Bald Eagles Along The Mon

December 4, 2017

Bald Eagles Along The MonWith more and more work going into the care of the Monongahela River and the creeks and waterways throughout western Pennsylvania, more and more wildlife is making its way into our area. You’re sure to spot a multitude of birds and fish during your Mon River journeys – and if you’re really lucky, you may just spot a bald eagle!

Once an endangered species, this beautiful national symbol has bounced back since 1963, when only 417 mating pairs of bald eagles remained. As recently as the 1980s, only three bald eagle nests existed in Pennsylvania.

Today this fish-eating raptor is no longer considered endangered, and it’s estimated that 7,066 nesting pairs live in the U.S., primarily in sections of Alaska, Canada, and the northern U.S. As for Pennsylvania? The eagle population has bounced back tremendously, to the point that tracking the eagles can be quite difficult.


About The Bald Eagle

  • Bald eagles are well recognized for their brown body and white head and tail. If you spot an eagle with this plumage, that means that eagle is over 5 years old. Prior to reaching full adulthood, bald eagles are speckled brown-and-white. As with all raptors, female eagles are larger than their male counterparts.
  • Bald eagles love fish, which is why they are most commonly spotted near bodies of water. These eagles are opportunistic hunters, however, and will also catch birds, rabbits, and squirrels if they aren’t having any luck fishing.
  • Bald eagles mate for life and pairs are very territorial during their breeding season. Incredibly, the breeding season of eagles can occur any time between October and May, depending on the exact location of the eagles and the climate in that area; the local Hays neighborhood bald eagles were seen laying eggs in the month of February last year.
  • During the month (or even three months) before their mating season, bald eagles build a nest in a tall tree or on a cliff that’s near a body of water. The eagles use the same nest year after year, adding twigs and grasses to the nest to strengthen it each season. As a result of this repeated use, nests may become very large, up to 13 feet tall and ten feet across.
  • Once the nest is ready, bald eagles will then lay two or three eggs. After an incubation period that is just over a month long, the eaglets hatch, and spend the next ten to 12 weeks growing in their nest. After 6 weeks the eaglets are old enough to fly, although they do not reach full adulthood for several years. Incredibly, these eagles can live up to 50 years, assuming they avoid severe sickness or injury.
  • While some bald eagles migrate great distances seasonally, local Western Pennsylvania pairs are not very migratory, as they can find plenty of food throughout the year. Nearby eagle pairs likely will not migrate unless food becomes scarce, and even then, it would just be for a short time and distance. They may only go as far as Maryland, where there is a small winter colony of birds.


Sights Near Us!

It’s one thing to read about bald eagles and another to see them during local nature hikes. Fortunately, as bald eagles continue to recover, visitors to our Mon River communities have reported more and more eagle sightings. For example:

  • Visitors and staff have reported seeing up to four bald eagles at a time soaring above the Youghiogheny River, particularly between the Yough bike and pedestrian bridge and the point where the Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers and Laurel Hill Creek merge. Locals report that visitors are likely to spot ospreys, red-tailed hawk and turkey buzzards during visits as well.
  • The owners of the Yough Tree House were lucky enough to snap a photo of two bald eagles – one perched about eight feet above the other one – in a tree near the Yough Tree House.
  • Locals report that bald eagle sightings are a common occurrence in Confluence because there is a variety of food sources, especially since the fish commission stocks the Yough, Casselman and Laurel Hill Creek.


More Sightings Coming Soon?

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh was recently consulted about the possibility of eagles in the Mon River Valley. According to experts, the Mid Mon Valley could definitely be the next location for an eagle couple to select for a territory and nest.

An eagle matures around the 4th or 5th year. The Hays pair (which nests near the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail around Pittsburgh) has been mating in the area for five years. There is also a pair of eagles in Harmar and by Canonsburg Lake. With new birds growing in the surrounding areas, it is the Aviary staff’s opinion that in the next few years, there will likely be at least one pair in the mid Mon.

Interestingly, eagles tend to select areas that do not have hiking trails. They avoid human interaction and do not like ATVs. However, things like trains and other industrial equipment do not bother them. They seem to be able to distinguish from a non-threat and a potential human threat.


Sighting Eagles Safely

If you plan on looking for eagles during your next trip along the Mon, we ask that you consider the land and animals you will be interacting with and plan accordingly. Since eagles do not tend to nest near trails that are used by humans, you will need to prepare to view any nests from a distance. Attempting to leave an approved trail for a closer look could put yourself in danger and drive away these beautiful birds. And it’s especially important to not try to climb into an eagle’s nest, both for your own safety and to avoid disrupting the eagle’s habitat and family. Having binoculars on hand is the best way to see these beautiful birds without getting too close (i.e. within 1,000 feet). Respecting the land they live in and not straying far from local trails is also very important, as is respecting all local property laws.


A Special Announcement

Have you come across any of these majestic animals on your hikes? Snap a picture and enter our Instagram Photo Contest! Post your Bald Eagle photos using the hashtag #RTPEagleSearch2017 for a chance to win a weekly $25 gift card. More information on the contest and rules can be found here. If you unable to get a photo, we would still love to hear where you are seeing the eagles. Please direct message the Mon River Towns Facebook page, @RiverTownProgram, with the location, date, and time of day with your sightings.


Ready to plan your trip? Skip the “nature hikes near me” Google search – you can visit our website any time to find a list of towns and trip planning resources!

Image courtesy of

Mon River Town’s Bald Eagle Photo Instagram Photo Contest: Official Rules


Dates: 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.

ELIGIBILITY: 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.

Prize: 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.

Privacy Statement: 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.

Additional Rules: 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.

Prickett’s Fort: A Historic Area Worth Visiting

December 1, 2017

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.

Prickett's Fort Historic Area River Towns PA
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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 Edward G. Acheson House: A Historic Home In A Historic Area

November 15, 2017

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.

The Edward G. Acheson House is located west of Monongahela's town center. The house was the home of inventor Edward G. Acheson.
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 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.

Edward Goodrich Acheson was an American chemist and inventor of products still used today.
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 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!

Elaborating the Role of Backbone Leadership Organizations in Sustainable Tourism Development: The Monongahela River Valley Coalition

October 23, 2017

The following article was published by Dr. Steve Selin, Professor of Recreation, Parks and Tourism, School of Natural Resources at West Virginia University and an active member of the Mon River Town Program.

Click here to download the article.

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