Soaring Eagle Wetlands makes nature accessible for everyone

– by Mark Nale

Whether it is fishing, walking or bird watching, the Soaring Eagle Wetlands between Port Matilda and Julian in Huston Township provide access for people of all mobility levels. The property, in two parcels, is owned by State College based Wildlife for Everyone Foundation.

Lou Sycz and family on platform

Lou Sycz and family view the wetland from the new viewing platform constructed as Will English’s Eagle Scout Project at the Dreibelbis Birding Area.

- Photo by Mark Nale

The Soaring Eagle Wetland, at 6543 South Eagle Valley Road, Julian, on the east side of the railroad, is one parcel. The second property is located a half-mile north at Miles Hollow Road and is named the Dreibelbis Birding Area at Soaring Eagle Wetland. Both offer access to a part of nature that few get to experience – particularly people of limited mobility.

At the Soaring Eagle Wetland, a large gravel lot provides ample parking for those wanting to fish the state’s only Keystone Select Stocked Trout Stream to allow delayed harvest trout fishing with all types of terminal tackle. This 0.8-mile section of Bald Eagle Creek is stocked with a large number of trophy-sized trout and is open to year-round fishing. It has a creel limit of three trout per day from June 15 until Labor Day. It is catch-and-release-only during the other nine and a half months. About half of the special regulation water is located on Wildlife for Everyone property, and the remaining half is on private property, with access only through the Soaring Eagle Wetland.

A smaller paved parking area has two van-accessible handicap parking spaces beside a brick paver and boardwalk trail that leads to a two-level accessible fishing platform at Bald Eagle Creek. An 18-nesting box bluebird trail at the wetland provides a home for bluebirds and tree swallows.

The Soaring Eagle Wetland hosts one mile of trails that lead walkers and birders through wetland, meadow, and riparian forest habitats. Most of these trails are not yet handicapped accessible, but plans are in the works to make them so. The foundation is currently looking for matching funds to make an additional $200,000 worth of trail improvements.

Soaring Eagle Wetland offers "access to a part of nature that few get to experience – particularly people of limited mobility"

- Mark Nale

Just a half-mile north on South Eagle Valley Road is the Dreibelbis Birding Area, which consists of two large wetland areas divided by Miles Hollow Road. Nearly 200 species of birds have been spotted at the Dreibelbis Birding Area and recorded on Cornell University’s eBird. It is one of the top birding spots in Centre County.

There, the Foundation has constructed an out-and-back trail, two ADA-compliant viewing blinds and two paved parking lots. These developments are on the south side of Miles Hollow Road. The level trail follows the western edge of that wetland, with rustic viewing blinds providing an excellent view of the open water.

A generous donation from Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis, as well as financial assistance from First National Bank, First Energy, and others provided the jump-start for the project. The wetland has formally been named the Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis Birding Area.

Just last summer, Eagle Scout candidate Will English and friends added a second ADA-compliant trail along the eastern side of the northern wetland. The trail meanders between the wetland and South Eagle Valley Road, and provides access to a part of the wetland that was not easily reached before. English also constructed an elevated oak viewing platform that provides a panoramic view of the wetland. English was awarded the Eagle Scout distinction in March of 2023.

Visitors have a chance to see waterfowl, terrestrial birds, beavers, muskrats, deer and other wildlife. Many species of wildflowers line the trails. Both trails are covered with a fine limestone particulate substance known as trail surface aggregate. The viewing blinds have benches and two additional benches have been installed along the trails. More benches will be installed in the near future.

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