From Reading take PA Rte. 183 west about 6 miles. turn left onto Palisades Drive and travel past the Dry Brooks Day Use Area. Pass the Vistor Center (trail maps available) and turn left. Park at Stilling Basin, below the dam.
Scenic Blue Marsh Lake is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and outdoor recreation. From April through September, it is kept at around 290 feet above sea level. At this level, it covers 1,150 acres, runs 8 miles long, and has 35 miles of shoreline. A 30-mile multi-use trail, great for mountain biking is shared with hikers, equestrians and birdwatchers. It completely encircles the lake with several side spurs and interpretive nature trails for hiking branching off the main route.
Blue Marsh Lake, borders the 2,800 acres of State Game Land 280. Ring-necked pheasant, cottontail rabbit, groundhog, mourning doves, squirrel, waterfowl and white-tailed deer are the most plentiful game in the area. Blue Marsh Lake offers an excellent opportunity to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. The fall migration season is another great time to see birds, especially hawks and osprey.
The Visitor Center is located in Bern Township along Palisades Road. Stop there first for more information, water and an official trail map. Bring an ample supply of drinking water as there is none located along the trail. In addition to various exhibits, the Visitor Center offers a great view of the lake and dam.
The Brooks Day Use Area is the largest and most heavily used recreation area at Blue Marsh Lake. There are eight parking lots, a concession stand, public telephones, swimming area ("Swim At Your Own Risk"), bathhouse, play areas, picnic areas and pavilions and volleyball courts. This area provides the best shoreline access.
Other less developed access points for the trail are available at the Dry Brooks Day Use Area, State Hill Boat Launch, Lamms Road, Peacock Road, Lake Road, Church Road, Old Church Road, Tulpehocken Drive and Mt. Pleasant area (along Route 183).
Blue Marsh Lake Trails:
Even though there are some moderate climbs, the trail is not very technical and can be ridden in any direction. It is considered an easy to moderate ride. While most of the riding is not for beginner mountain bikers, there are many trail sections for novices to enjoy and practice mountain bike handling skills on. To do a complete circuit will take about a half day. Bring energy food and plenty of water.
The scenic 32-mile main Blue Marsh Lake Loop Trail is marked by brown posts with white directional symbols. It circumvents the lake, travelling through meadows and hardwood forests, occasionally leaving the woodlands to wind along the lake shore. The terrain is a combination of mostly dirt / grass doubletrack and singletrack travelling over a varied surface. There are some strenuous hill climbs and fast descents.
You can extend your bike ride by another four and a half miles by traveling to the Union Canal Towpath (see Points of Interest below).
Points of Interest:
Union Canal Towpath
Established in 1828, the Union Canal was the first canal surveyed in the United States. Extending over 79 miles from the Schuylkill River at Reading to the Pennsylvania Canal and Susquehanna River at Middletown, Pa., it included 91 locks, 93 bridges, 16 dams and 17 aqueducts.
Today you can ride your bike or take a leisurely stroll along a 4 1/2 mile portion of the towpath (Tulpehocken Creek Valley Park) maintained by the Berks County Parks Department. Many of the old structures have withstood the test of time.
Gruber Wagon Works
In the winter of 1976-77 Gruber Wagon Works was separated into four sections and moved to the Berks County Heritage Center, where it was successfully restored to original form. This remains the largest relocation/restoration project ever undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The County Parks Department now conducts tours of the facility.
For more information:
Blue Marsh Lake:
Phone (Park Office): (610) 376-6337