This article was originally published in the Pocono Record by CR Rae.
Beat the cooped-up feeling and enjoy the great outdoors of Pennsylvania at Presque Isle State Park in Erie.
Presque Isle means "almost an island," and that has been true on more than one occasion. Throughout the years, storms have caused the waters of Lake Erie to overtake the neck of the peninsula, cutting the area off from the mainland.
Today Presque Isle is a state park that offers activities any time of year. Just driving the loop on the peninsula offers beautiful views of the land and the lake. It is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula considered to be Pennsylvania's only seashore.
Biking is popular at the park. The Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose National Recreation Trail is paved and ADA accessible. It is used by bikers, in-line skaters and joggers. The PA Seaway Trail follows the Lake Erie shoreline. This trail extends from New York to Ohio and includes the Karl Boyes Trail. It is a Pennsylvania Scenic Byway.
At Yellow Bike Rentals in the Waterworks Pumphouse area bicycles, four-wheeled surreys, tricycles, Rollerblades and paddle boats are available.
Presque Isle offers 11 miles of trails besides Karl Boyes. Each has its own special scenery or distance. Some are as short as 0.2 miles. Hike through the pines, wooded swamps and oak-maple forests, along the shoreline, to ponds, lagoons and more. Sometimes the lake level affects portions of the trails, making them impassable without appropriate footwear.
During the winter some trails are open for cross country skiing. Shelter 1 near Waterworks Ponds is open for rental of cross-country skis and snowshoes.
Swim areas are available with sandy beaches, waves to play in and no sharks. The beaches vary from long stretches of sand to having volleyball courts, a beach house, picnic facilities and concession stands, and are ADA accessible. All are listed on the website — dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/PresqueIsleStatePark — with descriptions to help find the perfect one to fit everyone's criteria.
This isle is one of the top spots in the country for birding as it is positioned on the Atlantic Flyway, and birds stop to feed and rest here on their migration across Lake Erie. More than 339 species of birds have been identified. Get a checklist at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in the Nature Shop.
Gull Point: A Fragile Ecosystem is the most ecologically dynamic area at the park. Many of the plant species are endangered or threatened.
For more information on the wildlife and ecosystem visit the website for times of year to visit that fit your interests.
Fishing makes for a great day of relaxing and social distancing. Lake Erie is known for its perch and walleye, and there are many fish species in the bay of Presque Isle. Bow fishing is permitted. Popular locations along the shore are the Waterworks and Ferry Dock, East and West piers, Perry Monument, North Pier, lagoons and all boat landings. ADA accessible fishing piers are available. During winter months, ice fishing is permitted at Presque Isle Bay, Misery Bay and Presque Isle Marina.
The Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1872 and is open for tours. It continues to flash a white light and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.
North Pier Light has been guiding ships into Erie Harbor since 1858. It is a metal pierhead light at the end of the Erie Harbor Channel. Visitors can walk to the light and get a look at the boat traffic in the channel.
Presque Isle offer plenty to do, and camping is available. For more information on hours, COVID-19 regulations and more visit dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/PresqueIsleStatePark. For more information on places to stay and things to do in the Erie area go to visiterie.com.