Hi. My name is Ken Yonek & I’m going to try to start a conversation about some of the birds and natural attractions in the region. Since this region is defined by the meeting of woods, water & field it provides many different habitats to support a variety of creatures.
When it comes to birds I’ll probably be asking more questions than providing answers. I’m a ‘recreational birder’ at best, but I do have a copy of “ Peterson Field Guides , Eastern Birds “ and when I see something new, I want to know what it is. So, let’s start.
On Thursday , 2/22, my dog & I were walking around a familiar lake park when I saw a flash of color to my right just as a pileated woodpecker landed on a tree trunk in full view. It called out & almost simultaneously I heard an answering call from my left. That second call was so sudden & unexpected that I wasn’t sure I’d really heard one. But after several seconds, it called again & this was immediately answered by the bird on my right. ( I realize that while I say “ answered “ I have no idea what’s going on in either birds head.) I assumed they were a bonded pair since it would otherwise be unusual to see two pileated woodpeckers in such close proximity because a nesting pair will try to defend hundreds of acres of territory. At this time of the year former mates will be moving closer together in preparation for nest building & mating. And that leads to my 1st question. I checked several on-line sources but none told when the pair will start excavating a new nesting cavity or laying eggs in this region. Anyone out their know that ?
My second observation/question concerns the pileated woodpeckers call. If you’ve heard it, you know it’s not anything you’d call a “ bird song “. I’ve seen it described as a bark, a laugh, or a wuk/cuk call. It’s essentially the same note repeated several times with variations in the length of the repeat chain. The normal call will run several “ wuks “ with a pause between each, e.g. wuk-wuk-wuk. There’s also the almost manic sounding version that Cornell University called the “ fast wuk series call “. There the repeat chain, length, volume & frequency all seem to increase. It’s more like a WUKWUKWUK.…. My reaction the first time I heard that was : “ What the heck was that ?” Because it seems like a such strident call, I assumed it must be a territorial warning call and thus more common during the nesting period. But the same Cornell website advised that a short “ wuk-wuk “ is the territory boundary or alarm call. Ok, I thought. That’s like us shouting “ stop, no, or help “. But then I thought about my dog’s reactions to potential threats. When another dog has acted too aggressively toward him/me/us the barks & spittle will pour out rapid fire. So, I’m still wondering. Is that “ fast wuk series call “ a special time/purpose call , or just a random variation, even though it seems to be used much less frequently that the “ normal “ wuk series ? Or is it just the pileated woodpeckers version of singing a few bars of “ Ode to Joy “ ? Appreciate any thoughts on that “ fast wuk “ question.
Love to hear about anyone else’s experiences.
Oh yeah. I’ve got 3-4” daffodil shoots all over the beds. Spring is coming.
Not all history lives in a museum. Case in point: Pennsylvania residents can step back in time during a day-long visit to the historic area of Brownsville. Whether you opt to plan your trip in the summer or bundle up in the winter is up to you – either way, you’ll enjoy your time in this beautiful river town!
What Can I Do In Brownsville?
There’s so much here that the town offers personalized guided tours – all you have to do to book is call 724-785-9331. If you’re the type to enjoy the flexibility of a self-guided visit, though, Brownsville organizers recommend the following itinerary:
- Visit Brownsville’s Flatiron Building Heritage Visitor Center and the Frank L. Melega Art Museum. This is a two part entry, and for good reason – both attractions are too good to pass up and can be accessed in the same place. Free to the public and complete with guided tours, the heritage center focuses on the National Road Era and The Industrial Coal & Coke Era. A visit here will help recreate the industrialized past and tell the tale of how Brownsville – and America – came to be. After visiting the heritage center, you can head to the Frank L. Melega Museum, and browse through artwork influenced by local historic and modern artists alike.
- Take in the architecture. A quick stroll downtown will let you take in a view of the First Cast Iron Bridge in America; the new Iron Bridge Amphitheater; the new Iron Bridge Crossing apartment buildings; unique historic architecture; and the local library that was established in 1927. All make for beautiful sights and even great photo opportunities. Architecture fans will also enjoy a walk down historic Front Street, the site of more architectural gems and residential homes.
- Explore the history of transportation. If museums are your jam, you’ll definitely want to visit the Monongahela River, Rail and Transportation Museum. Visitors will see various artifacts from the rail and river transit systems that shaped the area. Photographs, documents, small model trains and various items from the boating industry will also help to tell the tale.
- See the state’s only castle. Nemacolin Castle is arguably the Mon Valley’s finest house museum. It’s primary name is Bowman’s Castle, although Nemacolin Castle is a common nickname for the structure. We’ve even written about this must-see spot in the past – so be sure to keep it in mind while in the area!
- Go to church. The Historic Church of Saint Peter is open to the public – you can call 724-785-7781 for a guided tour of the oldest local, continuously used Catholic church west of the Allegheny Mountains. Built in 1845 by Irish stonemasons, the building was constructed with locally quarried stone – and has a great story to tell to visitors.
- Grab a meal. You’ll have to keep up your strength during your visit! And we have recommendations for that, too. One of Brownsville’s oldest known eateries is Fiddles, famous for their hot dogs. Twelve Oaks Restaurant & Tavern is also a local favorite, so perhaps you’ll want to live it up at the historic mansion turned restaurant.
If that isn’t enough to fill out a day trip, we don’t know what is. Whether you’re the type to google for “old towns near me” or you’re just itching for a day away from the usual, Brownsville may be the perfect low key destination!Ready to plan a trip to Brownsville? In addition to browsing our website for additional information and even itineraries for this charming river town, you can visit our website calendar to see other local upcoming activities!
Who says day trips are a summer activity? With the perfect to do list, you can enjoy a day of traveling and an array of activities that are both fun and warm and cozy. And if that sounds good to you, we can’t think of a better place to travel than California, Pennsylvania.
Located along the Monongahela River in Washington County, the borough of California is best known for the California University of Pennsylvania. And sure, it’s worth walking through the school’s campus if you’re able to. However, this lovely town has more to offer to visitors than college-esque hotspots! Let us show you what else is worth visiting:
- One place worth visiting is the California Public Library. The best libraries are housed in beautiful old buildings, and this one is no exception. Set inside an old train station, the library even displays a caboose displayed on its lawn. With a historic location and daily activities, this library is a great spot for a traveling family.
- If you feel like bundling up and exploring more of the outdoors, the California Union Memorial Park isn’t far from its library. The memorial park houses the local cemetery, where one of the town’s founders lies. Soldiers from the War of 1812 and the Civil War also lie at rest here. Interestingly, there are two 60-foot retaining walls plastered with old grave markers, instead of the stones being buried in the ground. California Union Memorial Park is not an average cemetery, and is worth your time if weather permits a visit.
- But if you’d rather stay indoors, you may want to visit the California Area Historical Society. Housed in a building that’s over one hundred years old, the society houses records on the history of Washington, Greene, and Fayette Counties, the Civil War regimental history, and local history. They focus in genealogy and history alike – so you may be surprised by what you find here.
California is a surprising center of history in Pennsylvania, and well worth your time and attention. As with all small towns, confirming seasonal hours before your visit is highly recommended!
Ready to plan a trip to the historic area of California, PA? In addition to Googling other local activities or browsing our website bio on the town, you can visit our website calendar to see upcoming activities!
Have you ever heard of Nemacolin Castle? Don’t let the shared name of an infamous Pennsylvania resort fool you – Nemacolin Castle is arguably the Mon Valley’s finest house museum. It’s primary name is Bowman’s Castle, although Nemacolin Castle is a common nickname for the structure. Built in present-day Brownsville, it’s approximately one hour away from Pittsburgh. Best of all, this Pennsylvania historic landmark is open year round, with volunteers offering tours of the castle interior and its spacious grounds!
The History Of The Castle
According to the Nemacolin Castle website, the structure was built “at the western terminus of the Nemacolin’s Trail on the east bank of the Monongahela River.” Nemacolin Castle was built around the site of the area’s original local trading post. The trading post has roots in the 1780s – but construction on the castle began during the mid-to-late 1790s, at the hands of Jacob Bowman.
