The Great Outdoors: Bendigo State Park Has Plenty For Anglers, Water Lovers

fishingJONES TOWNSHIP, Pa. (EYT) — In my fifth article on area state parks and recreation areas, I’ll take a look at another hidden gem in the Great Outdoors region – Bendigo State Park in Elk County.

Located north of Johnsonburg, Bendigo has a variety of features that make it a “can’t-miss” destination for day-trippers or those camping at nearby East Branch Dam or Twin Lakes recreation areas.

Growing up, the state park was an enjoyable place to do some fishing and have a picnic with my family. When I was older, it proved to be a great place for a girlfriend and I to do some tubing on a hot, summer day.

Bendigo has a lot to offer for the water lover and those trying to beat the humid summer weather we often experience.

It has a swimming pool that opens on Memorial Day weekend. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The pool depth ranges from three to five feet and certified lifeguards staff it. The pool also has an ADA accessible lift.

The other major feature at Bendigo is the East Branch of the Clarion River, which flows through the park. It is a cold-water stream and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks it with trout, including the week before Memorial Day.

Another nice feature in the park is a fishing platform behind the pool, which allows for easy access for children and the elderly.

The river is scenic and appropriate for beginning boaters under normal conditions. A canoe launch is three miles upstream along Kilgus Road. The best water conditions are generally in the spring, but if canoes can’t be launched, then it’s time to haul out the tube.

You never know what kind of wildlife you may see, but river otters have been spotted in the area.

Don’t forget, those using non-powered boats that launch in the park must display one of the following: boat registration, launching permit, or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices, or a launching permit from the state Fish and Boat Commission.

Also, nearby is the West Branch of the Clarion River – another very good trout fishery.

When you are ready to have a bite to eat, Bendigo has more than 150 picnic tables in several picnic areas. Within these areas are charcoal grills, drinking water, four horseshoe pits, restrooms. and three picnic pavilions. Picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. Pavilion 1 is ADA accessible.

Bendigo State Park has an interesting history.

According to the park website, its name may have derived from William Abednego Thompson, a bare-knuckle boxer from England who lived from 1811 to 1890.  Thompson was one of triplets named for three young men who escaped a fiery furnace in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. Thompson began boxing to make money. Due to his bobbing and weaving style, he was nicknamed Bendy Abednego, which eventually evolved into Bendigo.

Bendigo was popular with fans because of his wild behavior in the ring, like doing flips, taunting his opponent, and avoiding punches. He became the champion of all of Britain, before retiring and becoming a Methodist preacher. There are no records of him ever leaving Britain.

In 1895, 15 years after Bendigo’s death, a lumbering operation began on a small creek in northwestern Pennsylvania. The operation was built and operated by Alfred Truman, who also built a small town named Bendigo. After five years of business, the operation exhausted the available timber. The mill and town disbanded, and the lumber company razed the facilities.

Although the origin of the park’s name remains a mystery, the history of Bendigo State Park reveals the vision of the residents of Johnsonburg.

In the 1920s, they joined together to form a community park for swimming, picnicking, and outdoor recreation. The lumber company that owned the former village of Bendigo gave 100 acres to the county to be a park.

In 1936, during the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) began building roads, a dam, and a pool at Bendigo Community Park; however, there wasn’t enough money to complete some projects, and the pool and other facilities remained unfinished. Visitors to the park in that era could swim in the river behind the dam and enjoy the picnic tables and grills.

Floods destroyed many of the facilities in 1942, but the stone wall and dam on the East Branch of the Clarion River survived. Due to the debris, most of the park was unusable; however, visitors still frequented the swimming hole and picnic area.

In 1948, the late State Senator George B. Stevenson introduced a bill that transferred the property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Now a parcel of the State Park system, improvements were made to the park facilities, including the building of a swimming pool. Bendigo State Park opened in 1954, completing the vision that the community began.

For more information about the area and to help plan your trip, go to visitpago.com or dcnr.state.pa.us.

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“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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