Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve is truly a local treasure. If you haven’t made the trip to visit this beautiful preserve, now is the time to do it. Starting in March, this preserve is home to a renowned display of wildflowers, ranging from spring beauties to wild geranium. Thanks to the expanded parking area in 2020 and an easy walking trail, this preserve is a must-see in the springtime. Here are a few tips to enhance your visit!
1.) If you can, visit during the week.
Shenks Ferry gets extremely busy on the weekends during the spring. If you can plan your visit for a weekday, you will be blessed with less crowds and a more peaceful experience in viewing the wide array of spring ephemerals.
The Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve brochure is great to have along with you as a guide to the most common wildflowers you will find on the preserve. A wildflower guide or app on your phone such as Seek by iNaturalist can also be useful in making the most of your visit. You can also learn more ahead of time by reading up on local spring ephemerals your likely to find along the Lower Susquehanna River. Trying starting with this piece written by the Conservancy’s Keith Williams, about some of our favorite species of ephemerals. Note that the Conservancy will have staff and volunteers on-site at Shenks Ferry for weekends through the months of March and April, to assist in wildflower identification and other information during peak visitation hours.
3.) Take nothing but pictures…
…leave nothing but footprints (and make sure those stay on the trail!). While they are hardy early spring bloomers, these wildflowers are also delicate, so we ask that you take special precautions to stay on the trail (this includes any furry four legged companions) while hiking at this preserve!
We know you want that great close up shot, but even one foot off the trail on what looks like a “bare piece of earth” can spell disaster for the plants that haven’t yet emerged underneath. And, of course, picking wildflowers not only takes the experience of viewing them away from other visitors, it also removes the pollination potential of the plant and its place in the ecosystem.
Learn more about the seven Leave No Trace principles and how you can be a good steward of the environment while spending time in nature.
Photos by Michelle Johnsen
4.) Always keep in mind the 10 essentials of hiking.
Remembering the ten essentials of hiking is good practice for any hike you take – whether you plan to be gone for a few hours on a paved trail or a few months in the backcountry. You can find the list and more information at the American Hiking Society.
5.) Getting there!
Please be sure to access the preserve from Shenks Ferry Road. This will take you right to the newly improved parking area and access trail. Green Hill Road south of the Preserve is CLOSED and unfortunately direction apps like Google and Apple Maps do not reflect this and the Conservancy has been unable to get them to change the error.
6.) A note about waste…
A port-a-john has been temporarily installed during wildflower season to accommodate increased traffic. Please note that Shenks Ferry is carry in, carry out, meaning there are no trashcans located at the preserve (this includes dog waste bags)! Do not use the port-a-johns as a trash can otherwise the Conservancy will no longer be able to provide this amenity to visitors.
7.) Support the stewardship of this special place.
Our efforts to protect and restore this unique wildflower sanctuary are ongoing. Lancaster Conservancy is working with Conestoga Township on continued improvements to the road walk between the parking area gate and the Wildflower Trail. In 2022, the Conservancy will be working with Scouts to plant trees and shrubs and to seed in wildflowers and sedges to restore the shoulder of this road.
The Conservancy is also working on trail improvement plans, which include addressing the erosion and failing culvert of the feeder stream that passes under the Wildflower Trail. The plan to address the replacement of the culvert with a bridge in an effort to improve the water quality and protection of the feeder stream will also include a plan to rewiden the Wildflower Trail to its original width from when it was used as a small rail corridor.
Your support of the Lancaster Conservancy allows for the continued careful stewardship of Shenks Ferry for the benefit of both nature and our community. Thank you for considering making a donation to ensure this special place is here for generations to come.
You can find more information on visiting Shenks Ferry on the preserve’s webpage and this video highlighting the improvements made to the preserve in 2020.
Thank you to our generous sponsor Brookhills Investment Group for making educational programming about Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve and the native plants it protects possible this year!