Silver Lake Park sits in the Coastal Plain Province of Pennsylvania.
One need only go back a mere 20,000 or so years to understand this geologic formation. It was about 20,000 years ago that Pennsylvania experienced the ravages of the Ice Age. Along the Delaware River Valley, a sheet of ice about 5,000 feet thick scraped down to Raubsville, PA. By 10,000 years ago, the ice had retreated back to the north. During that stage of melting, the Delaware River raged over the landscape, pouring huge quantities of water from the melting ice. That water carried sands, gravels, and cobbles. Some larger rocks may have been suspended in chunks of ice. When the water spilled over the constriction created by very resistant rock (this can be recognized as the falls of Trenton), it spread out over a much larger area. With a diminished flow, the river could not hold all of the glacial outwash, and it settled. In Bucks County, the land mass of Falls, Bristol, Middletown, and Bensalem Townships, plus Bristol and Tullytown Boroughs, is made of this unconsolidated sands and gravels called glacial till. To learn more about glaciers in Pennsylvania, view Pennsylvania DCNR's Educational Series #6 Pennsylvania and the Ice Age.
Late 1600’s to early 1700’s
Records indicate that Silver Lake appeared in its present location around 1689. It was originally man-made as a pond in 1689 when dams were placed on the Otter and Adam's Hollow Creeks to provide power for the mills in Bristol. The "Mill Pond" was expanded in 1692-1693, eventually reaching in size between 100 and 150 acres. Over the years the lake filled in with mud and vegetation, thus becoming a marsh. The present day marshes at Silver Lake were once part of the original lake.
Late 1700’s through early 1800’s
The American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia published a paper titled, "An Analysis of the Chalybeate Waters of Bristol in this Provence" in 1768. In 1773, Dr. Benjamin Rush began recommending that people bathe in the water as a cure for many diseases. The baths were completed in 1810, hence the name Bath Road. The springs of Bristol drew people from all over the country, including many famous people. The attraction of these baths made Bristol quite the resort town especially during the early 1800s. During a 100-year period, the baths went through periods of highs and lows in popularity, but by the late 1870’s the baths had lost their appeal.
1920’s to 1960’s
Owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the lake scarcely had any open water by the 1920's. In 1927 the Pensylvania Railroad completed a survey and we believe it was them who marked the boundary with a square stone having a small hole at the top. You can find a few of these along the trails in the park. In 1935-6, the Pennsylvania Fish Commission purchased the lake which was mostly wetlands. It was at this time that the Works Progress Administration (WPA) began work on the present lake, by then called Silver Lake. Most of the work was done by hand, and the current picnic grounds are the dry land created by hand-dredging the lake. It took over 300 men to physically dig out the lake. As they were digging, oak tree trunks dating 200-300 years were unearthed. From this, we can deduce that the land that is now a lake was once a mature forest. As you walk through the forests, you'll notice that they are surrounded by marshes. The forests were actually islands in the lake at one time.
1980’s to present
In 1986, it was again dredged. Only 2/3 of it was dredged due to lack of money. Its depth was only an average of 18 inches. The remainder was dredged in 1994, bringing the depth
to a mere 5 feet.
Because of torrential rains falling on the Thanksgiving weekend in 1950, a gravel pit for the construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike filled with water, forming a lake. At that time and for years to come, it was called Langenfelder Lake after the contractor. Since the contractor was not obligated to enhance the finished lake for public use, it has a square shape with steep sides.
As part of the Silver Lake Nature Center, situated directly across the street, Delhaas Woods is a 175-acre parcel of woodland with nature trails. This parcel was recognized by the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Nature Conservancy as the "best remaining example of Coastal Plain Woodlands within the State of Pennsylvania.” During WWII, ammunition storage buildings were constructed and much of the land cleared. After these had been deserted, PECO Energy installed a high tension corridor directly through the middle of the parcel. During the "energy crisis" of the 1970's, the previous landowner removed almost all of the oak trees (except the Willow Oaks). The final insult was unscrupulous contractors who used the power line access as their personal dump site.
Visiting Silver Lake Nature Center, a 235-acre "natural treasure" in the heart of the southern portion of Bucks County, is an experience to be savored, not rushed. It's a place where lush foliage, accessible wetlands and rich woodlands abound. Pennsylvania rare and threatened animal and plant species like the Red-bellied Turtle, Southern Leopard Frog, and the Maryland Meadow Beauty find refuge and flourish peacefully in the park. People of all ages can explore and enjoy a special part of our world. Click here to see the current list.
The Silver Lake Nature Center is bisected by Bath Road. The two sections, Silver Lake and Delhaas Woods contain 5 major communities: the Coastal Plain Forest, Meadows, Unglaciated Bog, Wetlands, and Pond. Due to its small size, Delhaas Woods is not noted for its animal species. Pa Threatened Species, the Red-bellied Turtle and Coastal Plain Leopard Frog, can be found in and around Silver Lake.
The majority of the Wetlands are the remnants of the original Mill Pond. The plant community, while significantly impacted by the invasive Purple Loosestrife and some Phragmites, still offers a wonderful selection of wetland plants. The boardwalks through the wetlands bring visitors near beautiful plants like Spotted Joe-Pye-weed, Cardinal Flower, and Crimson-eyed Rose Mallow. Along the wetland-forest edge one can find Cinnamon, Royal, Interrupted, and Sensitive Ferns. Animals regularly seen include Muskrat, ducks, herons and the vocal Red-winged Blackbirds.
Another wetland community is the Vernal Ponds. Wet only seasonally, these are scattered throughout the woodlands. These provide excellent breeding grounds for frogs and toads. When you walk across a boardwalk and there appears to be no good reason, most likely you are above one of our vernal ponds.
Species of Special Concern found and confirmed at the Nature Center in 2009 during a sudy for the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania and the Academy of Natural Sciences by Botanists Lauren Spitz, Ann Rhoads, PhD., and Tim Block,PhD, include the following:
* Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program status: