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Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area celebrates 50 years of being open to the public this year, and it has a full slate of activities and challenges lined up to involve the public in the occasion.

Read More: Quiet beauty and still waters at Middle Creek

Middle Creek was chosen out of three sites to be the state’s second waterfowl refuge – the first was Pymatuning Reservoir in Crawford County on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border in 1935 – a search that began after the “unparalleled success” of the first site became clear in the post-war commonwealth. Middle Creek beat out locations in Quakertown and elsewhere in Berks County (near Mount Aetna) due to not having land that was prohibitively expensive, as in Quakertown, and also having plenty of room for wetlands, which the other Berks site did not.

The Game Commission began buying up properties in 1965, with only one ultimately being taken through eminent domain (after compensation). All land acquisitions were complete by 1972, with much of the razing and leveling having already been done by that time, including construction of the dam. The Middle Creek Visitors Center opened to the public in 1973.

Today the 6,254-acre property has over 100,000 visitors yearly, and it is particularly popular as a location to find snow geese during their migration.

Snow geese and other birds as seen from the Willow Point pavilion. (Joshua Groh)

Read More: Annual geese migration at Middle Creek will peak soon, Visitors Center reopened

Additionally, in 2022 the Game Commission opened up the PA Conservation Heritage Museum at Middle Creek, which chronicles the story of wildlife protection emerging in Pennsylvania in the wake of a nationwide movement spearheaded by John Muir and Pennsylvania’s Gifford Pinchot. The Game Commission and its wardens were instituted by the state legislature in 1895. (A new archery range was also opened at Middle Creek in 2022.)

The museum’s entrance at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area Visitors Center. (LebTown)

Read More: Abundance to exploitation to protection: PA Conservation Heritage Museum opens

Middle Creek has a full slate of activities planned this year, including a “50 things to do at Middle Creek” challenge in honor of the milestone anniversary. You can find the full list of events below. All of the events are free and open to the public, with no advance registration required.

Find the instructions sheet for the contest here (PDF) and the full checklist of possible activities here (PDF).

Anyone who completes the challenge of doing at least 25 things in specific categories will be rewarded a free snow goose migration decal sticker, designed by contest winner Ethan Beck of Lansdale.

The 50 things challenge is being held in addition to Middle Creek’s regular, pre-planned programming. The wildlife preserve also expects to host a few pop-up events throughout the year; members of the public can follow Middle Creek’s Facebook page for details as those are announced.

For more information about any of the events listed here, contact Middle Creek at 717-733-1512 or middlecreek@pa.gov. The Middle Creek Visitors Center is located at 100 Museum Road, Stevens, PA 17578.


Feb. 8, 6:30 p.m.
The Great Hiking Trails of Pennsylvania – Presented in the auditorium.

“Learn about the Commonwealth’s amazing estate of long-distance hiking trails. From nationally designated trails like the Appalachian and North Country, to lesser known but more remote trails like the Chuck Keiper and Donut Hole, there are routes awaiting exploration in every corner of the state. Take a virtual tour of them with the statewide organization that advocates for their responsible use, care, and protection.”

Feb. 11, 1 p.m.
Archery is for Everyone! – Held at the Willow Point Archery Range at Middle Creek.

“Do you like sharpening your senses, challenging yourself or maybe the thrill of competition? Archery can provide you with all these things. Archers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities and is not just for hunters. Join us on the new Middle Creek archery range where you will learn the basics of equipment and shooting techniques. Archery truly is for everyone!”


March 8, 6:30 p.m.
Spring Turkey Hunting in Pennsylvania – Presented in the auditorium.

“Join 5-time World Turkey Calling Champion as we discuss turkey hunting in Pennsylvania. Matt has travelled the country chasing Spring Turkeys for the past 30 plus years, but always loves to come home to the most challenging hunting in the US. We will discuss scouting, calling, tactics and everything in-between.”

March 11, 2 p.m.
The Science of Antler Growth and How to Hunt Antler Sheds – Presented in the Visitors Center.

“Join us to learn the science about the growing outdoor activity that is shed hunting. In this program, we will take a closer look at the White-tailed deer antler growth cycle and discuss some tips and tactics to make your shed hunts more successful. Weather permitting, we will head outside to search for antlers.”


April 1, 9:30 a.m.
Prescribed Fire Demonstration – Presented in the Visitors Center.

