Fishing on the Mon

It was great opening day on Pigeon Creek.

What opening day?

Of trout season.

On Pigeon Creek in Monongahela?


Pigeon Creek hadn’t been stocked with trout by the State of Pennsylvania, or anyone else, for years. But, on April 9, the Valley Inn Sportsmen Association , and their business community sponsors, stocked trout, up to 20′ in length, in Pigeon Creek from Peno’s Plaza along Rt 481 to the I 43 bridge on Bentleyville Rd. I hadn’t been able to attend the stocking but I figured that if I drove along Park Ave. it wouldn’t be hard to tell where the fish ( & anglers ) were. Sure enough, every place where there was parking & access from the road, there were clusters of cars & anglers. Talked to several. They ranged from the angler who reported he & his family caught, released & lost several Rainbow Trout (and the baits he was using) to the fellow who said he caught two but didn’t know that much about fish & couldn’t say what kind they were. But they were all having fun. It was a sunny, mild, day in the low 70’s at 10 AM on a Saturday morning & they were out there with their families & friends. Catching fish, or not. Almost didn’t matter. They were doing something they enjoyed with people they cared about.

Thanks to the Valley Inn Sportsmen Association for giving them that opportunity.

The Ospreys on Peters Lake

Today, 4/3, was the best bird (Osprey) watching day I’ve ever had. After seeing a pair at Peters Lake on Sunday and a loner on Monday, I figured that a smart bird was going to be hunkered down in the conifers around the lake. Staying out of the rain. (Yeah, we were out walking it it.) I guess I forgot that if your lifestyle requires diving into the water to eat, being wet is just part of the deal.

We were rounding the bend at the upper (shallower) end of the lake when one barreled in front of us, from right to left, heading down lake. Over  the next few minutes that bird made one dive after another into the water. The most spectacular came after it had spiraled up over treetop height, wheeled around & dropped straight down the elevator shaft into the water. Whoa ! Either that bird was very hungry or he had a nesting mate that was. If it continues to be spending a lot of time fishing then I’m guessing the latter. I couldn’t tell, from across the lake, if it’d been successful. Sooner or later, though, practice will pay.

Next thing, this Great Blue Heron just about flew into my pocket. It came across a small inlet & landed less than 20′ feet away. It seemed to be so focused, staring in the direction of the Osprey, that it never even glanced  at the dog & I very close by. Guessing, again, that an active potential predator or competitor ( for the fish ) just naturally demands it’s full attention.

Have fun out there.

Ken Yonek

Osprey Sightings by a River Town Friend

Before going out to visit family on Easter morning Frodo, our Standard Poodle, & I had our normal walk around a local lake (Peters Lake Park, Nottingham Township, Washington County).

I’d read about the Osprey cam on a nest at Lake Arthur since last week of March but frankly was a bit mystified. At our local lake I hadn’t seen any sign of fish activity at surface or in shallows until about Wednesday last. But the Osprey at Lake Arthur must be able to catch something to eat. In the last two years I’ve first seen Osprey at our lake in early April, so I’ve been on the lookout.

Came around a bend in the road this morning & there it was. Perfect visibility, with the sun to my back. A white head over dark brown shoulders perched on a branch over the water. Beautiful. And as a Cheshire Cat grin spread over my face there was a splash behind me. Looked over my left shoulder just in time to see a second Osprey ( it’s mate I assume) pulling itself out of the water with something in its claw. Not a big something, but something. After a couple of loops & dips around the 1st bird it flew off to another tree. Showing off. ‘ See what I caught’. The 1st bird didn’t look impressed. I have a feeling the female Osprey spends a lot of time watching the male fishing before she’ll set up ‘nest keeping’. Just to be sure that he can bring home the bacon (fish), so to speak.

Last month I saw a solitary Horned Grebe paddling around the same lake. This morning I think I saw 8 of them together. I say ‘think’ because they were in the middle of the pond & I don’t carry field glasses walking the dog. White & black colors showed up clearly although shape was indistinct at that distance. Size was right as well as some mostly white necks. And when a couple of mallards paddled out the difference between the lighter sides of a mallard & the bright white on these birds was stark. So, I’m goin’ with Horned Grebe again.

Have fun out there.

Ken Yonek

The Mon River Towns: A Journey Of Development

The Mon River Towns offer a historic area to visitors wanting to get outdoors.

