Lake Raystown, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania

About Lake Raystown

This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project in Huntingdon County, central Pennsylvania, controls a drainage area of 960 square miles in the Juniata and Susquehanna river basins. The site includes a 28-mile-long lake surrounded by more than 22,000 acres of lowlands and uplands. Wooded areas are a mix of oaks, hickories, maples, and softwoods; on the west side of the lake lie many old farms whose fields are now filling in with native and invasive shrubs and trees. Birdlife includes ruffed grouse, woodcock, wild turkeys, waterfowl, raptors, and many species of songbirds. The area supports a large deer population.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

West of Raystown Lake, near the village of Marklesburg, the Pennsylvania Game Commission manages a 3,000-acre tract known as the “Raystown Lake Mitigation Area” or State Game Lands 420. Here the Game Commission has designated about 600 acres as a Woodcock Management Demonstration Area.

In the northeast part of the area, off Backbone Road, 80 acres of low-lying fields have been allowed to grow up in alder, dogwoods, and hawthorn. Periodically, workers make noncommercial cuts, felling taller trees and overmature alder to keep the habitat in a young-forest stage.

Next to the Woodcock Management Demonstration Area, the Game Commission is managing a 30-acre timber sale. The sale includes a 6-acre clearcut to increase golden-winged warbler habitat, plus 24 acres where conifers, dogwood, hornbeam, Juneberry, and hawthorn will be left uncut to provide shubby habitat.

Photo of dense aspens used by woodcock

Dense growth of aspens planted near Fouses Crossing Road.

On the southwest side of the Mitigation Area, off Fouses Crossing Road, the Game Commission and the Corps of Engineers have planted more than 50 acres of old fields with aspen, dogwood, hawthorn, and crabapple. Many male woodcock sing in semi-open areas and along roadsides in springtime, and migrating woodcock have begun to use the aspen for feeding and resting in spring and fall. In coming years, land managers will evaluate the aspen stand and will start cutting it in a 20-year rotation when the trees are vigorous and mature enough that their root systems will send up copious saplings following logging.

On a ridgeside area near the Aitch boat launch, 24 acres of medium-sized trees are scheduled for cutting. As the area regrows, it will provide additional habitat for woodcock, golden-winged warblers, and other wildlife that needs young forest.

At the south end of the lake, off Weaver Falls Road, the Jim Bashline Habitat Management Area includes about 600 acres of upland forest currently being managed as grouse habitat through periodic logging. (Bashline, who lived from 1931 to 1995, was a popular local outdoor writer active in wildlife conservation and the Ruffed Grouse Society.) Another 150 acres of bottomland hardwoods in this area provide current and potential woodcock habitat: around 30 acres have been logged since 2004, with 40 more acres scheduled to be cut by 2011. Nearby, workers have planted about 50 acres of old fields with native shrubs, and periodically spot-treat invading non-native multiflora rose and bush honeysuckle to favor the native vegetation.

Funding and Partners

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Ruffed Grouse Society (funding and technical advice), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

The Raystown Lake Visitors Center is south of Hesston, PA, on Seven Points Drive. (Hesston is approximately 7 miles south of Huntingdon on PA Route 26.) Visitors can pick up printed information and maps that park rangers and biologists will mark with the locations of sites where woodcock habitat improvements are taking place. The center is open 8 to 4, seven days a week in spring, summer, and fall, and five days a week in winter. Contact the center at 814-658-3405, and learn about Raystown Lake online at