The first known people to inhabit Presque Isle were the Erielhonan. Also known as the Eriez and the Erie Native American tribe, they gave their name to Lake Erie. An Eriez legend taught that the Great Spirit led them to Presque Isle because of the wealth of game, the abundance of clean freshwater, and the cool breezes "coming from the land of snow and ice" (northern territory). Another legend tells us that the Eriez ventured into Lake Erie in search of the land where the sun set. The spirit of the lake blew a fierce storm to keep the Eriez from finding the sun. To protect the Eriez from the storm, their god laid his outstretched arm into the lake, giving them safety during the storm. The god's arm would remain in the lake, protecting the tribe's future generations.
Presque Isle State Park is a natural gem of Pennsylvania. While providing a home for many (some rare) migrating birds and other creatures, the Park is a place for recreational activity with breathtaking immersion into nature. Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie. As Pennsylvania's only "seashore," Presque Isle offers its visitors a beautiful coastline with 7 miles of beaches, nearly 11 miles of hiking trails, 13.5 miles of scenic trail along Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie with recreational activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, and in-line skating.
Presque Isle is a day-use park that provides year-round recreational opportunities. Overnight accommodations are available nearby. The neck of the peninsula is attached to the mainland four miles west of Downtown Erie. The park creates Presque Isle Bay, a wide and deep harbor for the city of Erie. The bay attracts many pleasure boats and worldwide freighters -- making Erie an important Great Lakes shipping port.
A National Natural Landmark, Presque Isle is a favorite spot for migrating birds. Because of the many unique habitats, Presque Isle contains a greater number of the state's endangered, threatened, and rare species than any other area of comparable size in Pennsylvania. More than 339 species of birds have been recorded on Presque Isle, including 47 species of special concern. Lake Erie is 57 miles wide (north-south), 241 miles long (east-west) and an average of 62 feet deep, the deepest point is 210 feet. The deepest point is located 9 miles off Long Point, Ontario.
The park offers a wide variety of environmental education 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. The Presque Isle curriculum allows students of all ages to explore the resources of the park. The curriculum helps meet the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Environment and Ecology, Science and Technology, and others set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
The TREC Foundation has provided over $130,000 in funding towards the IU5 for K-12 students to participate in the TREC Experience, which allows schools within the tri-county area to visit the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. At the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, students are given the opportunity to enjoy the exhibits, view educational films on the Big Green Screen, learn from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resource (DCNR) environmental educators at TREC and Presque Isle.
Interpretive programs are provided for all ages during all months of the year. During the summer, Presque Isle State Park offers DCNR's DiscoverE program. Young learners explore the outdoors through structured play, reinforced by stories, and crafts. Older youth participate in educational and recreational activities and conduct special projects.