Picture the Monongahela River. Now picture the towns nestled alongside it. Now ask yourself – are you picturing the towns as they are today? Or as they once were?

Change is constant, especially in this part of the state. If you haven’t visited the towns sitting along the Mon in the last two or three years, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you see the next time you pass through one. Many changes have taken place in these towns, thanks in part to the work by the River Towns Program.

The Mon River Towns offer a historic area to visitors wanting to get outdoors.The Mon River Towns Program works with communities bordering the Monongahela River to highlight Pennsylvania’s growing outdoor recreational market, and to make it easy to help residents and visitors connect with the beautiful river. The Program is presently an initiative of the National Road Heritage Corridor and was launched by the statewide Pennsylvania Environmental Council in 2011.

“These are towns looking at new opportunities,” Cathy McCollom, director of the River Towns Program, says about this region and communities within it. “They were once industrial towns. The Mon was and remains an industrial highway but it is now also a recreational river. With the changing economy, we help communities look at the river in a different way.”

The River Towns Program is dedicated to improving the visitor infrastructure in these towns. The first step in doing so is for community leaders and River Town Program staff to consider how the towns appear to travelers. For example, is there public access to the Mon River for visitors? Are there community parks next to the river or view corridors open to the river? Are there signs to direct traffic, and restaurants for families to enjoy? Are there historic buildings and cultural spots of significance and are they highlighted and accessible to visitors?

Since 2011, questions like these have driven improvements on infrastructure such as launches and docks, public access, signage, and added amenities such as public restrooms, public art and riverfront parks. Most importantly, communities have worked with Program staff to raise over $3 million, not only for these projects but also to market the region.

According to Cathy, “The projects have included canoe and kayak launches, riverfront parks, directional and gateway signage, improved public launches, riverfront landscaping and clearings, and multiple events such as summer riverfront concerts, festivals, and paddling events. With community leadership and organizational partners, we have led riverfront master planning, public art projects, and business attraction workshops – and have offered entrepreneurial business grants to encourage new businesses.”

And these efforts are paying off. Nature lovers – taking advantage of new boat launches and trails – are helping to bring outdoor recreational traffic through these Mon River towns. New businesses have opened in several of the communities. Gateway and directional signage is now more prevalent. Over two dozen pieces of public art have added a layer of beauty to towns and riverfronts. And River Festivals have literally sprung up across the map. At River Town Program’s founding, there were three such festivals in operation – currently, there are twelve!

But while our team can talk about this work all day every day, we truly think it has to be experienced. A visit to a river town during an event or a peaceful weekend of local travel is the best way to highlight local changes, and to experience the history. From green spaces to new businesses to local history spots, there is so much to experience in the Mon River Towns.

Ready to plan a visit? We can help you get started! Our website houses a list of River Towns and even sample itineraries to help you hit the road quickly and easily. Happy travels!

Trees R Us or Why Trees ? & How To Manage Them

The latest survey reported by Tree Pittsburgh revealed that Allegheny County experienced a tree canopy loss of 10,148 acres from 2010 to 2015. ‘Pests like the emerald ash borer & oak wilt had an impact on canopy loss but man-made losses (like housing, road, utility, rail expansion and gas drilling & pipelines) were the largest cause. Only 3-6% of the lost canopy acreage was attributable to the natural aging, dying and removal of trees’.

Okay, so we have met the enemy & it is us. But why should we care?

Well, according to Arbor Day Foundation studies, trees bring a number of benefits to communities.To name just a few:

  • Having large trees in yards along streets increases a home’s value from 3-15%.
  • Commercial retail areas with trees are more attractive to shoppers. They stay longer & spend up to 13% more. It’s good business.
  • Trees reduce runoff & erosion resulting in improved water quality.

