Adventure PA: Presque Isle State Park

ERIE, Pa. (WHTM) – Presque Isle State Park is just north of Erie and is Pennsylvania’s only seashore.

“It is like going to the ocean minus the salt,” park operations manager Matt Greene said.

At the entrance of the park, you’ll find the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. It includes interactive displays to teach visitors about Presque Isle and the wildlife that lives there. It also features a 75-foot observation tower.

First discovered by the French, the peninsula’s name means “almost an island.”

“Really, one of the most unique things about Presque Isle is that it’s constantly changing,” said Greene. “Being a recurving sand spit on the southern shores of Lake Erie, it is constantly moving with wind and wave action.”

There are 7 1/2 miles of beaches in the park, each a little different. Some have concession stands and bath houses, others are a little less traveled and offer a quiet getaway.

You can explore the rest of the park on your own or take a tour with one of the environmental education specialists.

“Such as pontoon boat rides, night hikes, kayak tours of the lagoons,” environmental education specialist John Laskos said. “We are pretty diverse. We try to hit all parts of the park and offer something for everyone.”

The interior of the park features many different habitats including marsh, woods, and savanna.

“That is my passion, taking folks on these programs and highlighting these areas a lot of people have never seen or heard about before, and it’s that awareness and education and they look at Presque Isle a whole different way,” environmental education specialist Brian Gula said.

Presque Isle played a role in American history. You can find the Misery Bay and Perry Monument on Crystal Point.

“The monument signifies the events of the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, where Commodore Perry defeated the British. The start of it was in this area,” Laskos said.

Another favorite spot is the Presque Isle Lighthouse. Built in 1873, it is the second oldest lighthouse on Lake Erie’s shores. If you climb up the 78 steps in the tower, you’ll be rewarded with a great view of the lake.

Adventure PA Checklist:

Location: Presque Isle is in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, just north of Erie off I-79. It’s about a five-hour drive from Harrisburg.

Accommodations: Presque Isle is a day-use park only. There are modern bath houses and some beaches have concession stands. There are campgrounds nearby.

Cost: All day-use areas and parking are free. Costs for tours vary.

Best time to visit: Year-round

For more information: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/presqueisle/

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