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The East Branch Trail is a rare dual-lane rail-trail. The 8-foot asphalt lane serves walkers, bicyclists, in-line skaters, and people in wheelchairs. Horses, specifically horses pulling Amish buggies to and from markets in Spartansburg, use the adjacent 8-foot gravel path. When built in 2010, it was the first dual-lane trail in Pennsylvania, created to help Amish avoid dangerous roads as they travel.
The Amish community in this part of Crawford County is quite large, comprising nine communities. Spartansburg, at the center of the trail, has also become a center for the sale of Amish furniture, country crafts, and baked goods. When encountering Amish on the trail, in accordance with their preference, please refrain from taking photos.
This trail follows the route of the Oil Creek and Allegheny River Railway, built in the early 1860s to connect the oil fields springing up around Titusville at that time to the Atlantic & Great Western Railway and the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad junctions in Corry. Passing through a number of owners, it became the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Chautauqua Line and ran trains until 1978, when Conrail discontinued using it. Ten years later, the Clear Lake Authority in Spartansburg acquired the 15.4 miles of disused rail corridor.
This 3-mile trail makes up one piece of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, which is connecting existing trails to create a 270-mile off-road route from Lake Erie’s Presque Isle to Pittsburgh. When finished, a person will be able to travel off-road from Lake Erie to Washington, D.C., using the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, the Great Allegheny Passage (see page 74), and the C&O Canal Towpath. Before that can happen, though, a number of gaps-—such as the East Branch Trail’s connection to the Corry Junction Greenway Trail in the north and the Queen City Trail (see page 197) in Titusville in the south—need to close. The trail is also part of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition’s developing 1,500-mile trail network through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York.
In the north, the trail starts at a turnoff from SR 89, where you’ll find two parking spaces, one reserved for people with disabilities. This is Amish farm country, and many inhabitants eschew modern conveniences. No electric or telephone wires are strung to the houses, where you’ll see laundry drying in the breeze and cords of wood stacked for the stove and winter heating.
About 0.5 mile down the trail, you’ll see Clear Lake to the left. The man-made lake is popular for fishing from the shore or boats. You’ll reach Clear Lake Park in 1.4 miles. An old railroad trestle passes over the dam to family--owned Clear Lake Lumber.
Heading south, the trail passes through Spartansburg, crossing Main Street. Note that several stores in town feature Amish furniture and other artifacts, and several restaurants are noted for Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. The first week of September is devoted to the community fair.
The trail follows East Branch Oil Creek out of town and rejoins SR 89 in 1.6 miles.
To reach the northern endpoint from I-79, take Exit 147A onto US 322 E/US 19 N/Conneaut Lake Road. Go 1.7 miles, take a slight right onto Park Ave., and turn right onto Linden St. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Liberty St./Liberty St. Ext. Go 0.8 mile, and turn right onto North St. Go 0.1 mile, veer left to continue onto State St., and then go 0.2 mile. Take a slight right onto Washington St. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto SR 77 E/Hickory St. Go 25.6 miles, and turn left onto SR 77 E/ SR 89 N. Go 1.2 miles, take a slight left to stay on SR 89 N, and go 1.3 miles. Parking is on the right.
To reach the Main St. trailhead in Spartansburg from I-79, follow the directions above to SR 77 E/ SR 89 N, and go 1.2 miles. Turn right onto SR 77 E, and go 0.6 mile. Turn left into the trailhead parking lot. The trail runs 1.4 miles north and 1.6 miles south from here.
To reach the southern endpoint from I-79, follow the directions above to SR 77 E/Hickory St. Go 25.6 miles, and turn right onto SR 89 S. Go 0.3 mile, and turn left into the parking lot.
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