It is as if time has stood still at Willow Lake Farm. The pastoral landscape of this working farm is a rich mosaic of split rail fences protecting hay fields, giant sycamores, emerging forest and unspoiled wetlands. The network of hiking and equestrian trails meander through the greatest variety of wildlife habitats of any WVWA preserve. Hikers, horseback riders and nature enthusiasts can explore miles of trail all year round.
The diversity of wildlife habitats attracts a wide range of breeding birds. The fields have nesting Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Field Sparrow, Willow Flycatcher and in 2013, a pair of rare Alder Flycatcher. The young woods are home to Wood Thrush, Orchard Oriole, Rufous-sided Towhee and Red-eyed Vireos. Year round, the preserve is a magnet for migratory songbirds. On May 10, 2014, there were hundreds upon hundreds of White throated Sparrows migrating north!
The Preserve is also a haven for butterflies and moths. Pipevine Swallowtail, the rare Monarch Butterfly, skippers, hairstreaks and swallowtails and hundreds of species of insects call this preserve their home. The pastures and woodland provide habitat for fox, deer, woodchuck, meadow vole, white-footed mouse and even coyote.
The property was preserved when Jane O’Neill donated conservation easements to WVWA on her 109-acre landmark farm in Whitemarsh Township at Butler Pike and Skippack Pike. Through the great generosity of Mrs. O’Neill and her children Jake Lea and Ellen Lea, the entire parcel came to WVWA in 2002, with the exception of the horse farm and residence which are still lived in today.
With prominent signage on Butler and Skippack Pikes signaling where the trailhead is tucked behind the CVS corner store, Willow Lake Preserve is waiting for you!
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Access: Off Butler Pike or Skippack Pike in Broad Axe, at the rear of the new CVS.
Parking: Behind the CVS.
Habitat: Retired pastureland that is succeeding into forest, woodland, some active pastures.
Trails: Willow Lake is crisscrossed by 2.4 miles of woodland and meadow trails. Please stay clear of the pastured area, as it is leased to the horse farm that adjoins the Preserve. A loop trail begins at back of the CVS parking lot. The walking trail is marked.
Amenities: Interpretive signs.
Dogs must be kept on leashes.