rhododendron thicket and a wetland meadow. Highlights include year-round seasonal wildflowers, large milkweed patch for monarch butterflies, freshwater mussels, abundant neo-tropical songbirds and the “Spirit Tree” for which the trail is named.
Stay the Night
Six cottages sleep five people in double/single bunks, and have three windows, porch, picnic table, fire ring, and electric heat, lights and outlets. Cottages are available the Friday before the regional opening day of trout season until mid-October. A showerhouse is nearby. Pets are prohibited in the cottage area and overnight parking lots.
Four yurts sleep five people in double/single bunks, and have a refrigerator, four-burner electric range, countertop and oak cabinetry, kitchen table and chairs, wall mounted fan, skylight, vented roof, two windows, wood flooring, a large deck, picnic table and fire ring, and electric heat, lights and outlets. Yurts are available the Friday before the regional opening day of trout season until mid-October. A showerhouse is nearby. Pets are prohibited in the yurt area and overnight parking lots.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Ice fishing is permitted during the winter season with trout being the primary species caught. The ice is not monitored for safety. Be sure that the ice is at least four inches thick and carry safety equipment.
Ice skating is permitted on the lake as natural conditions permit.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Tuscarora Lake State Park offers a wide variety of environmental education, recreational and interpretive programs. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. An environmental education specialist is available to develop EE curriculums and sites, and provide teacher workshops and additional teacher and community services. Group programs must be arranged in advance and may be scheduled by calling the park office.
Programs are offered March to November. For more detailed information contact the park office.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) installed small-scale wind turbines to show how alternative energy can reduce pollution and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.
For hundreds of years, traditional windmills harnessed wind energy to pump water or grind grain. Today's modern equivalent – the wind turbine – uses wind energy to generate electricity which has far less impact on the environment than energy generation based on fossil fuels.
There are many opportunities to see wildlife, but please observe from a safe distance and do not feed wildlife.
Over100 species of birds have been identified at Locust Lake, including 16 species of birds of prey. Because of its location in the Appalachian Mountain section of the Ridge and Valley Province, Locust Valley is positioned along the migration route used by many species of birds of prey, including red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, merlins and ospreys. Screech owls and great-horned owls are year-round residents.
Natural Resources of the Locust Valley
Tuscarora and Locust Lake state parks are located six miles from each other in the Locust Valley. Locust Lake is located in the western side of the valley near the headwaters of Locust Creek. After meandering east six miles along Locust Mountain, Locust Creek flows into Tuscarora Lake and eventually to the Schuylkill River. Surrounded by lands that were strip-mined for coal, Locust Valley is a green oasis of forests and wetlands abounding in wildlife.
Although extensively logged in the 1800s, the land is reforested with second and third growth timber. The mixed oak forest contains scattered patches of eastern hemlock and white pine, but is dominated by northern red oak, chestnut oak, white oak and trees like sycamore, yellow birch, red maple, white ash and tulip poplar. The diversity of trees supplies food for squirrel, chipmunk, bear, deer, turkey and grouse and provides nesting sites and cover for wildlife.
To slow soil erosion, in 1966, over 110 acres of fields in Tuscarora State Park were planted with Austrian, eastern white, red and pitch pines, Japanese and European larches, Norway and white spruces, and eastern hemlocks. About 50,000 trees of each species were planted. Look for areas where the trees are all in rows and are the same species to find these tree plantations.
A variety of smaller trees and shrubs grow under the large trees and provide food and shelter for wildlife. Ironwood and spicebush are good browse for deer. Black locust, flowering and silky dogwood, mountain laurel, rhododendron, blueberry and serviceberry have beautiful flowers and edible fruit and seeds for wildlife. Ferns, wildflowers, herbs and grasses on the forest floor provide shelter and runways for smaller animals like mice, chipmunks, snakes, salamanders and insects. Locust Lake boasts 15 species of ferns and over 240 species of wildflowers.
Both state parks manage several fields for wildlife food and habitat. These meadows support a complex food web of plants, insects and animals. There are approximately 134 acres of open fields by the entrance to Tuscarora State Park. These old fields and upland meadows contain natural herbaceous vegetation and by periodic mowing are managed for plant diversity. Small "islands" in each area are not mowed and allowed to grow. Also, permanent brush fields are maintained for wildlife. These 96 acres are planted with cover or food for wildlife. Some of the shrubs are blueberry, huckleberry and scrub oak.
