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The Pennsylvania Railroad originally built the Chautauqua Line as part of a network of rail lines that linked Corry, Titusville, Oil City, Franklin and Meadville during the boom days of the oil industry in Northwest Pennsylvania. Spartansburg, Glynden and Centerville were important depots in the network. Heading south out of Spartansburg, the rail corridor parallels the East Branch of Oil Creek, hence the trail name.
After its establishment in 1988, the Clear Lake Authority purchased the 15.4-mile disused rail corridor to provide public access to Clear Lake in Spartansburg. As of June 2011, only 3.1 miles of the old rail bed is opened from just north of Spartansburg to just south of the town. The trail is used by hikers, hunters, cyclists and horse-drawn Amish wagons. The flat East Branch is now paved with asphalt. A small borough with a population of fewer than 300, Spartansburg is a commerce center to a sizable Amish community. Horse-drawn buggies and wagons are a regular site in town and occasionally on the trail, when the Amish use it as an alternative transportation corridor, deemed safer than the main highways.
The trail skirts wooded hillsides, Amish homesteads, farms and fields of brush to Clear Lake and wetlands. Preservation of this corridor connects to Chautauqua County rail-trails in New York state and with Oil City, Pennsylvania, both areas that are filled with 19th- and 20th-century history and charm. Over the past decade Spartansburg has become a tourist destination for those in search of Amish furniture, antiques, country crafts and fresh maple syrup. Two B&Bs are located in town, the Dutch Inn B&B and the Three Gable B&B, plus other accommodations to choose from. Clear Lake, which is actually a reservoir, offers canoeing and fishing. If you are interesting in fishing, consult local guides and resources.
The East Branch Trail is a key link in a system of trails that will eventually connect Lake Erie to the Chesapeake Bay via the Great Allegheny Passage and Erie to Harrisburg via the Mainline Canal Greenway. For more information about the East Branch Trail, please contact the Clear Lake Authority in Spartansburg.
The trail can be accessed in downtown Spartansburg at the parking area at the southern tip of Clear Lake, off Route 77 (Main Street). If you are heading east on Route 77, the parking area will be on your left.
3.1 miles of the trail is completed and fully asphalt paved in very good condition. Flat and fast.....great for bicycles, rollerblading, strollers and walking.
There are 3 parking areas, 2 of those located on Route 89 and one on Main Street in Spartansburg at Clear Lake Park.
Trail runs 1.5 miles North of Spartansburg along side of Clear Lake.
Dirt section follows the trail which is used by Amish buggies.
In Spartansburg there is a large parking area with a picnic shelter and a portable restroom. On Main Street there is an ice-cream stand and a Dollar Store a few hundred yards off the trail.
Trail runs 1.5 South of Spartansburg.
The trail does continue where the asphalt pavement ends but it's nothing more than a dirt path. You could probably hoof it!
Trail in very good condition and well maintained.
My mom and I took our puppy walking this trail. It is a very nice walk. I appreciated the benches periodically placed along the trail. The trail was litter free and well maintained. I highly recommend this trail for anyone who enjoys the outdoors!
This is truly a family type trail very well maintained and friendly. With excellent parking and good views. The trip gives you a chance to see an Amish mill and stop at the famous Dutch Treat Restaurant. Nice day had by all.
Sixty years ago, my dad rode the "night train" from Pittsburgh to Buffalo to attend Bell Aircraft's Mechanical Training School over this route, and I deemed it quite appropriate to be following his path on the 21st anniversary of his passing yesterday. It has been just over 30 years since Penn Central abandoned this line, so I was not really expecting to find much, if any, significant railroad hardware here. It was encouraging to find two items of interest over the currently ridable 5-mile span centered in Spartansburg. 3.0 miles south of town, there is a wonderful multi-span plate girder crossing of Oil Creek, with its intact west-side Pennsylvania Railroad standard bridge railing. Unfortunately, the wind and erosion have weathered away all traces of the raised "PRR" embossed on the deck plates of its stanchions. More significantly, there is a concrete interlocking tower foundation on the west side of the right-of-way at 0.9 miles north of Spartansburg, and its line of armstrong lever rod chairs extend out in both directions from the tower base! I've tried to locate the identity of this installation, with no avail. Keep in mind that the Pennsy installed centralized traffic control (Yes, just like the airlines do today!), from a tower in Corry ("EYE" for "EY"), in 1963! "EYE" controlled, electronically, all of the signal and switch installations on this route between a point 10 miles south of Titusville and Brocton, New York (The Corry Junction Greenway Trail follows this same route). These purely mechanical little control installations, located every few miles, are of century-plus age and heritage, and were abandoned LONG ago!
