Weekend Change of Plan — Wildwood Park, Harrisburg, PA

Wildwood Lake


**Due to technical difficulties this post is a little late and reflects two weekends ago***

Well, this past weekend was to be our first EVER weekend of camping! Oh the excitement building up to Saturday morning to where we were going to drive up to a national park semi-close and camp out for two nights, me having taken Monday off. I NEEDED a vacation!

However, a bit of food poisoning changed all that! My son was crazy sick for three days (once in the car >sigh< can’t get the stains out of the fabric on the car doors let alone the smell!!!) so we cancelled. I was not going drive three and a half hours to run my kid into the ground and exhaust him when he should be resting. So, we had an alternative plan. Somewhere close, somewhere that didn’t involve intense walking on his first totally-better feeling day), and something interesting!

Wildwood Park in Harrisburg, PA is one of the most wonderful little wetland wildlife reserves we’ve ever been to! The sheer amount of things to see (read: take pictures of!) has never been less than awesome! This wasn’t our first time — in fact, we’ve been trying to go at least once a week since we found this place back in May — but it is definitely worthy of note here on my own personal blog.

In fact, I’m GLAD that Wildwood Park is my FIRST post! It is so worthy, we totally love it, and we’d would be lost without it!


Previously called Wildwood Lake, Wildwood Park is lush with wildlife, especially birds! Red Winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), and Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) are very common! The catbirds have grown on me — I love to take their pictures and I swear they pose!

Other frequent visitors are Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) and Great Egrets (Ardea alba)! We were very lucky to have one of the Great Egrets come fairly close to the shore on Saturday. He was BEAUTIFUL and I ALMOST got a great picture of him flying! I DID, however, get a picture of him catching a fish! It was pretty neat!

Another visitor of the wetlands is the Wood Duck! Oh to SEE let alone photograph a male wood duck in all it’s magnificent splendor has been my goal with every visit but alas I have yet to see one. A mature male wood duck anyway. I have been able to capture wonderful shots of a wood duck family from when they were very small to now almost fledged but still following mom very close. We were lucky to run into them on Saturday as well. Very lucky! In fact, my son was the one who saw them and I had walked past them and miss them entirely!

And that’s not even the half of it! Swallows dart and dive through the air in what my twelve year old calls Air Force battles! The woods and lake are alive with song from Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) especially and everywhere there are squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, woodpeckers, frogs, toads, and everything in between! The Visitor Center also has a massive wall of windows that overlooks a plethora of well stocked feeders that attract EVERYTHING! And I do mean EVERYTHING! There are seats lined up, binoculars, and field guides so visitors can observe the birds without interfering, as well as a little museum with historic and conservation based displays and a room for kids to touch and handle different natural artifacts like antlers, shells, and bones.

Wildflowers also bloom in waves of beautiful color too attracting all manner of insects, especially bumblebees and butterflies! I could spend hours at the Purple Rooster Bee Balmpatch trying to snatch the best photographs of them that I can in macro! There is just something so amazing

We also were introduced to an interesting little bug called the Red Milkweed Beetle(Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) which we had never seen before! Their eggs are laid in the soil around milkweed plants and their larvae hatch and feed on the roots and stems and even store a chemical from the milkweed plant in their bodies to make themselves distasteful! I, for one, enjoyed trying to photograph these guys! They were so cute…for bugs…which I am not a fan of! But behind the camera I am a fan of anything I can snap a picture of, especially if it is something new and it presents a challenge!

And of course….ahem….

I love the detail of the leaf at the bottom. I’m sure ‘that’ is not what they are doing, but my son certainly thought so and ran off ahead pretending he didn’t see it. HA! Now you know I HAD to get a picture…

Occasionally Wildwood Park offers FREE guided wildflower and bird walks, of which we have participated in and enjoyed thoroughly, and other events! The scenery is beautiful with a lake and LOTS of hiking paths everywhere from the short, easy to walk Delta Boardwalk to the more challenging, and occasionally muddy, East Shore Trail that goes right along the lake. The Wildwood Way trail is the longest but is paved and perfect for riding bikes! Just watch for snapping turtles that occasionally cross the paths — the females climb out of the water to shore to lay their eggs in spring and then the babies have to cross the trials again to get back into the water.

This was taken from the Delta Boardwalk walk:

Parts of the wetland bottom were exposed on Saturday due to some serious heat and dry weather, but it made for beautiful picture taking, a smell that reminds me of the sea, and perfect hunting grounds for robins and other birds!

There is so much to see and do at this park it’s amazing! And best of all…it’s FREE!!!!!! Need I say more? We have gone every week for about two months and still haven’t traversed ALL the trails that are offered at this park. Although it’s just outside the city, the landscape, although beautiful, is marred with a billboard and a few telephone poles in the far distance beyond the park, and you can hear traffic from the freeway and the trucks from the numerous warehouses on the road to get to the park, Wildwood is truly a paradise in the city of Harrisburg, a wonderful, invaluable, WILD yet tame location easily accessible to all the surrounding area, and perfect for an after work/school nature walk, a gem in an otherwise chaotic world!


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