“Join the Pennsylvania Game Commission habitat crew to learn about the history of fire ecology in the eastern US. Also learn how fire is used at Middle Creek, how prescribed fire differs from wildfires, and what equipment is used, such as drones. If weather conditions are within the allowed parameters, a prescribed fire will be demonstrated.”

April 12, 6:30 p.m.
Uncovering the Mysteries of a Secretive Forest Raptor: Broad-winged Hawks – Presented in the auditorium.

“Join Rebecca McCabe, a Research Biologist with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, as she explains how Hawk Mountain is helping to conserve broad-winged hawks throughout their range. From monitoring nests here in Pennsylvania, to tracking them on migration, this program will provide exciting details on how researchers trap this elusive hawk and what they discovered by attaching tiny GPS backpacks to them.”


May 10, 6:30 p.m.
Wildlife Photography 101 – Presented in the auditorium.

“This course is for those who are interested in learning the fundamentals of nature photography. We will review the different types of nature photography, discuss camera and lens selection, and helpful accessories – all geared toward the beginner. We will give suggestions on locations and shooting in a variety of conditions as well as providing helpful resources for those interested in learning more about nature photography.”

May 27, 1 p.m.
Wildlife Photography in the Field – Presented in the Visitors Center.

“This program covers choosing the right cameras, lenses and settings used for outdoor wildlife photography. Get tips on locating and photographing different wildlife depending on the subject, area, and weather conditions. Basic gear including clothing and layering for the outdoors will also be covered.”


June 3, 11 a.m.
Lenape Heritage and Storytelling – Presented in the Visitors Center.

“Lenape Heritage and Storytelling will come to Middle Creek for an afternoon of storytelling and teaching on the Native American culture and heritage of the eastern woodlands.”

June 14, 6:30 p.m.
The Governor’s Invasive Species Council and Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management: A Proposed Program for Invasive Species Management in PA – Presented in the auditorium.

“The Governor’s Invasive Species Council is composed of 7 state agencies and 14 nongovernment organizations who serve the commonwealth by providing state level guidance and coordination on programs and policies to protect Pennsylvania from invasive species. Currently the Council recommends the adoption of a state funded Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) program to address the critical need for invasive species control throughout Pennsylvania. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the Council and the proposed PRISM program.”


July 12, 6:30 p.m.
Native Orchid Conservation Efforts at Longwood Gardens – Presented in the auditorium.

“Successful orchid conservation requires a multidisciplinary approach that supports in situ and ex situ conservation. Public gardens are expected to play a key role in supporting these efforts. Longwood Gardens initiated a native orchid conservation program in 2015 that focuses on horticultural aspects of ex situ orchid conservation including seed propagation, seedling establishment, and collections development, that is balanced with in situ restoration, population assessments of rare species, and field work to catalogue previously unknown orchid occurrences. Peter will present on the development, successful outcomes, and future aspirations of the program to date with specific attention paid to projects and partnerships in Pennsylvania.”

July 22, 9 a.m.
Hummingbird Banding Demonstration – Presented in the Visitors Center.

“Join us for an exploration of the world of hummingbirds. Learn about the biology of these birds and which flowers they prefer in our Visitors Center’s gardens. A federally licensed bird bander will be on hand to catch, band and then release some of the hummingbirds that frequent the gardens.”


Aug. 5, 9 a.m.
Wild Edible Plant Hike – Presented in the Visitors Center.

“Join Game Commission staff for a walk on the Conservation Trail in search of various species of wild plants that can be utilized as wild food at home, or in a survival situation. August will be a prime time that many common edible berries will be ripe. Any common, edible mushrooms that are found will also be identified.”

Aug. 9, 6:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Art Legacy Presented in the auditorium.

“As a follow-up to Middle Creek’s Annual wildlife art show, come learn about Pennsylvania’s rich wildlife art history. Many famous artists have come and gone including the likes of John James Audubon, Jacob Bates Abbott, and Ned Smith. this presentation will discuss not only the famous artists and their art, but their influence and impacts on wildlife conservation to this day.”

Aug. 4, 12 – 5 p.m. | Aug. 5, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. | Aug. 6, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Wildlife Art Show – Join dozens of artists to admire and/or purchase some of the best wildlife art in Pennsylvania.

Aug. 26, 9 a.m.
Wild Goose Chase 5K Run/Walk – Get those feet moving with all proceeds benefiting habitat restoration work at Middle Creek.