Also of note is the very WIDE right-of-way of this trail, with once multiple mainline and siding tracks, mostly singled when traffic dwindled, and when the CTC installation permitted plant streamlining. These asphalt trails are always so nice to ride on, and this will be a GREAT one when it has been extended. The residents of Spartansburg should be very proud of this fine and wonderfully historical preservation!
This morning we took our recumbent trikes over (we live in Tidioute, PA, 22 miles from Spartansburg) to ride the trail for the first time. Although the paved section is short, I still enjoyed the ride. I do advise riding it in the morning or evening on hot days as there isn't much shade when the sun is straight up. We had a good stiff breeze today that helped keep us cooled down. The trail is well-kept and the walkers and other riders we saw today were all friendly and smiling, as were we while enjoying the scenery. The central parking lot in Spartansburg is gorgeous, with the perennial garden, Clear Lake and wooden boardwalk and picnic shelters. Who created and tends that garden? High praises to all involved! In fact, it appears the entire community has had a hand in creating the trail and its environs. Also, we enjoyed the fact that the Dutch Treat Restaurant is there beside the parking lot: if you wanted, you could ride or walk the trail, have lunch at the Dutch Treat, then put your canoe in the water on the lake and paddle in the afternoon. All without having to move your car. We also saw a boy kicking his scooter along, riding the trail. I posted photos of today's trail ride here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leeann-charlie/sets/72157627195104986/detail/
When the trail is lengthened, I'll up my rating to 5 stars.
Went to Sparty 6/20/10 What a suprise! the parkibg lot is a bit of a trick to get around in during construction, But what a nice trail. Now paved north and south of town, and all the junk is gone. This is a trail that fits in great in this area.There is a paved trail , and a packed stone /dirt trail a little wider for the Amish Buggys,and of course we saw a lot of four wheelers , but they have been there forever. The wheelers were all polite when they saw us and slowed down and they were staying on the buggy trail. WQe could also see that there was more work going on, but another great trail.
Phase I of this trail is open from St. Rt. 89 north of the Borough to St. Rt. 89 south of the Borough, but will be under formal construction throughout 2009 and is 3.1 miles long. Access will be in the center of Spartansburg Borough and at the crossing of St. Rt. 89 both north and south of town. Phase II of this trail, continuing South to Centerville Borough, will be designed and constructed in 2010 – this section is currently not open.
"An Interesting Day in Amish Country: Sunday's Ride on the East Branch Trail
By Troy Bogdan
On Sunday two friends and I decided to try out the East Branch Trail (again) near Spartansburg in N.W. Pennsylvania. I had done this trail a few years ago, and was so disappointed with it, that I vowed never to return until it had been fixed. The last time I rode this trail, one end (near the lake) had giant, deep, puddles which were hard to navigate, and eventually my shoes got soaked, and on the other end (4 miles later) there was barbed-wire fencing across the trail, with no trespassing signs all over the place.
Well, I heard that the trail was better now, and that the Rails-To-Trails Greenway Sojourn went through here last year (You might have heard that someone put carpet tacks all over the trail, and many bike got flat tyres), so we decided to give it a try.
My farm is in the area of Meadville, so my friends met me at the farm, and then we drove East on Rt. 77, across Rt. 8, and eventually turned right onto a dirt road called Sportsman's Road. This, I knew, was where the bridge was, and also where the barbed wire started. We parked next to the trail bridge, and got up to the trail, and happily I noticed the barbed wire was gone, and the trail looked open. That was good news! We rode North towards Spartansburg, and pretty much had the entire trail to ourselves. The trail surface was a bit rough, but it was entirely rideable. We did see a few four-wheelers off of the trail, down in the woods across the East Branch Creek, which parallels most of the trail.
We stopped so my friend Jason could do a seat adjustment, and all of a sudden, we heard music. What we saw next, you may not believe . . .
The music kept on getting louder and louder, and I recognized it as the 80's band, ""The Cars."" I said that's the cars, and Dennis said no it isn't, there are no cars back here, and then I said, no, no, not cars, but the band ""The Cars."" The song was ""Shake It Up"" and it got louder and louder and louder, until we saw what it was. As Dennis would say, "" A big black moving outhouse was heading thins way."" Actually it was an Amish Horse & Buggy, loaded with reflectors and stickers, and he was jamming down a dirt path that led to the trail. We were all in shocked silence as this buggy rode past with a shaking sound that is usually heard from jam-boy cars in the city. Well, it got on the trail, and kept going South.