Jacob and his wife were the first of three generations to live in the structure. In the beginning, the building housed a new trading post on its ground floor, and a single room above that. It was as Bowman family grew – the couple had nine children total – that a broad hallway was added to the building.
Upon Jacob’s passing in 1847, the house passed on to Nelson Bowman, who added an east wing and a brick tower to the ever growing building. Nelson, and one of their sons, lived out their days in the home. It was after the son and his widow passed that The National Historical Society purchased the house and began to open it up to the public as a museum.
The Castle Today
Currently the structure is maintained and operated as a house museum by the local Brownsville Historical Society nonprofit group. Nemacolin Castle is one of a handful of 1850s buildings that stands and survives today, and the building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. It’s fascinating history of trade and family love makes it a wonderful attraction for visitors of many ages.
Best of all, the historical society offers tours year-round of the gorgeous structure. They just ask that prospective visitors contact them at 724-785-6882 or at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Why Google “historic houses near me” when this one is so close? We cannot recommend a visit to Pennsylvania’s own castle enough. Guests may also be interested in the town of Brownsville, home of the beautiful building!
’Tis the season – for travel and holiday cheer! The winter season is an under-appreciated time for local travel and exploration. Many Pennsylvania and even West Virginia towns offer plenty to do during the chillier months of the year. Museums, for example, are a great go-to as you travel and unplug for your normal routine. This blog is for the museum lovers out there – and will help you find some off-the-beaten-path exhibits this season!
Donora, Pennsylvania – 27 Miles From Pittsburgh
The borough of Donora is located in Washington County, alongside the Monongahela River. The town has an industrious history, with stories of steel-making, coal-mining, agriculture, and more. In addition to a long history of creation and production, Donora houses the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum. A member of the Heinz History Center’s History Center Affiliate Program, the museum is dedicated to preserving and remembering 1948 Donora smog – an event that tragically killed 20 people and left 7,000 ill. This single event in Donora’s history helps to shine a spotlight on environmental dangers, residential welfare, and more – and is well worth a visit. Interested in visiting? Contact the museum to confirm their operating hours!
Brownsville, Pennsylvania – 40 Miles From Pittsburgh
Brownsville was once a frequent destination point for travelers who were heading west via the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. Today the town is a lovely place to escape busy city life – it has two historic districts, and the area by design celebrates its rich history and local scenic beauty.
Museum-wise, Brownsville houses the Frank L. Melega Art Museum and Monongahela River, Rail, and Transportation Museum. The art museum collects, preserves, interprets, and exhibits the artworks of Frank Melega – an Indiana-born son of a coal miner with an artistic talent that earned him recognition from prestigious organizations across the country. And if art isn’t quite your thing, the transportation museum displays an impressive collection of artifacts and archival materials related to the history of river and rail transportation in this region. Between the two, you’ll be sure to get your fill of historic things this season. (Be sure to call before visiting this museum, as its hours are limited!) Interested in visiting? Be sure to contact both museums to confirm if they are operating on seasonal hours.
Fairmont, West Virginia – 90 Miles From Pittsburgh
While West Virginia is commonly recognized for its outdoor activity options, Fairmont has plenty to offer in the way of museums and history. The Marion County Historical Society & Museum combines both of these things, featuring a diverse collection of historic things from across the centuries. The museum’s focuses include the Revolutionary and Civil War, coal mining, the glass industry, railroad lines, and more. This charming museum will help you settle into the state, understanding a little more about the factors that shaped it. Interested? Here are their hours of operation!
As a bonus, if your schedule matches theirs – their hours are very limited – the Telephone Museum will be your next stop. With switchboards, pay phones, test boards, and more, this little museum is a fabulous tribute to the history of the telephone.
Morgantown, West Virginia – 75 Miles From Pittsburgh
Morgantown may house West Virginia University, but it’s not just a college town by any means. Morgantown has consistently been rated as one of the top small cities in America to live or start a small business. Historically, the area was highly contested due to its location and resources. Today visitors can get a glimpse of the area’s glass and coal heritage at the Morgantown Museum. This city-sponsored museum and nonprofit aims to promote local and regional history and to make it accessible to the citizens of Morgantown and visitors to the region.
