Maurice K. Goddard State Park – What’s Behind the Name? (Part 2 of 2)

Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II

Just about everyone is familiar with a Swiss Army knife and its wide assortment of blades. When someone uses a Swiss Army knife as an analogy for something, they’re usually inferring it has multiple functions and tremendous versatility. It’s an admirable compliment to compare most of our PA state parks to Swiss Army knives and Maurice K. Goddard State Park definitely fits that description, since there are so many different outdoor activities you can pursue there, based on your interests and desired activity level. The centerpiece of the 2,186-acre PA state park is 1,860- acre Lake Wilhelm. Named in memory of former Mercer County Commissioner and Mercer County Soil & Water Conservation District Director Lawrence J. Wilhelm, who was instrumental in the creation of the lake/park from its beginnings in 1959 until his death in 1968. Lake Wilhelm is an expansive multi-purpose waterway, created by damming Sandy Creek, which attracts thousands of visitors for many reasons. There you can kayak, canoe, paddleboard, sail, or just cruise around on your pontoon boat (which is very popular, based on the large number moored in the marina). Lake Wilhelm also attracts hundreds of fishermen with their boats (there is a 20 hp limit) or to take advantage of its many miles of accessible shoreline. The most pursued species are walleyes, crappies, and largemouth bass; but Lake Wilhelm also yields trophy muskellunge, along with channel catfish, carp, and assorted panfish. Invasive gizzard shad were initially detected in a PA Fish & Boat Commission aquatic survey in 2004 and since then the population has exploded. The abundant gizzard shad provide abundant forage for bald eagles and ospreys, and we have observed bald eagles on our last five consecutive visits. Occasionally, you’ll find gizzard shad remains on the trails, indicative of where a bald eagle or osprey sat overhead and ate their prey. Two-thirds of Lake Wilhelm is surrounded by M.K. Goddard State Park, while the upper third extends into neighboring PA State Game Lands 270. Besides Lake Wilhelm, the park’s other highlight is the 12-mile multi-purpose paved trail encircling most of the lake. While short stretches run concurrent with Lake Wilhelm Road and Creek Road, the vast majority of the scenic, winding trail traverses mature forests, wetlands, and old fields. The well-maintained trail is used for hiking, biking, birding, wildlife-watching, and outdoor photography. Its improved surface is conducive to pushing a stroller or pulling a wagon for families with small children. The overall trail is rated Moderate, since there are several short steeper grades, especially on the northside of the lake, which can be challenging for children walking or riding a bike. In the Winter, the trail south of the lake is open for cross-country skiing, while the northern portion is made accessible to snowmobilers. There are also abundant opportunities for hunters to pursue several species of game animals, gamebirds, and waterfowl. Like most PA state parks, M.K. Goddard State Park has abundant picnic areas, pavilions, public restrooms, benches, multiple boat launches, and overall great accessibility. There are also shorter side trails, such as the 0.7-mile self-guided Falling Run Nature Trail loop and the steeper 1.25-mile connector trail, which links M.K. Goddard State Park with the McKeever Environmental Learning Center. As if there weren’t already abundant reasons to visit M.K. Goddard State Park in Mercer County, this weekend: June 22-23, 2019, the Friends of Goddard (a.k.a. FROG) will be hosting their annual Pioneer Frolic. Open Sat. (10 AM – 5 PM) and Sun. (11 AM - 5 PM), the festival focuses on life along Sandy Creek from 1790 -1840 with reenactor encampments, colonial craft demonstrations, free wagon rides, and musical entertainment. Admission is free, like most PA state park activities; so why not visit Maurice K. Goddard State Park this weekend or at the time of your choosing, to take advantage of everything outdoors this special place has to offer! God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019

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