Akeley Swamp consists of 365 acres of mostly level wetlands along Conewango Creek, just south of the New York-Pennsylvania border in Pine Grove Township, Warren County. The site has three ponds interspersed with open fields and oak-hickory forest. Two abandoned railroad grades are maintained as good walking trails. Akeley Swamp adjoins the Mahaffey Wetlands Conservation Area, a 40-acre parcel owned by the Northern Allegheny Conservation Association.
Natural History Interest
Conewango Creek, which flows south from northern Chautauqua County to its confluence with the Allegheny River in Warren, PA, flows through this area, which provides habitat for Spiny Softshell Turtle. The primary swamp is a scrub-shrub wetland that includes species such as Swamp White Oak, Buttonbush, and Water-pennywort. The swamp is bordered by seasonally flooded forested wetlands containing mature oak and hickory trees which provide important acorn and nut crops for deer, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse and other wildlife.
The railroad trails provide dry footing and easy access to wetlands that harbor a good diversity of wildlife. Akeley Swamp has been identified as an Important Bird Area by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society because of the shorebirds and waterfowl that use the wetland as a migration stop-over and for breeding.
Who To Contact
There are no restrooms or other facilities on the site. The Game Lands are open to the public at all times. Tours are occasionally provided by Pennsylvania Game Commission land managers as well as RTPI. For information contact Pennsylvania Game Commission, P.O. Box 31, Franklin, PA 16323; Tel: 814–432–3187.
How To Get There
Akeley Swamp is located just east of US 62 between Frewsburg, NY, and Russell, PA.
From Jamestown, NY, take NY 60 south to US 62. There is a traffic light here. Turn right onto US 62, and proceed approximately 3.0 miles to Riverside Rd. Turn left onto Riverside Rd and proceed to the stop sign at the end of the road. Turn right onto Old US 62 and go approximately 3.0 miles to Martin Rd on your right. The parking area is at the end of this road.
From the intersection of US 62 and PA 957 in Russell, PA, go north on US 62 approximately 1.6 miles to Akeley, PA. At Akeley, turn right onto Cable Hollow Rd and cross the bridge over Conewango Creek to Old US 62. Turn left onto Old US 62 and proceed approximately 1.3 miles to Martin Rd on your left. The parking area is at the end of this road.
What To See
Avian data has been collected at Akeley Swamp for a few decades, and more formalized surveys are now underway. To view the eBird hotspot of the site complete with recent bird sightings click on this link. To view an eBird bar chart page of all recorded sightings click on this link. High numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl use the wetlands of Akeley Swamp as a migration stop-over and for nesting. Imperiled breeding wetland species may still include the endangered Least Bittern and American Bittern as well as the Pied-billed Grebe, Virginia Rail, Sora, and Common Gallinule. American Bittern are also suspected to breed in the swamp. Northern Harrier, a threatened species, is also a breeding bird here and may be seen during spring and fall migration as well. Brushy areas have nesting warblers and other songbirds. Great Blue Herons nest in a heron rookery on the site. Waterfowl that can be observed during spring migration include Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, and American Wigeon.
Rusty Blackbirds are one of the most rapidly declining species in North America over the last several decades. They face multiple threats year-round in the forms of habitat loss on breeding and wintering grounds, climate change, mercury pollution, blackbird control practices and more. Acceptable migratory areas are decreasing in abundance and size, and Akeley Swamp is apparently an important area for southbound migration at the very least. Upwards of 80 Rusty Blackbirds were recorded on an October 2013 survey.
Beaver and Muskrat may be sighted frequently, particularly at dusk. Wildflowers along trails include Canadian Burnet and Closed Gentian. The main swamp serves as an important nursery water for Northern Pike. Undoubtedly dozens of species of dragonflies and damselflies breed in Akeley Swamp and they will soon be observed along with butterflies, reptiles, amphibians and more.
Why It’s Important To Conservation
Akeley Swamp is, as previously noted, a home to Pennsylvania state-listed endangered and threatened species during breeding season and during migration. It is a stopover site for thousands upon thousands of individuals of dozens of waterfowl and shorebird species each season, providing a sizable area to feed on a variety of organisms or rest during the journey north or south. The swamp serves as a fish nursery, a place to oviposit eggs for countless dragonflies and damselflies, and as yet untold numbers of reptiles and amphibians.
Wetlands are vitally important to preserve and maintain in pristine, unpolluted and undisturbed states as they become increasingly rare as a habitat type, at least in prime condition. Invasive and/or non-native species and nearby development must be monitored and taken into account with best management practices in order to ensure the favored conditions remain.