Pymatuning Spillway

Pymatuning Reservoir – Where Ducks Walk on Fish

Pymatuning Spillway

Right on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, about an hour south of Lake Erie is a beautiful lake called Pymatuning. The lake runs right down the border of the two states, which means there are both Ohio State Campgrounds and Pennsylvania State Campgrounds. Twice a year, during the first weekend after school lets out and the last weekend before school starts up, we head to the Ohio State Park campgrounds with my parents for four days of gorgeous waterside camping.

The campgrounds in and of themselves would be worth writing about, but what’s really interesting to me is what can be found a few minutes away at the Pymatuning Spillway.; Carp. More carp than you have probably ever seen in your life. Carp clustered in the water so thickly that seagulls, ducks and Canadian geese literally walk along their backs. (Seriously, it’s known as “Where the ducks walk on fish.”)

Pymatuning Spillway

It’s one of those weird local tourist things that you’d never go looking for but have to stop at once you know it’s there. I can remember visiting the site as a child, and we’ve taken our kids several times now as well.

If you aren’t from the area, you might be asking yourself why on earth I would take my kids to see carp. I’m not exactly sure how it started, though I know it was back in the 1930’s. People noticed a large amount of carp gathered near the spillway and started to stop to feed them bread. Eventually, this became a “thing,” and the state put a beautiful building, parking lots, and a fenced sidewalk to make it easier for people to gather. You buy loaves of bread at the tourist shop for a buck a piece, and you tear off chunks and throw them in the water to feed the fish or the birds.

Pymatuning Spillway

The fish define the waves of the water, undulating in a huge cluster of flipping, flopping fins and tails. It’s both creepy and amusing all at the same time.

Lest you think I’m completely crazy, know that this particular tourist destination draws more than 300,000 visitors each year, making it second only to the Liberty Bell as Pennsylvania’s most popular tourist destination, at least according to the town of Linesville.

Pymatuning Spillway

Our kids alternated between thinking the site of the carp was incredibly gross to amazingly cool.  They took the time to tear up a full loaf of bread each, flinging the pieces into the aquatic melee. Now and then some impatient child near us would hurl an entire loaf into the water, and the resulting fervor of the carp would be so frenzied; you couldn’t help but stop and look. My personal favorite is the bagel…one of the few things that take more than a second or two to break down and be hoovered up by the carps’ giant, gaping mouths.

Pymatuning Spillway

I don’t know that I would travel to Pennsylvania just to see the carp at the Pymatuning Spillway, but if I were going to be within a half an hour of Linesville, I wouldn’t miss it. If for no other reason than to take a few videos to post to your Facebook page and freak out your friends.

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