Thirty-eight acres of Locust Lake located by the dam are periodically mowed to prevent natural succession by trees. Wildflowers, tall grasses and other herbaceous plants provide roots, leaves, nectar and pollen for a host of meadow dwelling creatures. Some species of wildlife inhabiting this area are shrews, moles, meadow voles, meadow mice, butterflies and moths, and hundreds of other insect species. These insects and small animals attract the carnivores that prey on them like hawks, owls and foxes.
The edges of Locust Creek and Tuscarora and Locust Lakes are riparian areas, also called wetlands. The often-wet soil is inhospitable to many plants, but sphagnum moss, rushes, burreed, skunk cabbage and cattails can only live in wetlands. This vegetation is important to the ecosystem of the lake. Plants provide food for fish and wildlife, hiding places for smaller organisms, spawning and nursery areas for fish, and contribute to the dissolved oxygen supply. Aquatic vegetation in the lakes like milifoil, coontail, cattail and curlyleaf pondweed are homes to insect larvae like dragonflies and mayflies.
Many unique animals depend on wetlands. In and around water at Tuscarora and Locust Lake state parks you can see pickerel frogs, bullfrogs, red-spotted newts, great blue herons, painted turtles, crayfish, water snakes and many fish and waterfowl.
Wetlands are not only important to plants and animals, but provide a great service to people. Water entering a wetland is slowed down and cleaned. Wetlands slow floods and clean water and are one reason that the water in the Locust Valley is so clean.
History of the Park
Before European Settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, a deep forest of hemlock, white pine, ash, hickory, elm, oak, cherry and American chestnut covered the Locust Valley. Claimed by the Lenni Lenape, conquered by the Susquehannocks, and later controlled by the New York Iroquios League of Five Nations, the land has a strong American Indian history.
When settlers discovered anthracite coal in Schuylkill County, immigrants swiftly arrived for the mining jobs and arrived in the Locust Valley in the mid-1800s. It was not economically feasible to mine the coal in the Locust Valley, but the area did not escape the American Industrial Revolution.
The forests fell to the logger's ax and sawmills turned the trees into lumber, shingles, tool handles and other wood products. Tanneries crushed hemlock and white pine bark for tanning leather. Colliers burned chestnuts and oaks into charcoal. Strong timbers supported the roofs of mines. The forests were gone by the early 1900s, replaced by shrubby land prone to seasonal floods and forest fires. Some farmers tilled the cleared land.
Purchased by the Marshalonis Brothers, the Locust Lake area became a fishing spot and picnic grove. When digging a lake, the brothers found a dam, boards and the hub of a waterwheel under seven feet of leaves, silt and debris. The remains of an old logging mill and dam were under silt from flooding and runoff caused by the removal of all of the trees for lumber during the logging era.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the Marshalonis Brother's land in 1966. Locust Lake State Park officially opened on June 10, 1972.
Tuscarora State Park was purchased in the early 1960s. The U.S. Soil Conservation Service and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania constructed the dam for flood control and recreation. Tuscarora State Park officially opened on June 26, 1971.
The Tuscarora Indians
The Tuscarora Tribe of American Indians dwelled in small villages along several major rivers in the coastal plains of North Carolina. After contact with European traders, the Tuscarora became avid fur traders. Land-hungry settlers dealt unfairly with the Tuscarora. Years of unequal trade, mistrust and even kidnapping of Tuscarora children for slaves finally escalated into the Tuscarora War from 1711 to 1713.
The Tuscarora were defeated and asked for help from their powerful New York relatives, the League of Five Nations. The League sent this message to Governor Robert Hunter of New York:
"Tuscarore Indians are come to shelter themselves among the five nations they were of us and went from us long ago and are now returned. . .we desire you to look upon the Tuscarores that are come to live among us as our Children who shall obey our commands & live peaceably and orderly."
Beginning in 1714 and continuing for 90 years, bands of Tuscarora migrated from North Carolina to southern New York. Most of the families followed the Tuscarora Path up the valleys of the Susquehanna River to New York, but many also made their own paths. All along the routes, many mountains, streams, valleys and towns bear the name Tuscarora, evidence of this 500-mile migration.
Local tradition holds that sometime between 1715 and 1722 the Tuscarora briefly dwelled in the Locust Valley.
The League of Five Nations welcomed the Tuscarora and made them the sixth nation in the League. Although not equal with the other five tribes, the Tuscarora voiced their opinions through one of the other tribes.
Today, 700 Tuscarora Indians are still part of the League of Six Nations and now have equality with the other tribes. Tuscarora State Park was name d to honor these transient residents of Pennsylvania.
687 Tuscarora Park Road,Barnesville, PA 18214-2810