At the Day Use Area of Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, Pennsylvania there is a lot to do. Besides picnicking and grilling at the provided picnic tables and pavilions, you can appreciate nature and a couple historic sites by walking the Mill Race Trail.
Mill Race Trail is wide in most places, mostly flat, and only a half-mile long, so it can be considered an easy hike. From the parking area head away from the lake and toward the covered bridge. Pass through Clay’s Bridge, a covered bridge that was originally located one mile west of its present location. It had to be moved when the dam for Holman Lake was built. The bridge was built across Little Buffalo Creek a little upstream from the lake.
Nearly everyone can enjoy the Mill Race Trail. It’s an easy walk in the woods that traces the waterway serving the old grain mill, Shoaff’s Mill. The mill is an attraction in itself. The water wheel is supposedly one of the biggest wheels around. The steel wheel measures 32 feet across. (All photos taken 3 April 2010.)
Water released from Holman Lake is diverted down the “mill race” to the water wheel. It is this race of water that the Mill Race Trail follows. Water flowing over the wheel turns the wheel and the mill grindstone. The water wheel also operates gears, pulleys and ropes that assist in transporting materials from floor to floor of the mill.
Shoaff’s Mill is still operational and demonstrated the third weekend in October during the Old Fashion Apple Festival. If you walk the Mill Race Trail, you can’t miss it! Be sure to check out the collection of grindstones or millstones at the front of the mill.
From the water wheel follow the path that the water would take to get to the mill. Look for the Mill Race Trail sign and follow the arrow.
The wooded hillside in the photo above is a great place to see bloodroot, spring beauty and trout lily flowers in early April.
Look for individual bloodroot plants to flower before their leaves are out. A single bloom is followed by one leaf for each plant.
Bloodroot flowers have eight white petals and bright yellow stamens that project from the center of the flower.
Spring beauty is another of the spring ephemeral flowers occurring in these woods. Spring beauties have leaves that look like grass and they’re about as tall. The flowers are small, the size of a nickel or dime, with five rounded white petals that may or may not have pink lines. The anthers at the stamen tips are very noticeably pink. Spring beauty flowers bloom in clusters, but often only one flower is open at a time.
The mottled, thicker leaf on the left in the image above is the leaf of a trout lily that has not yet bloomed. Trout lily flowers appear for a very short time after the bloodroot has begun flowering.
The image above looks back toward the mill. Note the mill race on the right.
Water level in the race, and therefore the amount of water going to the mill, is controlled by a gate that you can see in the image above. Note the red blaze on the tree that marks the Mill Race Trail. From here you cross over the mill’s water source and follow the path to the right.
This part of the trail is a little more natural, so watch for those tripping rocks and roots.
Looking back up the creek is a scenic view under the hemlocks.
The end of the Mill Race Trail empties out into a wide path. Go right to get back to the covered bridge. Either side of the trail in this section has plentiful spring ephemerals flowering in April. If you go, look for bloodroot, spring beauty and trout lily spring flowers.