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4 Places to Visit in PA This Spring Along the National Road

Spring blog post national roads

Spring is the perfect season to explore the magnificent beauty of the great outdoors. The rolling hills and mountains in southwestern Pennsylvania create some of the most picturesque views this time of year. Combined with the historical and cultural resources found along the Historic National Road, the landscapes of the keystone state make this region ideal for exploration during the warm months ahead.


Discover the history, natural beauty, and culture of Southwestern Pennsylvania while enjoying the sunshine this season by visiting these incredible sites along the Historic National Road:


  1. Youghiogheny River Lake

Whether you are seeking and area for a family camping trip or a lake for boating and fishing, the Youghiogheny River Lake will serve as a perfect destination. In the heart of the Laurel Highlands, this beautiful body of water is a 16-mile flood control reservoir often considered the best powerboat and water-skiing lake in southwestern Pennsylvania. The tail waters of the nearby Youghiogheny Dam are ideal for trout fishing because they are are stocked by the Fish and Boat Commission frequently throughout the spring and summer.


Click here for visitor information for Youghiogheny River Lake.


  1. Fort Necessity National Battlefield

In the summer of 1754, the Battle of Fort Necessity sparked the French & Indian War. Fort Necessity National Battlefield commemorates this opening battle, in which Colonel George Washington surrendered to the French. This site is a National Park and arguably one of the most important historical areas in western Pennsylvania, making it a fantastic destination to explore the history of this region. Nearby, you can also visit Braddock’s Grave and Jumonville Glen for added outdoor sightseeing.


The main unit contains the battlefield with the reconstructed fort, the Mount Washington Tavern, and the Fort Necessity and National Road Interpretive and Education Center, featuring history detailing history from Washington’s first trip over the Alleghenies to the creation of the National Road itself.


Click here to plan your visit to Fort Necessity National Battlefield.


  1. Ohiopyle

Fayette County features the stunning Ohiopyle State Park, one of the largest state parks in Pennsylvania. Its beautiful scenery and multitude of outdoor activities make it one of the most popular state parks in America. The site spans over 19,000 acres and features outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, and fishing. Surrounded by historical sites along the National Road, this park makes the ideal location for a family vacation with options for lodging and camping.


After many years of planning and hard work, the new Ohiopyle State Park Office/ Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitor Center will have its grand opening this June. The Center provides visitors a window into the history, heritage and geology that further defines the importance of the region. Spectacularly designed interpretive elements by the 106 Group and built by Blue Rhino Studios, will provide an interesting and immersive experience!


Click here to learn more about Ohiopyle State Park and to plan your trip.


  1. Laurel Caverns Park

On those warmer spring days, you can enjoy the beauty of nature under the cool shelter of the brilliantly beautiful Laurel Caverns. This geological park features the largest natural cave in Pennsylvania. The ceilings in the three mile labyrinth are between ten and fifty feet in height. It is also the largest natural bat hibernaculum in the state. To preserve the habitat, the site is closed November through April, so spring is its opening season.


The park hosts guided tours of the caverns, but for the more adventurous, spelunking and cave rappelling are also available.


Click here to plan your visit and to learn more about the Laurel Caverns.


Use this spring season to take advantage of everything that southwestern Pennsylvania has to offer and don’t stop after these locations. Click here to plan a more in depth tour of the incredible destinations along our state’s Historic National Road.

River Towns: How the Three Rivers Transformed Western Pennsylvania

river towns blog post


Rivers have always been the lifeblood of civilization. The three rivers in western Pennsylvania are no different. These rivers are the reason the city of Pittsburgh and the surrounding towns exist as they do today and are vital natural and economic resources for people and businesses in our region. Through the centuries, the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers have served very different purposes and have even been the sites of many important events in American history. From the Native American tribes to revolutionary battles to giant floating ducks, these waterways have seen it all.


Early Americans

Humans have inhabited western Pennsylvania for at least 16,000 years. Meadowcroft Rockshelter, the oldest site of human habitation in North America, is located in Avella, Washington County along a tributary of the Ohio River. Around 800 B.C., the Adena culture created ancient burial mounds in the McKees Rocks region, just 5 miles from the Ohio River. By the time Europeans arrived in the “New World,” Native American cultures including Iroquois, Lenape, Seneca and Shawnee were well established in this part of the state.


European Settlers

The first Europeans to settle in western Pennsylvania were the French. They saw the confluence of the Allegheny as prime real estate because they provided easy transportation and potential trade routes. Concerned that the French were getting a foothold in the region, the British sent George Washington to warn the French to give up the land. This land near the rivers became the focus of the French & Indian War, a clash of French, Native American, and British cultures that resulted in the establishment of Fort Pitt. You can learn more about this time period and the battles that took place by visiting the Fort Necessity National Battlefield along the National Road – the site of the first battle of that 7 year war, which took place on July 3, 1754.


The Port of Pittsburgh

In the decades following the revolution, western Pennsylvania earned the nickname “The Gateway to the West.” As a west-flowing river, the Ohio River became an incredible asset to pioneers traveling to the frontier and subsequently, boat-building became a huge industry in the region. Brownsville, a town along the National Road that sits on the Monongahela River became a leader in the steamboat building industry, which helped transform the U.S. economy. This along with the region’s abundant natural resources, like steel and coal, led to the industrial powerhouse that it became in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Modern Recreation

Today, the three rivers still play a key role for business and transportation of materials in the region. In recent years, legislators, federal and state agencies, and non profit conservation organizations have begun concentrated efforts to improve the condition of these waterways with clean ups and enforcement. At the local level municipalities have recognized the value of the riverfront and have undertaken beautification projects to enhance the recreational appeal. The results – the rivers are now popular places for canoes, kayaks, motor boats, and jet skis. Many of the region’s tributaries, while too shallow for motorized boats, also provide tranquil opportunities for paddling.


Celebrate the beautiful history of western Pennsylvania’s river towns this spring at Come Down to the River and Play, an upcoming event along the Monongahela River sponsored by the National Road Heritage Corridor and our partner, the River Town Program. You can also sign up for the Mon River Spring Paddle, which will include paddling safety instructions, interpretation of historic sites and industrial artifacts seen on and near the river, a side trip on Ten Mile Creek, and lunch.