On a previous trip to Moraine State Park, my wife and I put in on the south shore, near the Crescent Bay boat rental. Lake Arthur was big and beautiful there, but the wake from bigger boats had us bouncing around. I recently picked up a brochure published by the Western Pennsylvania Paddlesport Association; it describes the "Hidden River Canoe Trail" at Moraine.
The trail is actually a secluded cove off of the lake, with several marked posts indicating various wildlife and vegetation common to the area. The brochure recommends 45 minutes to enjoy the cove.
I arrived at the McDanels boat launch just past 8:00 AM, and unloaded my gear. I had been looking forward to this first Spring outing after the long winter. As I put in, I noticed that the water was like glass - perfect for enjoying the "Hidden River Trail".
I made my way around the shoreline, enjoying the brisk morning air. Canadian geese were everywhere. At times, I had to change direction just to avoid them. There were also several fishermen in small boats. I did my best to stay out of there way as well.
As my map suggested, the western shore of the cove included former beaver habitat. There were also several boxes located along this shore to help preserve the Wood Duck.
Once I reached the northern tip of the trail, I discovered the entrance to Hidden River. This included an impressive rock formation. To quote the brochure, "When the immense Wisconsin Glacier retreated from this area 20,000 years ago it left behind rocks, gravel, or sand known as 'Moraine'".
Beyond the rock walls and around the bend, there is a footbridge. It is part of the North Country Scenic Trail. If not for a fallen tree, it seemed like I could've kept paddling up the "river" (Later on, a fellow paddler confirmed this. He planned on speaking to park officials to have the recently fallen tree removed.).
The final stop along the trail is located directly across from the launch ramp. Here is an active Osprey nesting platform. I stopped for a while and watched the big bird fly from the platform to a nearby utility pole, and back again. This was a terrific vantage point, and I was kicking myself for leaving my camera at home.
Because I took my time exploring, I'd spent about an hour had in the cove. I decided to continue south into the lake, and around a nearby island. Although the water was a little choppier, it was still very manageable in my little boat (I paddle a 14.5' light touring kayak).
As I turned the corner to the back side of the island, I was greeted by sounds of at least 30 birds. Half of these were geese, both on the shore and in the water. I couldn't identify the rest. They were simply large, loud shadows perched in the trees. Even when they took flight, I couldn't tell what they were (again...I need to bring the camera next time).
After hanging out with the mystery-birds for a while, I decided to continue around the island, and back to the launch. I was back on shore about 90 minutes after puting in. If you are looking for a quick but relaxing paddle, I highly recommend the Hidden River Trail.
There is ample parking, two large boat ramps, and a good shoreline to launch a kayak.
There is also a gift shop, but it was closed on the day I was there.
The Park phone # is: (724)368-8811
Non powered boats must have one of the following: state park launch permit, state park mooring permit (available in most park offices), or current PA boat registration. I believe PA Fish & Boat Commission launch permits are valid as well, but check with the park office to be sure.
From Pittsburgh, take I-79 North the exit for Route 488 (old exit #28). Follow the signs for Moraine State Park, North Shore, and McDanels boat launch.
I picked up the Hidden River Canoe Trail brochure at Wind & Water Boat Works, just south of Butler. These brochures are also available in a box at the McDanels launch.
The official park map is very helpful as well; this can be obtained at the park office.