Cranberry bog, wildlife and more: Take a guided tour of Black Moshannon State Park

Centred Outdoors will return to Black Moshannon State Park for this week’s free, guided adventure. The park is surrounded by the 43,000 acre Moshannon State Forest in western Centre County and contains several unique natural environments including bogs, forests and marshes, as well as a 250-acre man-made lake.

Black Moshannon’s bogs, marshes, and swamps provide vital habitat for rare carnivorous plants, and are also home to fascinating wildlife such as dragonflies, salamanders and rare birds. The park’s intriguing natural resources make it a popular destination for swimming, paddling, hiking and bird watching.

The park’s name comes from two sources. ‘Black’ is derived from the stained water that is unique the park’s lake. As the clear stream water flows into the lake through sphagnum moss and other wetland plants, it becomes colored by plant tannins. In a sense, the bog vegetation acts like a giant teabag to color the water. The uniquely tinted water, while strange, is still safe for swimming and water recreation–two of the parks most popular activities. The second part of the park’s name, ‘Moshannon’, is said to be derived from the Native American “Moss-Hanne,” meaning “moose stream.” However, some scholars believe that since the North American moose was not native to central Pennsylvania the name more likely means “elk stream” from the Lenape word Mos’hanna’unk, which means “elk river place.”

Hikers on the Centred Outdoors adventure will learn about Black Moshannons’s delicate ecosystems while taking in their beauty on a guided hike led by knowledgeable State Park guides. The hike will follow the Star Mill Trail near the lake and loop up through the woods to the southeast end of Moshannon Lake. Sights include a cranberry bog, a stand of hemlocks, multiple ecosystems, historic foundations, and more. The hike takes place along the water; waterproof boots or shoes are recommended.

Planning to attend this week’s adventure? Here’s what you need to know:

What: Centred Outdoors: Black Moshannon State Park

When: Sunday with guided hikes at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Where: Black Moshannon State Park, 4216 Beaver Road, Philipsburg

Parking: There is a parking lot at the trailhead, boat launch number 4. Check with a Centred Outdoors volunteer for information about overflow parking if needed the day of the event.

What to bring:

  • A refillable water bottle

  • Sun protection including a hat and sunscreen

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Long pants and high socks may be preferred for additional protection from insects and ticks

  • A light snack or picnic, especially if you plan to come early or stay after the hike

  • Swimming attire and towels. Changing facilities and restrooms are available at the swimming area and the sand beach at Black Moshannon Lake is ADA accessible.

  • Child carrier/backpack is recommended for very young children

  • Binoculars for bird and wildlife watchers

Difficulty of hike: This 2 mile hike is difficult and will take approximately 2 hours to complete.

Additional Information:

  • Pets must be kept on a leash and owners must clean up after their pets. Pets are prohibited at the swimming area and in park buildings.

Next week’s adventure: Centred Outdoors will be visiting Scotia Barrens on Sunday, July 21 and Wednesday, July 24.

Hosted by ClearWater Conservancy, Centred Outdoors will continue hosting free, guided adventures every Sunday from 2-5 p.m. and every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. through Aug. 6. The finalized schedule can be seen at, where users can login to create their own profile, RSVP, and receive weekly emails about each event. While online registration is not required, it is the best way to receive event updates. Look to the Centre Daily Times every week for complete details about the upcoming Centred Outdoors destination.

Jon Major is the communications strategist for ClearWater Conservancy.