These are just some of the delightful museums hidden throughout our river towns. If any of them grabbed your interest, we definitely recommend planning a little holiday trip – you won’t regret the chance to shop and learn as you head out of town for a seasonal trip!
Ready to plan a trip? In addition to Googling local activities, you can visit our website calendar to see upcoming activities in many local Mon River Towns.
*Always check the most recently posted museum hours before planning a visit, as some museums may adjust their hours for the holidays or for the winter after the publishing of this blog.
Interesting sites and happenings along the Mon River.
Let’s start with “cool.” The McTrail (Marion County Trail) is a short stretch of trail (2.2 miles) that packs in a lot of beauty and the ultra-cool Meredith Tunnel. Built in 1914 and put back into use in 2005, the 1,200 foot lighted tunnel in Fairmont, West Virginia, offers a cool respite on a hot summer day.
While in the area, head over to downtown Fairmont and check out Joe ‘N Throw, where coffee shop meets pottery studio. The shop celebrates local arts and culture, pottery classes, and a great little place to rehash your ride.
Just like the north-flowing river, let’s move from south to north.
We could write a list a mile long about things to do in Morgantown. Isn’t it amazing that you can bike to a state park (Prickett’s Fort, via the Mon River Trail) or drive to a state forest (Cooper’s Rock) so effortlessly? In town, there are a number of great restaurants (find Thai, Indian, burritos, and more on High Street) and the Mountain People’s Co-op. But what we really want to tell you about is how Keith McManus, Mayor of Greensboro, Pennsylvania, has been driving down to Morgantown for 20 years to lead Morgantown Brewing Company’s Old Time Appalachian Jam starting at 9:30 on Wednesday nights.
Crossing into Pennsylvania, Point Marion’s most known local institution is Apple Annie’s, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and known for its pies, cakes, and cobblers. You won’t believe the spread! While you’re in the area, drive just outside of town to the Friendship Hill National Historic Site. Two tips here: take your walking shoes if you want to explore over 10 miles of hiking shoes, and go in September for the annual FestiFall event. Festifall will be held September 24-25 this year. Don’t forget to try the bean soup that keeps the locals coming back year after year.
One other thing about Point Marion…have you ever heard of Jordan Motor Cars? They were assembled in Cleveland from 1916-1931, made with parts from other manufacturers. We’re not exactly sure how a collection of them ended up here in Point Marion (other than the fact that they’re housed at Jordan Auto Parts on Main Street, but it’s worth peeking through the windows to some early twentieth century wheels.
We mentioned Keith McManus’s weekly trips to Morgantown. He’s also doing a lot locally to encourage the arts in at home in Greensboro. We recently partnered with Keystone Edge on this story on Greensboro’s arts-driven revitalization efforts. And the town’s Art Blast on the Mon, being held September 3 and 4 by the Nathanael Greene Community Development Corporation, is now in its 11th year.
In the Northside of Brownsville, keep an eye out for the occasional ghost walk event. We were there for one in August and were blown away by the turn out. They easily had 100 people. We couldn’t take the whole guided tour (as we had plans to go to the Brownsville Drive-In), but stopped by one of the sites. The volunteer portraying Jacob Bowman weaved a story of abolition, George Washington, deception, and community values. We could have listened to him talk for hours! Also in Brownsville, Nemacolin Castle hosts ghost tours in October and standard mansion tours on weekends throughout the year.
Finally, we cannot write about the Mon Rivers “quirk and cool” without mentioning the Donora Smog Museum. The volunteer-run museum commemorates the 1948 smog event that blanketed the town in a toxic wall of smog that killed and sickened community members and was an impetus for creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. The museum also pays tribute to local community life. It’s well worth the stop.
We’ve covered only some of the many “quirky, crunchy, cool” spots along the Mon River. Please tell us what we missed in the comments section below.
Want to know more about Morgantown Area Paddlers (MAP)?!
