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9.19.2021

Exploring the Prairie at the Jennings Environmental Education Center: Butler County



Jennings Environmental Education Center is an awesome place to explore. It is home to one of the only prairie habitats in the state and it is cool to see at any time of the year, but especially in late summer and early fall, where all of the copious amounts of wildflowers are blossoming in a color display that rivals that of fall foliage and spring wildflowers.

It is an explosion of color that is akin to fireworks. In addition to the flora, the diversity of species within this habitat is spectacular too, with so many different insects pollinating the flowers from bees, to many different species of butterflies, and lots of small birds. 

An endangered species of snake, the massausauga rattlesnake, lives within this habitat, and the purple blazing star flower, which is rare for Western PA, makes this place a notable destination for botanists. The rocky and clay based makeup of the ground within the prairie area makes it inhospitable for tree growth, so low to the ground wildflower species call this prairie home. This is the only protected prairie habitat within the state.  

The Jennings Environmental Education Center is designated specifically as a PA State Park. It is one of four state parks that are specifically run as environmental education centers, in addition to Kings Gap Environmental Education Center, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, and Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center. 

While many state parks have interpretive centers that run specific conservation and education programming, these four areas are specifically kept as nature demonstration zones. Jennings Environmental Education Center offers 300 acres to explore, with the prairie area covering 20 acres. The state park is located immediately adjacent to the eastern border of Moraine State Park. 

Long before this tract of land came under the care of the State Park system, it was sought out for its biological diversity by Dr. Otto Emery Jennings, a leading botanist who realized how special this tract was when he found it in 1905. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which was fundamental in the founding of most of the state park areas in Western PA, created the "Old Stone House Natural Area" in 1952, and in 1979 in was converted into the Jennings Environmental Education Center and named in the honor of Dr. Jennings. The history of this tract goes back at least 15,000 years in human history, with first native Americans settled into the area in pursuit of wooly mammoths in the tailings of the receded glaciers that were once located in this location. In the 16th century, the Iroquois settled in this region and farmed it. During the colonial era, the Venango Trail, which went from Pittsburgh to Franklin, went through the property, and some of the people that traversed it included Tecumseh, Marquis De Lafayette, and George Washington. The Old Stone House, which is located across Route 8 from Jennings, dates back to 1822 and is a stunning old building.

In addition to the prairie, Jennings offers trails through beautiful woodland areas and reclaimed wetlands. Passive treatment systems have been created to filter acid mine runoff from a nearby abandoned mine. The entire area is a glimpse into what environmental remediation can lead to with positive outcomes, a model that could be replicated across the state. 

Five miles of trails go through this lovely 300 acre property, which are dog friendly as well. Most of the trails are rated as easy, with one being rated as more difficult due to large boulders and slight elevation change. 

CeCe has it made in the shade

This is a lovely place to hike and recharge. There are areas to sit and picnic and appreciate the beautiful setting of the park. We highly recommend spending an afternoon at this lovely place. It is conveniently located just about an hour north of Pittsburgh, and 15 minutes northwest of Butler, making it easy to reach from pretty much anywhere in western PA. Between this, the adjacent Moraine State Park, and nearby McConnells Mill State Park, you have so many great natural places to check out. 

This is the heart of some of the greatest achievements of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the PA State Parks system in regards to conservation and the opening up of natural lands for the public enjoyment of all. 

We have released our 2022 Pennsylvania Calendar! 

It features views of: 

-Independence Hall in Philadelphia 

-Sunrise in Downtown Pittsburgh 

-Knoebels Amusement Resort 

-Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway 

-Millersburg Ferry across the Susquehanna River 

-Tank Hollow Overlook above the Lehigh Gorge in the Poconos 

-The Reading Pagoda 

-Kennywood Park 

-Mercer's Mill Covered Bridge in Chester and Lancaster Counties 

-Academia-Pomeroy Covered Bridge in Juniata County

-Ohiopyle State Park 

-A holiday scene in Pittsburgh 

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It makes for a great gift for someone or for yourself. It is available for purchase through the PayPal dropdown menus at the top of the page and the bottom of this article.

Thanks for your ongoing support over the years! 

2022 PA Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Purchase Options
 

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