About Presque Isle

Sunset

Presque Isle offers the most beautiful sunsets in Pennsylvania, and possibly in the world. It has been compared to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for its pristine sand dunes. There are year-round recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities on this 3,200 acre peninsula.

There are miles and miles of trails that appeal to hikers, cross-country skiiers, snowshoers, bikers, walkers, and runners. Presque Isle offers boating, fishing, swimming, and the only beautiful natural sand beaches in Pennsylvania. Presque Isle has a unique history and is in a constant state of change, yet supports a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna.

History

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Presque Isle is a recurving sandspit. Geologists believe it formed more than 11,000 years ago. Over time the coastline "floated" as the forces of wind and water carried sand from the neck of the peninsula eastward, depositing it at Gull Point and causing the Gull Point area to grow. Scientists believe that the peninsula has moved eastward one-half mile per century, although they see smaller changes every year. These changes created an extremely diverse and fragile environment.

Because of its diversity, Presque Isle is a natural laboratory for viewing the geologic past and watching geologic forces in motion. Presque Isle's location relates to a ridge of sediment, called a moraine, that crosses Lake Erie. Huge slowly moving glaciers carry moraines, consisting of clay, sand and gravel. The glacier that formed the moraine across Lake Erie was a late, minor advance of the last major ice sheet that covered much of northern Pennsylvania. About 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, the small glacier moved southward into the valley now occupied by Lake Erie. The moraine marks the location where the glacier stopped, and was left behind as the ice melted away.

Although the French name Presque Isle means "almost an island", the area has actually been a real island several times. Storm waves have broken through the neck to isolate the main section of the spit at least four times since 1819. One gap remained open for 32 years.

As westerly waves wash upon the beaches in a diagonal direction, sand and pebbles carried with them are left on the shore as the waves recede. Upon each wave's rush, they are deposited a little farther east, adding to Presque Isle's eastward growth. Gull Point has been growing for most of the 1900's and continues to do so today.

Birding on Presque Isle

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Because of the diversity of ecological zones at Presque Isle State Park, many different species of plants and wildlife inhabit the park from the shoreline to the forest. Of all the plants and animals on Presque Isle, birds are the most studied and understood. Migrating birds, including several species of special concern, rest, feed, and nest here. Over 320 species have been recorded at the park. Presque Isle is often referred to as a birder's paradise. Birders flock to the peninsula each year during the spring and fall migration seasons to peer through binoculars, trying to catch a glimpse of the bright birds skittering through the bushes and trees.

As a flyway for migrating songbirds, shorebirds, gulls and waterfowl, birders trek around Presque Isle all year. However, May is the time of year when spectacularly plumaged Wood Warblers arrive during their annual spring migration. Some will stay to breed and nest and some will migrate farther north. Presque Isle State Park has been rated by Birder's World magazine as one of the top birding spots in the country. It isn't unusual to have birds hanging like ornaments from the trees during spring migration. Waterfowl migration occurs in March and in late November through December. Shorebird migration peaks in April and September. Warbler and Songbird migration is observed in May and in September. Each April the Presque Isle Audubon Society sponsors a Hawk Watch at the new Erie Bluffs State Park in Western Erie County, which includes more than one mile of Lake Erie shoreline.

Annual birding events include:

  • April - Annual Hawk Watch at Erie Bluffs State Park
  • May - International Migratory Bird Day Celebration, Presque Isle State Park

For more information, contact the Presque Isle Audubon Society.