MAP is a flat-water paddling group focused on promoting and developing social, relaxed kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding in the Morgantown area. As of May 17th, 2016 there are 173 members, with 15 of them having joined just in the last month. In other exciting news the group, through local businesses, organizations, and grants, raised over $38,000 to put towards a new kayak launch. The new launch will provide a safe way to enter, avoiding slipping and bobbing when getting in or out of your boat. It also avoids the deep muck along the river’s edge. You can look for this new boat launch to be installed at the Van Voorhis Trailhead of the Mon River Rail Trail and Water Trail. Be sure to come out and join the Morgantown Area Paddlers on their paddling trips or other outings. Upcoming events can be found on their Facebook page.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.
Mon River Towns will begin gathering entries on December 4th 2017, continuing weekly, and will complete the contest on a date that’s TBD. The contest end date will be announced once decided. Entries are encouraged immediately.
The promotion is open to any legal U.S. residents residing in any of the 50 United States, who are 18 years of age or older.
How to Enter
To enter the contest, post a photo of the area’s bald eagles using the hashtag #RTPEagleSearch2017 on Instagram. Submissions will be gathered weekly and submitted to a judging committee. In the event of a dispute regarding the identity of the person submitting an entry, the entry will be deemed submitted by the person in whose name the account is registered.
Winning and Notification
Once a winner is selected by committee, you will receive a comment on your photo asking for you to email your contact information for your prize to be sent. Contact information must be obtained within one week of comment, or before the next round of submissions are collected to receive prize. By participating in this promotion, account holder certifies that his/her post is original, has not been previously published or won any other promotion, and does not contain any material that would violate or infringe on the rights of any third party, including copyrights, trademarks, or rights of privacy/publicity.
Each weekly prize winner will receive one $25 gift card to a local restaurant. The value of the prize may be taxable as income and winners are solely responsible for any taxes on the prize, including, but not limited to all applicable federal, state and local taxes if applicable. If the restaurant closes, sponsor has no responsibility to provide a new prize.
Entering the promotion constitutes permission for the sponsor and its agencies to use participants’ Instagram post, captions, any accompanying materials, and names (first name and last initial) for the purpose of advertising or promotion via consumer newsletter and social media channels (Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Pinterest) without compensation, unless prohibited by law. Should the company choose to use this content for promotional purposes, entrant is not entitled to compensation or credit. Sponsor holds the right to use all entries for marketing purposes.
Disruption of nests, harm to animals, and altering environments in any way is strictly prohibited. Do not trespass on private property and be respectful at all times of property, leaving no trash behind. It is essential that these beautiful birds not be stressed or disturbed so please follow the recommendations for viewing outlined below. When viewing bald eagles, Pennsylvania Game Commission asks that people:
- Keep at least 1000 feet from an active nest, roost or feeding area. Use binoculars or a telescope to view the eagles at a distance.
- Be quiet. If you must talk, whisper.
- Cover up. Use your vehicle or boat as a blind, as eagles are more alarmed by pedestrians.
- Avoid sudden movements.
- Don’t make the birds fly. Flushing an eagle off a nest may expose the eggs or young eaglets to cold or wet weather or a nest predator. It also wastes energy and may cause them to leave a valuable meal behind or abandon a nest that they are constructing.
- Respect the privacy of the landowner.
Located in West Virginia and set along the Monongahela River, the town of Fairmont is a delightful place to visit. The historic area boasts several claims to fame – for example, it’s the home of the first Pepperoni Roll, as well as the site of the first Father’s Day. It’s also a fantastic place to visit for nature and outdoor activity lovers. But it’s the history of the surrounding area that really makes it a must-see spot. And history lovers will definitely want to visit Fairmont’s museums, as well as Pricketts Fort State Park – and, within it, Pricketts Fort.
About The Site
Prickett’s Fort State Park, located five miles north of Fairmont in Marion County, features a reconstruction of Prickett’s Fort – a structure built in the 1700s that served as a place of refuge during colonial times. Spread over 188-acres, the original Prickett’s Fort was never actually attacked. However, it provided shelter to as many as eighty families during times of crisis. At the time, as settlers and Native Americans tried to navigate the land and relationships of the American Revolution, families living off the land could potentially end up in the crossfire – but could flee to places such as Prickett’s Fort for safety.