Further, we typically underestimate the investment in $’s but especially in time that goes into a mature shade tree. Some trees can take decades to even develop their mature conformation. A common White Oak can live for 400 yrs. The Bald Cypress, formerly the dominant species in wet SE USA bottomlands, can live for a 1000 yrs. It should inspire a bit of humility when we consider planting one & even more when cutting one down. Failing humility, however, a shade tree committee’s job is to take the long view. When you consider, by comparison, the relative shortness of our lives & even shorter times in elected office, no one individual should have the authority to squander the investment of past generations that now really belongs to future generation. A shade tree committee’s job is to prevent that while continuing to plan for the future, to ensure for the long view. I’ve attached the on-line links to some shade tree committees to show what their typical duties & responsibilities are:

Shade Tree Committee – Borough of Wilkinsburg…/shade-tree-committee

Shade Tree Committee Why do we need trees? Trees provide environmental, economic, aesthetic and other benefits. They cool the air in the summer, removing carbon …
Shade Tree Committee | Holmdel Township, NJ – Official Website

See the duties and membership requirements for the Shade Tree Committee.

Remember though, when you set up such a committee, don’t send a toothless shepherd dog out to guard the flock. Give it real duties & authority.

For urban tree planning, additional resources include:
TreeVitalize PA can provide information & funds.
Tree Tenders Training-Penn State Extension can provide valuable knowledge.

According to an old proverb, the best time to plant a tree was 20 yrs ago. The next best time is now. Have fun out there.

Get Back in the Water with Paddling Safety 101

Western Pennsylvania is full of beautiful places to kayak.
Image courtesy of

It’s been a chilly winter in Pennsylvania, but wonderful spring weather will be here soon! We’re already itching for the perfect warm day to take advantage of the very thing we were named for – our river towns’ rivers. Western Pennsylvania is full of some of the most beautiful places to kayak.

New and experienced paddlers alike, however, would do well to prepare for the season by brushing up on kayaking safety tips. Emergencies and accidents can happen to anyone, so knowing how to prevent them is key to keeping your paddling adventures safe, warm and minimally dripping wet!

  • Always wear a PFD. A PFD, or Personal Flotation Device, is your first line of defense should you fall out of your kayak somehow. Don’t try to argue your way out of wearing one because you’re a good swimmer, either! A bad spill could make it hard for you to swim. Both regular life jackets and kayak-specific life jackets will get the job done, so take the time to decide which one will be more comfortable (and fits better) during your paddle.
  • Respect your limits. While kayaking is a great way to get moving, you should never push yourself on the water the way you might in a gym. Respect your limits and make sure that you plan on ending your paddle before you’re too tired to continue. Also, never venture into a body of water that you cannot comfortably navigate. (NOTE: The ideal kayaking environment has protection from wind and waves, a good access point for launching and landing, lots of places to go ashore, and minimal motorized boat traffic.)
  • Wait for some sun. Spring and summer days in western Pennsylvania can be beautiful! They can also be dark, stormy, and dangerous. Always check the forecast leading up to your paddle – and reschedule as needed. Your safety comes first!
  • Dress appropriately. The key to a great day on the water is what you wear. Rule 1: never wear cotton while paddling – it dries very slowly and won’t be comfortable if you hit a splash zone. Bring layers as well based on the day’s forecast and your own temperature preferences. And pack up a spare outfit for the journey home, just in case.
  • Respect the water – and its traffic. Always consider the conditions of the water you want to paddle on before you hop in. If the river you want to paddle on is running particularly swiftly or is full of rough waves, spurred on by gusts of wind, it’s time to reschedule your paddle! In addition to respecting water conditions, you need to respect its traffic. A number of Pennsylvania rivers are used by boats carrying people and cargo. Large boats always have the right-of-way on the water, so it’s impossible for kayakers to avoid them for everyone’s safety. The best way to do this is to just paddle along the shoreline, no matter how tempting the middle of the river may be.
  • Drink up! Kayaking, like any exercise, can lead to dehydration – especially as temperatures begin to rise. Bring a couple of water bottles on any river trip, and take breaks every 15 – 20 minutes to stay hydrated.
  • Bring a buddy. We recommend kayaking with at least one other person, if not with an entire group. Kayaking is a very safe activity, but sometimes emergencies happen. Having a buddy with you will ensure that, should an accident occur, help is ready to pull you from the water.

Sticking to these tips will make your paddling adventures safer and more enjoyable. And if you’re looking for beautiful places to kayak this year, there’s no need to google “kayaking areas near me!” Our website includes an entire section dedicated to local river recreational options – just what you need to plan your next day on the water! We just ask that you leave no trash behind in our gorgeous rivers. Happy paddling!

