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In the warm summer breeze, sailboats dart like flocks of colorful birds across Lake Arthur's clear Pennsylvania waters. Located in Butler County, this picturesque lake is surrounded by Moraine State Park and offers 3,225 acres of water to fish, boat, and explore. With its gently rolling hills, abundant wildlife, and fantastic fishing, Lake Arthur is an outdoor enthusiast's dream.
Unfortunately, this wasn't always the case. Just forty years ago, the land that makes up the Moraine State Park was covered with abandoned strip mines and oil and gas wells. In the late 1800's the area was drilled extensively for oil and natural gas wells, and deep coal mines and strip mines radically changed the profile of the land. The Western Allegheny Railroad was built to transport the materials to Pittsburgh. The railroad ran the entire length of the Muddy Creek Valley, and parts of the railroad grade are still visible in the Muddy Creek finger of Lake Arthur and to the west of the dam. It was abandoned in 1939.
Long before the strip mines, the Moraine State Park sat at the edge of four continental glaciers, some over a mile thick. The soil, rocks and debris left at the edge of glaciers is called moraine, a description that graciously gives the state park its name. Englishman Frank W. Preston moved to the area in 1926 to start a glass research lab. Preston was an amateur geologist and naturalist, and on a trip to the Muddy Creek Valley he recognized the glacial attributes of the area. He spent the next several decades studying the area and even named some of the land forms after famous Pittsburgh attorney and naturalist Edmund Watts Arthur. Preston was instrumental in forming the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which purchased the land that became the Moraine State Park. The Conservancy worked in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Forest and Waters and the Department of Mines and Mineral Industries to restore the land. They filled and graded the strip mines, sealed the deep mines and plugged 422 gas and oil wells. They also planted thousands of trees, shrubs, and grasses and dammed Muddy Creek to form Lake Arthur.
The dam was completed in November 1968 and by 1970, Lake Arthur had filled completely. On May 23, 1970 the Moraine State Park was dedicated. The 16,725-acre state park's long history of conservation is being continued by the Moraine Preservation Fund. Started to reintroduce wildlife, the Fund has successfully reintroduced the osprey to Lake Arthur. The first successful breeding pair raised three chicks in 1996. Today the fund is working on reintroducing the barn owl. They also operate a gift shop called the Owlet and a nature center. The Nautical Nature, a 45-passenger enclosed pontoon boat, is based at the nature center and gives tours of Lake Arthur to explain the lake's development and show off the wildlife.
The wildlife around Lake Arthur is plentiful. Great blue herons, green herons, bald eagles and belted kingfishers all make their homes at the lake, and migrating loons use Lake Arthur as a resting place. Almost 13,600 acres of the state park is open to hunting and trapping, and there are waterfowl, deer, turkeys, grouse, bears, rabbits, pheasants, and squirrels. Hunters also use the area to train dogs.
Lake Arthur boasts 42 miles of shoreline and several tributary arms. It is a fantastic warm-water fishery and one of the most productive muskie fisheries in the state. The fertile water and abundant forage means the fish grow long and heavy. Efforts are being made to turn Lake Arthur into a trophy muskie lake. There are also healthy populations of northern pike, large mouth bass, black crappie, and bluegill. The Pennsylvania Department of Fish and Game stocks the lake with muskie, walleye, channel catfish, and hybrid striped bass.
There are plenty of boat launches and several marinas on Lake Arthur. Visitors can rent sailboats, motorboats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and pontoon boats. The lake is perhaps best known for sailing and windsurfing. The annual Regatta at Lake Arthur has been run since 1998. The two-day event is the largest regatta in western Pennsylvania and includes the sailboat race, canoe and kayak races, crafts, food, and hot air balloon rides.
Lake Arthur has swimming beaches on both its north and south shores. There are bike rentals and paved bike trails in the state park, and there almost thirty miles of trails for hiking along the shore and through the forest. There are also trails for horseback riding and an 18-hole disc golf course. Winter sports include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, ice fishing, ice boating, and ice skating.
Accommodations around Lake Arthur are limited to cabin rentals, but there are several vacation rentals and private campgrounds nearby. Lake Arthur is snuggled into the Pittsburgh & Countryside region, just 50 miles north of Pittsburgh, so visitors to the lake are within an easy drive of any amenity they could wish for, including restaurants, shopping, and museums. Lake Arthur is a four-season recreation destination and a conservation triumph.
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