Oil Creek State Park is located in Northwest Pennsylvania, mostly in northern Venango County and continuing north a little into Crawford County. It is about 12 miles long, following the Oil Creek valley and averages about a mile in width. The north end of the park is capped by Drake Well Park and Museum. Oil Creek flows through a 400 feet deep gorge who's sides vary from very steep cliff-like hills to flat marshy patches of wetland. Oil Creek got its name from the oil slicks that floated naturally on the surface of the water in the 1800s.
The hub of Oil Creek State Park is Petroleum Centre which is about 10 miles south of Drake Well Park and Titusville, PA. Petroleum Center was developed in the 1860s following the birth of the oil industry. There were still a couple of families living there as late as the 1950s until it became a state park. One of the original houses is used for bicycle rentals and a snack shop. There is a visitor center offering historical and environmental programs at different times of the year. A large picnic area with a children's playground and large playing field lies adjacent to a stretch of Oil Creek used mostly for fly fishing. The southern end of the paved bike trail starts in Petroleum Center as well as several hiking trails.
Oil Creek State Park Highlights:
- Biking: A 9.5 mile paved bike trail which follows an old railroad bed from Petroleum Center to Drake Well Park along the west side of Oil Creek. There are small picnic areas, weather shelters, benches and a restroom along the way.
- Hiking: There are 52 miles of hiking trails which include the 36 mile long Gerard Hiking Trail which circles the park. There are shorter trails for the less adventurous around Petroleum Center.
- Cross Country Skiing: Ten miles of trails set up for skiing with a warming hut and restrooms at the parking area. The paved bike trail is also open to skiers during the winter months.
- Canoeing: This is best from March to June due to low water levels in the summer and fall months and freezing over of Oil Creek in the winter months.
- Camping: Limited to a couple of "hike-in" areas, which include adirondak shelters with stone fireplaces and a few tent sites. There is running water avilable most of the year and restrooms. Otherwise its primitive camping, just you and the Great Outdoors.
- Fishing and hunting: There are a lot of bass and trout in Oil Creek, both native and stocked. Most of the park is open to hunting in season with caution urged at all times due to year round visitors.
- History: The park has many plaques and signs describing the different locations throughout the park and the events that took place there during the oil boom times.
I used to ride the bike trail to work for a couple of years. I saw lots of deer and terrified many early morning fishermen and hikers when I would ride silently up behind them early in the morning and yell, "Coming through!". I watched a pair of fawns grow into yearlings one summer. Sometimes they ran beside me a few dozen yards in the woods.
Source: "Find a Park" http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us