Unfortunately, it’s believed that the original fort was destroyed by railroad construction in the early 1900s. However, the importance of the fort eventually led to a historical reconstruction. Now, according to their website, “Prickett’s Fort State Park is popular with history and nature lovers, alike. The park offers guided tours, specialized talks, gallery exhibits and craft demonstrations. Interpreters in period-accurate costumes recreate late 18th century life with demonstrations of colonial crafts such as basketry, blacksmithing, and pottery.”
If you’re hungry for more information after your visit, you can even drive to the Job Prickett House, built in 1859 by a great-grandson of Jacob Prickett. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and contains antiques originally used by the Prickett family, helping to further tell the story of the people who once relied on the fort and surrounding land to survive.
More Than A Historic Area
As hinted by the website quote earlier, Prickett’s Fort State Park is home to more than a fort. In fact, most of the park is free to charge to see and explore – the fort is one of the few exceptions. And weather and hours permitting, visitors can enjoy biking, boating, fishing, and hiking. An outdoor amphitheater and picnic areas can also be found in the park. By the way, don’t worry about bringing a bike with you if it would be too much work. You can rent them from the visitor center when you arrive!
With these activities on top of its historic sites and local businesses, beautiful Prickett’s Fort State Park and the town of Fairmont are both well worth visiting and supporting.
Ready to plan a trip to Fairmont? In addition to Googling local activities, you can visit our website calendar to see upcoming activities in this lovely Mon River Town.
The town of Monongahela is a charming but underappreciated historic area. Known locally as Mon City, Monongahela is the oldest settlement in the Monongahela Valley.
Its history includes development as a transportation center supporting thousands of river journeys to the west; it was the location of a meeting of 226 whiskey rebels during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794; and it’s filled with historical buildings that housed important people and even supported the Underground Railroad.
One such historical building is the Edward G. Acheson House, built in the 1800s and recognized as a National Landmark since 1976. This house belonged to an incredible inventor, born and raised in the local area. It’s his story that makes the Edward G. Acheson House so special.
About The Home
Located at 908 Main St., the Edward G. Acheson House is a 2-and-a-half story brick building that actually looks quite average. It’s exact date of construction is not known, although its style indicates the 1870s. And incredibly, that’s really all that can be said about the building itself, which was built in a very plain style. However, while the house itself appears quite ordinary, its inhabitant from 1890 and 1895 was anything but.
About The Man
Inventor Edward G. Acheson was the man who truly made this house special. Acheson was from nearby Washington, PA., born into a family of coal miners. Self-educated and motivated, Acheson worked on projects of his own invention from a young age, which eventually led to him working his way into a laboratory job with Thomas Edison in 1880.
It was 10 years later that he came to Monongahela, working for a local utility company and continuing his own experiments in his new home. Mon City locals will tell you that these experiments took place in a kitchen built into the back of the house, although no official documentation can confirm this.
Wherever they took place, his experiments eventually led to the invention of Silicon carbide (SiC), also known as carborundum – a material that has almost countless uses in structural materials, electrical systems, automobile parts. jewelry, and more. Acheson didn’t stop there. In 1894, he established the Carborundum Company in Monongahela City to produce grinding wheels, whetstones, knife sharpeners, and powdered abrasives.
Eventually, after five years in the Monongahela town, Acheson moved on to continue his work in Niagara Falls, New York, where he could produce his invention on a larger scale in a local power station. In fact, Acheson’s electrochemical company was among the first to come to Niagara Falls, and the power of its electric furnace allowed him to produce artificial graphite – just another notch under his incredibly inventor’s belt.
Acheson’s self-driven life as an inventor cannot be understated and deserves high praise. So important was his work that many of his original companies live on today, often as subsidiaries of various corporations. And fortunately for us, the house remained in place for 81 years after his departure, long enough for it to be recognized as a National Landmark in 1976.
About The Town
Today the house is just a small part of the beautiful and historic area of Monongahela. From its historical buildings, to the Monongahela Aquatorium, to summertime markets, to beautiful trails and access to the Mon River, the town is a wonderful place to visit. History lovers and paddlers alike should add it to their destination list – after all, it isn’t often that one of the best places to kayak is stuffed full of other activities to boot!