Black Moshannon


If you can’t see the slideshow, or if you’re on dial-up, go here.

Gnarled stumps of pine trees cut down a century earlier jut from the tannic waters of Black Moshannon Lake. Though like most lakes south of the glaciated portions of Pennsylvania it is a man-made reservoir, a smaller, boggier series of ponds preceded it, and descendents of the beavers that built the original dams remain. Last Saturday, my mother and I were admiring the banks of cardinal flowers in the streambed below the dam when a small birch tree beside the trail toppled over less than fifty feet away. We went over to look and discovered that a beaver had chewed it almost all the way through, presumably the night before, but for some reason had left it standing.

Black Moshannon is a pretty special place, home to rare orchids, carnivorous bog plants, and many other strange and wonderful things. Botanists consider the 1,500-acre Black Moshannon Bog Natural Area to be “the largest reconstituted bog/wetland complex in Pensylvania.” The park is surrounded by a much larger state forest on the Allegheny Plateau a few miles west of the Allegheny Front. I won’t give the exact elevation, because I know my western readers will laugh, but let’s just say that it’s high enough to be significantly cooler than most of the surrounding area. So the small swimming beach is always a major draw.

In fact, our main reason for going there on a beautiful, cool summer day was to introduce my three-year-old niece Elanor to the joys of a swimming hole. She’s always been drawn to water, but her fascination has included a healthy admixture of fear. With some coaxing from her father, though, and with the example of all the other kids to follow, she was soon splashing and yelling with the best of them.

My own interaction with the water was solely photographic. Like Elanor, I’m drawn to water and never get tired of looking at it: the plants that grow in and around it, the trees and branches that fall into it, the frogs that sit quietly beside it, leaping in at the last possible moment. By the end of the afternoon, we were each relaxed and besotted from our long immersions.

12 Comments


  1. If there are carnivorous blog plants in the lake, I’m keeping well away *wink*. Lovely photos, number two in the sequence especially. Which reminds me, I never did get a straight answer from you about purchasing prints (remember the snow shadow one I fell in love with?). You really need to offer this stuff up, I’d snap your hand off for one.

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  2. It was the fifth one that did it for me, out of a wonderful selection.

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  3. Lovely! One of my favorite hikes is the Moss Hanne trail, and I made the drive up the mountain many times for the cool water, although members of my family tend to prefer the glacial waters of Six Mile Run for that purpose. Thanks for the pics!

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  4. Hi Jo – I suppose I should look into offering photos through some print-on-demand service al que quiere, but beyond the hassle of setting up such a storefront is the reality that I don’t know anything about making prints from digital photos, other than it seems to require heavy arithmetic, which I abhor. (Thanks for the catch on “blog plants” — that’ll teach me to try writing late at night!)

    CGP and rr – Thanks for the kudos; glad you liked. The third of the cardinal flower photos was also my favorite, and I believe I’ll cross-post it to the photo blog next, after the dead cardinal.

    Rose – Yeah, that’s a great trail, and it’s too bad I didn’t have the time to hike it last week. I haven’t hiked it in years. There was a spot about half-way along it where high blueberry bushes were blue with fruit, but it’s a long way to carry a bucket.

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  5. Dave: I always enjoy your photos and their meditative atmosphere. Which reminds me: my husband’s family was from very rural Susquehanna County, PA, and had a bog and beaver pond at the back of their property. He liked to sit there and contemplate the water, while I liked to check things out. I frequently found almost toppled trees the beavers had left behind. His idea was that it was a storage and safety issue…they left them to fall wherever they would, avoiding the crash and carry until they had to and leaving the rest to gravity while they moved on. Anyway, I have to say I enjoy the branches in water photo the most; I like the sense of dislocation and motion it invokes. Thanks!

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  6. What magical photographs. Each one I came to was going to be my favourite – when I had seen them all I couldn’t decide which I liked best. I love everything about them and as a set they certainly gave me a feel of the place.

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  7. “In fact, our main reason for going there on a beautiful, cool summer day was to introduce my three-year-old niece Elanor to the joys of a swimming hole.”

    Aaaw. That’s terribly sweet.

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  8. I love these pictures and find myself the woods of the eastern united states with fondness and longing. Was awed by the depth of field in your “Dam” photo and if it is not too crass, would like to know what type of equipment you are employing for these pictures.

    Thank you for sharing your words and vision.

    robin

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  9. Beautiful photos and words, Dave! I love water too, finding it very meditative when calm like this and exhilarating when stormy, especially the sea coast. Love imagining your niece in the swimming hole – sets off many memories of my own childhood and my children’s.

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  10. A very nice photo sequence, Dave! You have a good eye for texture and detail. I wish that places of equivalent quality were closer to where I live…

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  11. peg – That’s interesting about the beavers; thanks for filling us in about that. (I love “crash and carry”!)

    pat – Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad the photoset makes people want to visit. I only wish I lived closer so I could visit it every week.

    Dana – That’s me, spreading sweetness and light. Actually, I pretty much ignored the whole swimming scene, in part because I figured people would find a middle-aged guy with a camera stalking little kids in bathing suits a bit creepy, to say the least.

    robin – I’m glad you liked that one; I was kind of pleased with it myself. I think the lack of sunshine at the moment I snapped it might’ve helped with the depth of field. I use a Fuji FinePix S5200, which is a semi-SLR with a zoom lens. (It was a gift. I can’t afford to be a real equiptment-maven.)

    marja-leena – Yes, you’ve certainly showcased many memorable water photos on your blog – and sent us a few at qarrtsiluni, too, come to think of it.

    Larry – Thanks. I think it’s places like Black Mo that make Pennsylvanians so disinclined to move to other states. (We have the most stay-at-home population in the U.S.)

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