One of Crawford County’s natural gems, Pymatuning Lake provides a picturesque backdrop for many of the stories told here in Crawford County. One of these stories starts with a group of volunteers from across the region that plays a role in making visits to Pymantuning into treasured memories for visitors and residents alike.
These volunteers make up the Pymatuning Lake Association, a volunteer-run organization that has worked to promote, preserve and enhance the lake and surrounding area since 1945 — almost as long as the lake itself has been around.
While visitors have recognized Pymatuning Lake as a great natural destination for decades, it took the 2020 pandemic for one volunteer, Katie Wickert, to discover just how much the lake area offered right in her own backyard.
“The Covid shutdown and working from home gave me a chance to reset a little bit,” Wickert said. “I discovered the Pymatuning State Park holds free programs every month. They held a birding program, and I went.”
That first outing expanded her own backyard to 16,000 acres, which she began spending more time exploring and photographing. To this day, she is still discovering all the park has to offer and has since joined in the volunteer efforts as a member of the board.
The association puts on three fishing tournaments each year – crappie in April, walleye in May, and the Kids Fishing Derby in August. They are also involved with the Linesville State Fish Hatchery and help with projects to enhance the area, such as a new playground at the Tuttle Point Campground.
“What is so great, is it truly is a group of dedicated volunteers – residents, people who have cottages, people who have fallen in love with the area,” Wickert said.
And they’re not the only ones who love the park. In fact, Pymatuning State Park is the second-most visited state park of the Commonwealth’s 141 parks, with 2.5 million visitors a year. It is also the largest reservoir in Pennsylvania and is the location for the headwaters of the Shenango River. Historically, Pymatuning played an important role in the 1970s rehabilitation and re-population of eagles as an original nesting site, and today you can still spot them fishing around the lake.
Wickert has visited 139 of the state’s parks but says Pymatuning still stands out as a special place.
“The thing that is really special to me is just the diversity of the park – areas of the park are still really wild. There is boating, fishing, bird watching, limited hunting – there is something for everyone there,” Wickert said.
The area is slated for many additions and improvements including the second phase of paving the Spillway Trail, which has seen a 600 percent growth in usage.
In June of 2022, a rehabilitated historical truss bridge used in Oil Creek Township in the 1870s will be placed at the crossing of Linesville Creek. Tuttle Point Campground, which has been closed for 15 years, will undergo a multi-million-dollar rehabilitation starting this spring and be open for the 2023 camping season.
In 2021, Pymatuning State Park marked the 100th anniversary of the land acquisition that formed it, and Wickert said there is plenty more for people to discover and enjoy in the next 100 years around the lake. There is a plethora of free programming like hiking yoga, kayaking, kids fishing programs and that are all free for the taking.
“It is a great gem,” Wickert said.