Miller Woods Nature Preserve
266 Miller Road
Slippery Rock, PA 16057
Bartramian Audubon Society
P.O. Box 315
Slippery Rock, PA 16057
Located on the northwest bank of Wolf Creek, this Slippery Rock University 42.11-acre tract is just three miles west of the Slippery Rock Borough on West Water Street/Miller Road. It adjoins Wolf Creek Narrows Natural Area, owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
The property is a mature northern hardwood forest community dominated by American beech, sugar maple, red oak, tulip poplar, white oak, and wild black cherry trees. The land consists of a series of geological terraces that represent former ancient levels of Wolf Creek.
The parcel has rich mesic soil that allows an abundance of herbaceous plants and associated animal life. Significant natural habitats on the current Wolf Creek floodplain include skunk cabbage emergent wetlands, remnant oxbow ponds, and vernal pools that resulted from flooding and a change in Wolf Creek’s channel. These wetlands add to the rich biodiversity of the site by providing micro-habitats for many native plants and animals that require a source of standing water.
An easy out and back trail starts at the small parking lot on the southwest side of the bridge crossing Wolf Creek, as mentioned above. Miller Woods is widely known for its beautiful wildflower display in April and May. Whereas Wolf Creek Narrows is blanketed in spring with thousands of trilliums, Miller Woods’ sandy creek-side soil exhibits showy Virginia bluebells and other wildflowers. A great number of avian neotropical breeders also occur here, including Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting. Another neotropical species – the Yellow-throated Warbler – nests only in old sycamore trees that are common riparian members along Wolf Creek.
The warbler particularly likes building its nest in limbs hanging over the creek while the Wood Duck, American Merganser, Barred Owl, and Great-crested Flycatcher prefer old sycamore cavities. Other common avian breeders that search for nesting sites near water include the Belted Kingfisher, Northern Waterthrush, and Louisiana Waterthrush. The former waterthrush inhabits standing backwater locales while the latter waterthrush prefers fast-moving waters. Finally, stay alert and scan the sky now and then for the Osprey and Bald Eagle that nest in proximity to Wolf Creek. In fact, check atop the microwave communication tower just one mile west of the creek for an active Osprey nest May 1 to August 15. Miller Woods is also an important archaeological and historical site
used as an outdoor classroom and laboratory by different academic programs and departments of Slippery Rock University. Miller Woods is certified Bartramian Audubon Society Wildlife Sanctuary #34 and the seventh BAS sanctuary owned and managed by the university. Note that fires and all motor vehicles are prohibited on the property.
Miller Woods tract has a short trail on the opposite end of the bridge from Wolf Creek. This is on land owned by Slippery Rock University. An out and back trail, it meanders in the flood plane of Wolf Creek and, although it does not have the old forest found on the other side of the bridge, it is still a nice hike.
The map at the parking lot shows a loop, but the trail is not well marked and the loop appears lost to overgrowth and floods. Follow the old dirt road bed into the woods as it narrows to a single path. Eventually you will come to the remains of a small crumbling dam on a small run. In the summer the pool by the dam is home to many small fish, and frogs. Cross the stream on the rock and remnants of dam and continue into the flood plane. The trail ends at a rocky beach on a bend in the creek.
Combine the Wolf Creek trail hike with the Miller Woods tract for a nice hike.
To find the trail take interstate 79 to the Slippery Rock exit and follow 108 to Slippery Rock. Turn left at the traffic light (north main street), then take the next left (Water Street) and drive about 2 miles to the bridge over Wolf Creek.
The parking is located at the trail head for Miller Woods. Walk back across the bridge to find the trail head for Wolf Creek Narrows.
- Visit in the spring to see the wildflowers. The best time is usually in the weeks around Mother’s Day. The flowers change weekly for a few weeks, so its worth visiting more than once.
- Follow the road up the hill from the parking lot a couple of hundred feet to find a historic marker commemorating a treaty signed during the French and Indian War.
- Note, the parking is a bit limited and can be crowded when the flowers are in bloom.
- Both trails cross the flood plane of Wolf Creek. Flooding can make the trails inaccessible, and very muddy.