The adjacent lake is the largest open body of freshwater in the city, and the birds appreciate it. Canvasbacks, coots, and mergansers plunge in for food. Great Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers hunt along the shorelines. Geese, loons, and gulls bob on the waters. Migrant warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and wrens find rest in the urban forest.
The three-quarter-mile trail around the lake is an easy walk on mostly level ground, and I enjoy the views of the city skyline looking southeast, over the water. I also love the climb up the wooden, four-story observation tower, which was built to slightly sway — like a treetop. From there you can scan for the city’s familiar raptors: Red-tailed Hawks, Peregrine Falcons that nest on City Hall, and of course the occasional Philadelphia eagle.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Deciduous forest, shorelines, and wetlands.
A three-quarter-mile natural trail circles most of the lake. Easy to moderate in difficulty.
Spring: Wide variety of warblers, including Blue-winged, Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Tennessee, Nashville, Connecticut, Mourning, Hooded, Cape May, Cerulean, Blackburnian, and Black-throated Green. Also, vireos, orioles, thrushes, and other migrants. Summer: Breeding songbirds include Warbling Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow Warbler, and Baltimore Oriole. Also, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Green Heron, and Common Nighthawk. Fall: Palm Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Cedar Waxwing, and other migrants. Winter: Canvasback, mergansers, and other diving ducks. Loons and grebes visit in late February to late March. Rarities: Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Dovekie, and Nelson’s Sparrow.
When to go
Year-round. Best time to visit is morning.
Interpretive exhibits and Audubon programs designed for all ages. Restrooms in the main building.
Jointly operated nature center and city park. Open May 1 to October 31, 10-4 Wednesday to Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday. Open November 1 to April 30, 10-4 Thursday to Saturday, closed Sunday to Wednesday. Admission and parking free.
Bring a spotting scope for viewing the lake’s far side along the trail.
For more info
Discovery Center, (610) 990-3431.
Valley Forge Audubon Society
Delaware Valley Ornithological Club
Philadelphia Outward Bound School
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, Hotspot Near You No. 65
About 11 miles south of Discovery Center. 10 miles of trails and a boardwalk through the wetlands. Least Bittern, Marsh Wren, Wood Duck.
About 6 miles south of Discovery Center. Covers 45 acres of woodlands along the Schuylkill River. Good birding during spring and fall migration.