Sept. 9, 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Guided Bird Hike – Morning walk meets at the Visitors Center; afternoon walk meets at the Willow Point parking lot.

“Join the Lancaster County Bird Club for a birding adventure of your choosing that showcases a variety of the different habitats at Middle Creek! The morning session will involve a leisurely hike near the Visitors Center of about 1.5 miles focusing on fall migrants such as warblers. The afternoon session begins at Willow Point Parking Area and will focus on resident waterfowl and heron/egret species, followed by a caravan through the tour road with stops focusing on grassland birds. Bring a pair of binoculars!”

Sept. 13, 6:30 p.m.
Let’s (Try To) Count All the Birds in Pennsylvania – Presented in the auditorium.

“Join Sean Murphy, PGC’s State Ornithologist, to learn about Pennsylvania’s upcoming third bird atlas beginning in 2024. A state bird atlas is a volunteer-based field project designed to capture the distribution of all bird species in a state. Bird atlas projects have been completed for Pennsylvania with fieldwork conducted from 1983-1989, 2004-2009, and now 2024-2029! Repeating this massive survey every 20 years provides an opportunity to monitor species distribution changes and inform bird conservation and management across the state. Atlases bring together the birding community to contribute to a better understanding of the birds of Pennsylvania.”

Sept. 24, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
National Hunting and Fishing Day – Learn about hunting and fishing, while enjoying the outdoors and talking to over 35 organizations.


Oct. 21, 2 p.m.
Cold Water Preparedness and Safety – At the boat launch.

“Have you ever wanted to go boating outside of the typical summer season? Be prepared! Blue Marsh Lake Park Rangers will be talking about cold water preparedness and safety. There will be an activity that demonstrates the impact of cold water on motor function, and activities for children to practice throwing rescue equipment or to see how long it would take them to put on a life jacket.”

Oct. 11, 6:30 p.m.
Conservation After Dark: Studying Pennsylvania’s Favorite Flying Mammals – Presented in the auditorium.

“Join us to celebrate bat month with wildlife technician Levi Johnson! Bats are an incredibly valuable part of any ecosystem and live complex, but fascinating lives. We will hear about all of the fang- tastic methods that the Game Commission uses to study bats across the state including trapping, hibernacula surveys, and telemetry studies. Additionally, we will learn about the status of white-nose syndrome and what you can do to help bats in your area.”


Nov. 8, 6:30 p.m.
Rattlesnakes Demystified – Presented in the auditorium.

“Snakes in general, and rattlesnakes in particular, are probably one of the most abhorred animals in the western hemisphere. Some of this fear comes from the fact that rattlesnakes are venomous and can harm or kill people. But do we really know much about them? In this talk we will journey into the world of a rattlesnake to reveal how they sense their environment, how and when they use their venom, and how they obtain water when none can be found. I hope that by the end of the talk you will gain a greater appreciation for these often-maligned animals.”

Nov. 18, 4:30 p.m.
First Lunar Quarter Star Watch – Presented in the Visitors Center.

“Look through telescopes at the Moon, planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more! View Mercury setting just after Sol and Luna’s waxing crescent phase. Your favorite Trans-Neptunian binary dwarf planet system will make an appearance. Track Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, and Uranus across the sky among our stars.”


Dec. 13, 6:30 p.m.
Protecting Pennsylvania’s Birds – Presented in the auditorium.

“Recent studies reveal an important message – birds are declining in nearly every habitat across the continent. The birds of Pennsylvania are no exception, but conservation action works! The Protected Birds Section of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is building capacity for increased recovery actions for birds, especially species in which conservation has moved beyond ‘information gathering’ and into large-scale implementation of best management practices. Join us to learn more about the new objectives and projects the Game Commission has for some of the state’s most important bird species and their habitats, as well as the agency’s role in bird conservation.”

Dec. 16, 11 a.m.
Anatomy of the White-tailed Deer – Presented in the Visitors Center.

“Join Wildlife Health Technician Ian Gereg from the Wildlife Futures Program for an in-depth exploration of the external and internal anatomy of white-tailed deer. Learn about the structure and function of the organs, aging deer, and sample collection for disease surveillance. Note: this presentation will include utilizing deceased deer for demonstrations. Attendees should be prepared for viewing dead animals and organs.”

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