The Beach at Keystone State Park, Pennsylvania
Posted by Jody on August 17, 2012
Today’s Featured Writer: Cindy Sobieski
People living in western Pennsylvania have a lovely way to cool off in the summer at the Keystone Lake Beach near Pittsburgh, PA. Keystone Lake is a man-made lake dredged by horses in the early 1900′s. It was created for use by the Keystone Coal and Coke Company, which mined coal locally and needed a large body of water to aid in the washing and cooling of burnt coal–coal that was then sent down-river to be used in the booming Pittsburgh steel industry. Miles of abandoned coal mines and tunnels exist very near the lake, as well as a stone lodge used by the company in years past as a meeting place for business. Keystone Lake is 30 feet deep at its deepest point, and 6 to 7 feet deep in the deepest part of the swimming area.
Today, the lake is a Pennsylvania State Park, funded entirely by state taxes and run by a group of dedicated volunteers who have a passion for their park. There are no fees to use any of the facilities, which makes it a popular swimming place on hot days when the nearest ocean beach is an eight hour car ride away. Sand was carted in by truck to create the “beach”, and a grassy area provides a fine area for sunbathers to catch a few rays. Of course in southwestern PA, grassy areas also attract geese — so the park has installed gates across the shoreline to deter the geese from coming up out of the water and onto the sand (and then into the grass where the geese can be aggressive and unsanitary). It’s an odd sight to see swimmers restricted to where they can enter the water, but once they are in, they can frolick where ever they choose in the roped off area. The park even offers free toys for “loan” with a valid ID, movies on the beach on summer evenings, and fishing in certain areas of the lake.
The state of Pennsylvania works hard to keep the waters safe for swimmers of all ages, and testing for bacteria occurs every three days. It has been many years since any bacterial problems have surfaced, and the cause is usually heavy rains that have a tendency to wash farm land debris down the valley and into the lake area.
Aside from the swimming, people who enjoy the park also have the opportunity to use a playground area for the youngsters, picnic tables for cookouts, trails for hiking, and a pristine beach house for showering and changing. The scenery around the lake is so lovely, and the beautiful trees nearby make for nice shady areas when you’ve forgotten to bring your beach umbrella. Wading in the lake for those who enjoy fishing is also allowed, since the lake is stocked with trout. Fishing areas are well beyond the beach, though, so no worries about stepping on an abandoned fishing hook.
When you’ve visited Keystone, you’ll understand why locals used to sneak down to the lake for a dip 100 years ago. It’s a hidden piece of paradise!