Photo 1. Barn and Education Building at Millbrook Marsh.
Located just over a mile from Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center is one of the many public nature spaces around State College that are operated by Centre Region Parks and Recreation. Not only does Millbrook Marsh play an important role for water quality as a wetland and natural filter, it is also a place where anyone can enjoy a relaxing hike, watch birds, fish, and become immersed in nature.
Map 1: Millbrook Marsh Nature Center (Click here to enlarge map).
The fields around the Barn and the Spring Creek Education Building used to be operated as a functioning farm by Penn State University (Map 1). Since being protected through a conservation easement with the ClearWater Conservancy, the Barn, the Spring Creek Education Building, and nearby pavilions all serve as places for educational programming and recreational events (Photo 1). These venues can be rented for various activities, including meetings, trainings, birthday parties, and weddings.
Around these buildings, the fields are being transformed into public gardens that have been created and maintained by local volunteers. Millbrook Marsh’s Native Plant Garden started as a field of invasive weeds, and through dedicated volunteer service, turned into a bright sanctuary for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other important pollinators and birds. The garden’s colors are constantly shifting as new flowers come into bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons (Photo 2). The staff at Millbrook Marsh is looking to expand the presence of native plants and pollinator flowers as well as train volunteers interested in getting involved with gardening.
The marsh’s boardwalk leads you through the 50-acre wetland and is a wonderful way to enjoy nature by taking an easy hike through these animals’ natural habitat (Photo 3). Hikes around the marsh are generally flat and not particularly challenging for either inexperienced or new hikers.
Photo 2. Native Plant Garden at Millbrook Marsh.
Photo 3. The Boardwalk at Millbrook Marsh as it crosses Thompson Run.
The marsh is full of wildlife or evidence of wildlife. Deer, raccoons, muskrats, and mink have all made their home in this protected wetland. Although visitors may not get a glimpse of these animals in their habitats, footprints, scat, and trails can be found from the boardwalk throughout the year.
Farther in the marsh, a bird blind allows you to look into the dense field of cattails and thickets of dogwood where many of these birds and sometimes deer love to be. The marsh is an important spot for migratory birds either as a seasonal home, or a stopping location along their journeys. Because of the abundance of habitat and open field space, Millbrook Marsh is a wonderful place to view a variety of raptors, song birds, and shore birds. Depending on the season, you may encounter yellow warblers, Baltimore orioles, swallows, and red-winged blackbirds, among many others. Bring your binoculars and see for yourself!
Slab Cabin Run and Thompson Run both flow through the marsh. Bathgate Spring, which flows into Thompson Run contributes a large volume of cold spring water. These streams host an abundance of fish in their deeper sections including sculpin, dace, brown trout, and the occasional rainbow trout. Some of the best trout fishing in the country is available for anglers just downstream in Spring Creek. Anglers are welcome to fish in Millbrook Marsh; trout must be released unharmed.
A bike trail borders the outskirts of the marsh that connects Boalsburg to the Penn State campus. Although bikes must be dismounted before going on the boardwalk, many cyclists commute and ride this bike trail or ride through the protected woods that surround the wetland.
Visitors at Millbrook Marsh can engage in plenty of activities of varying ability levels. Whether you are participating in a program, watching for birds and animals, fishing, or enjoying a walk, the marsh is a wonderful place for families and anyone looking for a relaxing spot to enjoy nature.
The beautiful wetland preserve is open to explore from dawn until dusk every day. Stop by and say hello or call the Nature Center during our office hours from 8:00 AM–12:00 PM, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and 1:00 PM-5:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
About the author: Kelleen Lanagan served as Program Leader at the Nature Center.
Millbrook Marsh Nature Center
Centre Region Parks and Recreation
548 Puddintown Road, State College PA 16801