York County/Lancaster County (WHTM) – Alongside a parking lot at the intersection of Long Level Road and Bull Run Road in York County is a marker for the Conejohela Flats, a shallow area of the Susquehanna River.
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The word Conejohela is believed to refer to a Native American settlement from the early 1700s. Depending on your source it means either “kettle on a long, upright pole” or “place of the boiling kettle.”
Local residents used to farm the Flats, but in the early 1900s the newly built Safe Harbor Dam flooded the area, creating Lake Clarke, now a popular location for fishing, boating – and particularly birdwatching.
If you want to visit the flats, you need a boat. You can launch from the parking area next to this sign, the Zimmerman Heritage Center up the road, or, across the river, at Blue Rock Road in Lancaster County.
A shallow draft boat such as a kayak or canoe is recommended. While the area is flooded, it’s still very shallow, and it’s quite easy to run aground.
If you want to see birds, you’ve come to the right place. Over 250 species have been spotted here, including 38 species of migratory shorebirds. The Flats are an important stopover point as they migrate to and from areas as far north as the Artic Circle and as far south as Central and South America. (The flats are designated as an important bird area by the National Audubon Society.)
If you are interested in plants, the Flats have large stands of American Lotus. If you come in late summer or early autumn, you can see everything from flowers to well-developed seed pods.
But sometimes, as the saying goes, the journey is the destination. Just floating along with the current, just seeing what you may see, and getting away from it all, even if it’s just for a while, can be just as rewarding as spotting a rare bird you’ve wanted to add to your life list. Just remember to pack out what you pack in, leave no trace, and give the animals some distance.