Family Fun

Exploring Pennsylvania’s State Parks: Little Buffalo

A few weeks ago, my parents and I decided to picnic at a state park we had never been to before, even though it is one of the closer parks to where we live!  Little Buffalo State Park is located in Perry County, and provides some different attractions from many of the other state parks!

Upon arrival, we drove around the rather large parking area, just to scope out the picnic table situation.  The picnic tables were spread out around the parking area.  Many people brought canopies to set up over the tables to provide shade, as the area was not heavily wooded.  There were a few trees, but the majority of the area was fairly open.

We grabbed a few informational pamphlets and a map from one of the main buildings.  These maps show trails and provide some interesting information about what there is to do in the state park.

There was a large pool near the entrance to the park, which was closing the weekend we were there.  There is no beach or swimming area in the lake, so the pool is the only place to swim.  It was actually fairly empty when we were there!  We did not go swimming in the pool.

There was a building for boat rentals to take a trip out on the lake.  They had a few paddle boats and such docked for people to rent.  We did not rent any boats that day because hiking was our main focus.

We found a picnic table at the farthest end of the parking lot, away from pretty much everyone else.  There was a nice view of the lake, and the few trees overhead provided nice shade.  My dad grilled some cheeseburgers and hot dogs for us, and we had an enjoyable picnic together!

Beside our picnic table was a wide, flat, well-groomed walking path along the lake.  We decided to see where it led, and it took us to and across the dam at the far end of the lake.  There was a set of steps leading down the middle of the dam on the opposite side of the lake.  I wish I would have counted because it was A LOT of steps!

There was a butterfly garden, playground, restrooms, amphitheater, pavilions, and an old train car at the bottom.

As we continued on another trail, we encountered two of the coolest things in the park.  There is an old covered bridge, Clay’s Bridge, which we walked across to get to an old mill.  When my brother and I were young, we took a day trip driving around Perry County looking at all of the covered bridges.  This was one of the bridges we visited!  I did not remember it because it’s been so long, but I still love looking at old covered bridges!  The structure inside is so interesting!

Once we crossed the bridge, Shoaff’s Mill was located on a small hill.  The sound of the water wheel turning filled the air.  We made it just in time to see all of the gears turning on the inside.  I think the Park Rangers were grinding wheat or corn earlier in the day, but they had stopped by the time we got there.  Seeing how all the parts and pieces worked together, powered only by flowing water, was pretty amazing!

We then walked along the mill run trail, which is parallel to the small stream that provides the water needed to power the water wheel.  The trail came to a small dam, which stopped the flow of a stream and backed the water up into the mill run.  As we were crossing the bridge above the dam, a park ranger came to open the dam and drain the run until the following day, when they do it all over again.  It was a simple concept, but I found it so fascinating!

We walked back to our picnic table and then started hiking a more difficult trail.  It was definitely more tricky hiking than the path along the lake!  On our way back, we saw a beautiful sunset reflecting off the lake.  What a view from the dam!

There are campsites at a separate location from the pool and there were other hiking trails the opposite direction from where we were exploring.  So even though we had a full day of walking and picnicking, we did not get to see the entire park.  But what we did see was well-maintained and beautiful!

Little Buffalo State Park was definitely a nice place for a day trip!  There were very nice hiking trails, as well as some interesting historical structures.  And, if you would like to go swimming in a large pool on a warm summer day, this would be a good place to visit!

Have you ever been to Little Buffalo State Park?  What is your favorite part?  Please feel free to comment!  I would love to hear about your experiences there!  If you have any pictures from your trip to Little Buffalo, go ahead and share them on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter using #stateparkblog.  And if you’d like to read about other Pennsylvania State Parks, you can check out my post about Presque Isle State Park!

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