Hit the Trails in 2018 With These Safety Tips in Mind

Get ready to find nice places to hike near me!
Image courtesy of

We’re dreaming of the beautiful outdoors! An approaching spring and summer means that soon, we’ll be lacing up our hiking boots for scenic hiking and exploration. Western Pennsylvania’s woodlands and hills provide the best backdrop we could ask for. Still, hiking shouldn’t be considered a walk in the park. A misstep here or a mistake there can lead to injury, and poor preparation can contribute to an emergency situation.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to make your next day of hiking as safe as possible. So before you Google for “nice places to hike near me”, take the time to make sure you adhere to all of these guidelines:

  • Plan for your trip. Even if you only plan on hiking for an hour, it’s worth preparing for it. Make a gear list in advance and check it off to ensure that you don’t leave anything behind. Gear includes layers, water, snacks, a compass, and so forth. A map should also be packed, as digital batteries and GPS signals can both fail!
  • Research the area. In the age of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to get familiar with new hiking territory. A little online research can help you learn more about the wildlife you may come across, as well as the types of poisonous plants you need to watch out for. The more you know about the trail and region it’s based in, the more prepared you can be for it.
  • Travel by daylight. Never hike at night. Hiking in the dark increases your chances of getting lost, of tripping on uneven trail ground, and of running into an unfriendly nocturnal animal. If you’ll be hiking late in the day, always turn around and return to the starting point of your trip with plenty of time to beat the sunset.
  • Monitor the weather. Always keep an eye on the forecast before hitting a trail. Weather patterns will at a minimum determine the clothes you need, and could be worth rescheduling your hike if it’s looking particularly dark and stormy.
  • Respect your limits. Hiking in nature is not the gym – and is not the place to test your skills. Stick to terrain you can handle and hike at a pace that won’t tire you out before your trailblazing is over. Otherwise, you increase your risk of injury.
  • Don’t go alone. Ideally, you’ll go hiking with friends or with a group of fellow hikers. Traveling with people is best as you can work together to navigate the trail, and take care of each other should something go wrong. At the very least, you should tell a friend or family member where you will be, and when they can expect you to finish your hike. If they don’t hear from you by a predetermined time, they can contact the appropriate parties and initiate action to make sure you are OK.

By following these safety tips, you will make your next day on the trails that much more safe and enjoyable. The next step is deciding where to hike! But before you begin sorting through those search results for “nice places to hike near me”, why not explore hiking options in our Mon Valley River towns? Many are a short drive away from the Pittsburgh area, and all will provide a beautiful day in nature during the spring and summer! All that we ask is that you remember to take any trash of yours home with you at the end of the day. Grab your gear, head on out, and have fun!

Mon Valley Alliance becomes the Monongahela River Water Trail Managing Organization

Charleroi, PA, February 8, 2018 – The Pennsylvania Water Trail Partnership has named the Mon Valley Alliance (MVA) as the managing organization for the Monongahela River Water Trail.

The Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership, which manages the Pennsylvania Water Trails Program, is made up of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and the National Park Service.

The water trail is designated with the Pennsylvania Water Trail Program. MVA plans to work closely with the Mon River Towns Program to form a strong coalition of organizations and individuals to work on behalf of this regional asset.

“Tourism is the second largest industry in Pennsylvania and the Mon Valley is a great place to visit with the river chief among many reasons to bring people here,” said Christopher Whitlatch, Chief Executive Officer of the Mon Valley Alliance. “We believe the water trail can help our current businesses as well as encourage new startups on our main streets and on our riverfronts.”

MVA will work with Mon River Towns to update signage and maps and to increase recreational access and education. “MVA is excited to work with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to continuously improve access to our river for generations to come.”

As the managing organization, MVA will be responsible to bring the eight water trail principles to the Monongahela River. They include partnerships, stewardship, volunteering, education, conservation, community vitality, diversity and wellness and wellbeing.
The Mon River Towns Program helps communities to recognize the river as an asset around which potential community and economic development can occur, and thus a resource worthy of protection.

“We are pleased that MVA undertook this responsibility on behalf of the region,” said Cathy McCollom, Director of the Mon River Towns Program. “The Mon River Water Trail has not had a central managing organization and we look forward to partnering with MVA to breathe new life into this program”

The Pennsylvania Water Trail Partnership also offers a mini-grant program for small projects along the river. MVA and Mon River Town invites your project ideas which may be submitted through their websites at or