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7.24.2016

Raystown Lake Visitor Center and Allegrippis Mountain Biking Trails

Raystown Lake is the largest lake that is located completely within the confines of Pennsylvania. The lake is a destination for all sorts of recreation, all while remaining largely rugged and undeveloped. The rugged terrain leads to sheer cliff walls down to the edges of the lake. Beaches, camping, islands, and giant cliffs satisfy visitors that love going to the beach as well as those who seek getaways in the mountains. The Raystown Lake Region is one of the most balanced destinations for those looking for a quick getaway. Today we will look at the area around the Raystown Lake Recreation Area including the interpretive center at the visitor center, nature walk, and the world class Allegrippis Mountain Biking Trails. Today we explore around the Seven Points area. There are about 2,000 campsites in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania; 790 campsites are near the shoreline of Raystown Lake and the remaining 1,200 or so campsites are within a few miles, in addition to swimming, picnicking opportunities, a marina, and so much more. We will start with an overview of the lake.
The visitor center overlooks the lake and Seven Points Marina, the largest marina in the state. In the background, you can see a scene typical of this giant lake, mountainous and remote terrain. Thanks to protections on the lake, the bulk of the shoreline has no development creating a wild and scenic shoreline.

The first Raystown Lake was formed with a hydroelectric dam that was built in 1905. In the 1960s in became apparent that there was a much greater need for flood control. The answer to that was an ambitious Army Corps of Engineers project to protect cities downstream, namely Harrisburg. Raystown Dam and lake were dedicated by Vice President Gerald Ford on June 6, 1974. During construction in 1972, Hurricane Agnes passed over the area as a tropical storm that was one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit Pennsylvania. As a result of this storm, there are still areas that have not fully recovered. If it were not for the creation of this dam, the flooding would have likely been even worse. Since the dam was built, billions of dollars of flood damage have been prevented, not to mention the countless number of lives that have likely been saved. The dam also has a hydroelectric generation plant. As if the benefits of these things were not enough, the largest lake located fully within the state serves as a flourishing habitat for wildlife, a draw for all sorts of recreation, and as a place with countless tremendous scenic vistas. The first place that you should visit when you explore Raystown Lake is the interpretive center at the Raystown Lake Visitor Center, for a decent primer on this Pennsylvania gem. 
The visitor center building
Throughout the interpretive center, you can see species that are native to the region, including this black bear that greets you as soon as you walk in.
A number of record fish have been caught in the lake. The lake is best known for its striped bass populations, widely regarded by fishermen. Raystown Lake is one of the finest fisheries 
A number of informative displays talk about the history of the lake and region.
I particularly enjoyed this display showing history by way of the rings in a tree. 
There are a number of hands-on displays that help to add a tactile aspect to getting to know the species and history of Raystown Lake.
This display has a wheel that you spin to simulate water flowing through a hydroelectric turbine.
One of the challenges with these man-made lakes is maintaining habitat areas for the different aquatic life in the lake. Many of the man-made lakes have tree stumps left in the bottom of the lake that serve as habitats for aquatic life. As time goes on, these obstructions rot and clear away, removing fundamental places that nourish fisheries. The valley that Raystown Lake occupies was clearcut prior to filling, creating a challenges in maintaining the fishery. These structures, produced with rough hemlock boards for their ability last for 15 to 25 years submerged, are dropped throughout the lake. The boards are kept rough so microorganisms can attach themselves. The smaller fish hang out underneath the boards within the structures, while larger fish troll around the outside to catch smaller feed fish. There are 1200-1300 of these structures on the floor of the lake.
Back in the lobby, on the reverse side of the outcropping display where the black bear is displayed, you can see some of the other predator animals that can be found within the region, 

Rattlesnake!
There is a beautiful sitting area and deck that overlooks Raystown Lake.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many recreational opportunities that the Army Corps of Engineers and local community have created. Here you can see the Greenside Pathway, a 2.3 mile pathway that is made with a recycled tire layer that connects some of the surrounding recreation spots. It was built to keep pedestrians and cyclists away from traffic on the road, and it has turned into a destination on its own. The permeable surface that the trail is made with keeps the path free of ice in the winter.

The trail also is largely handicap accessible, something that is great to see. The trail has become a community gathering point. Many people are seen walking the trail with their dogs, The heart of the trail is located at the visitor center, where there is a nice parking access to it, and the Allegrippis Mountain Biking Trails that we will look at next.
There are nice picnic pavilions and playgrounds that provide for great relaxation opportunities in the midst of stunning views. The grounds around this area are often utilized for destination weddings.
We now check out the Allegrippis Mountain Bike Skills Park and Trails. This is a world class mountain biking facility. As we visited, we ran into people that came to experience the trails from all over the country. Over thirty miles of trails are contained within the network of mountain biking trails. The trails are made up of stacked loops, allowing you to experience as much or as little of the trail network as possible. The main access area is located directly across the street from the visitor center.

Common descriptions of these trails include that they are "flowy" and that riding the trails is like being on a "roller coaster on two wheels." These trails were designed by mountain bikers, an aspect that really makes these trails shine. The Skills Park area gives you a primer of what to expect on the trails 
The Raystown Lake Recreation Area offers tons of great recreational opportunities! We will head out onto the lake and do some exploring in an upcoming article. There is so much to see and do in the Raystown Lake Area and we highly recommend heading here for a getaway.

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