We finally came to our senses, and continued our ride North to the town of Spartansburg and past Clear Lake, which was full of ducks, and geese. We continued and the trail seemed like it got a little smoother, and although there were some puddles and water on the trail, it was much better than the last time I was here, and went a lot farther this time. We rode to the end of the trail, which dead-ends, and make a left, got on the road, and biked by road into Spartansburg. This is a little place with a quaint feel to it. It was mostly all shut down because it was Sunday, but the bar at the corner of the main street and the trail was open, so we stopped in to have a beer. The bar was full of people, and the bar was decorated in assorted hunting trophies and beer ads. As we were leaving, we talked to a group of four wheelers (quad riders) and they asked us about our bike ride. They had asked us if we saw the Amish Party down on the trail, and we said we saw a rocking buggy. The guy said that the Amish like to party down in the woods, and they go down and drink and play loud music, and smoke. We weren't surprised, we had already had evidence of that.
So we headed back down the trail, and went right past the Amish Party. We knew where it was, because as soon as we approached we heard music. This time it was loud rap music blasting, and we could see horses, buggies, and four wheelers too, all having a good time. And to think the Amish are usually know as a quant people.
Anyways, we heading back down across the bridge over Sportsman's Road, and continued for a while. We were traveling through lots of farm land, and eventually we came to an open gate across the trail with no trespassing signs on it. Luckily we saw a child riding a bike, and we called out, ""may we pass through?"" Well, the Childs's Father (an elder Dutchman) came over, and said that the trail continues down a few more miles. We asked if it would be o.k. to ride through and back, and he said yes, and said he appreciated that we asked permission. He said that he was mad because one of the local trail authorities tried to steal his gates, but said if he would just negotiate, he would take his gates away. Well, I didn't want to get to involved, so we politely thanked him, and kept on riding, The trail went next to an area of the creek that is open for fishing. There were signs along the creek, so perhaps this is a stocked area. After a while, the trail dead-ended again, and we turned around and rode back. We crossed a dirt road, and instead of watching out for cars, we had to be careful of a speeding horse and buggy. That thing was flying!!
Along the side of the trail, I saw ramps (Wild Leeks, Allium Tricoccum) growing, which is a sure sign of Spring's approach. I may bike back here in a few weeks and pick some for my dinner. They taste similar to shallots if you've never had them, and are wonderful to sauté.
Anyways, we made it back to our vehicle, and we had logged approx. 15 miles.
I am so glad that the trail is better than the last time.
It was and interesting day in Amish Country!!"
"I visited this trail after reading about it in the 9th dition of ""Pennsylvania's Rail Trails."" What the book described, and what I found were two very different trails. I started in Spartansburg, and first went North on the trail. It was a decent ride for about 5 minutes, when I started encountering big puddles on the trail. I continued for about a mile, and then the puddles got so big and deep that I turned around because my feet were already soaked, and it wasn't worth continuing. Back in Spartansburg I headed South on the trail for about 3 miles. The trail was pretty rough, and I highly recommend a mountain bike with thick tires. I reached a bridge over Sportsmans Road, and that is where the trail ends because of a barbed wire fence with no-trespassing signs posted. The bridge over Sportsman Road was the most interesting thing to see on the trail. The view looking down over the creek was pretty. I rode back to Spartansburg, and decided to see if I could find the rest of the trail that was pictured on the map in the book. I drove to the village of Glynden, and could not locate the trail. What I did find were more no trespassing signs where the right-of-way should have been. I continued driving all the way to Centerville, and could not locate any more of the trail whatsoever, so I gave up. This was a disappointing trip, because I was expecting at least 7.8 miles open according to the book, and I'm lucky to have ridden 4. This could be a nice trail someday, and I hope that I can travel on it again, but until it is restored, I won't be coming back to this trail. "
"We cycled this trail one weekend in early September of 2002. The first 4.5 miles are somewhat rough and the going is a bit slow. After crossing Route 89 you can go about another 1.5 mile when you'll come to barbed wire and have to detour on the roads for about 1.5 miles. Take Fish Flats Rd south, then west on Glynden Rd. You'll cycle past some beautiful farms. You'll see the trailhead on your left. We were able to do another 2.5 miles of trail when the going got too tough. The vegetation is very overgrown. We opted out for the roads for 5.7 miles when we saw the trail again just outside Grays Mill Station and cycled on the trail from there to Hydetown. Because the going was so slow on the trail, we cycled back to spartansburg via the roads. "
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