The History of Moraine State Park

The area that is now Moraine State Park used to be farmland, mostly wetlands, containing oil and gas fields.  Before that, American Indians lived in the area.  Archaeologists have found over one hundred sites of Native American settlements.  In 1753 the Muddy Creek Valley had claims to it by both the French and the British.  The Western Allegheny Railroad ran the full length of the Muddy Creek Valley, and was used to transport coal from the mines, often to Pittsburgh.  However, it was abandoned in 1939 when the mines were used up and closed.  They had a freight depot in the village of Isle, which had a spur line into the coal mining area of southern Brady Township.  Edmund Watts Arthur, a former Pittsburgh attorney, amateur geologist, naturalist and nature writer, along with Dr. Frank W. Preston, a glass researcher, naturalist and director of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, conducted studies in the Muddy Creek area.  They noticed that the area had been affected by the Wisconsin glacier around 14,000 years ago. Lake Arthur, named for Edmund Watts Arthur, who was also a columnist for the “Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph”, is 8 miles long with 42 miles of shoreline.  It was named after Arthur because he loved the area so much and spent so much of his time there, exploring and writing about it.  The glacial lake that existed 14,000 years ago was named Lake Watts, also in honor of Edmund Watts Arthur.  The village of Isle, which was on the eastern end of the Muddy Creek area, where State Route 528 now crosses Lake Arthur, was completely wiped out by the lake.  At least ten houses had to be destroyed to make way for the reservoir and all vegetation had to be cut and burned.  The lake was originally stocked with large mouth bass, muskelunge, channel cat fish, black crappie bass, northern pike and walleyes.
          In 1955, Secretary of the Pennsylvania State Department of Forests and Waters, Maurice Goddard, set in place a goal to have a national park within twenty-five miles of every citizen.  The Muddy Creek Valley was selected as a site and was purchased in 1963.  Mines and oil wells were closed up to protect the park.  However, one oil well, No. 19 was selected to be used as a demonstration area for park visitors.  This attraction is discussed on the Oil Fields page of this site.