The Great Outdoors: Clarion River Road Walk Reveals Wood Ducks

| October 28, 2017

It was dark and rainy when Brandi and I started our trek to the Clarion River on a recent Sunday morning.

The rain wasn’t bothersome, considering it had stopped by the time we made it to our destination, but the dark was a bit of a concern as I kept my eyes peeled for white-tailed deer while we drove. However, the deer were well-behaved, and we got to the river with little fanfare.

I was hoping to see an otter and maybe a bald eagle.

Seeing bald eagles on the Clarion has become somewhat commonplace, but catching a glimpse of an otter is still a rarity.

Conditions for seeing eagles improve as trees become bare in late fall. The odds of catching an otter on the prowl, swimming or playing with its family members definitely rises when snow and ice envelope the river and its banks.

Despite those conditions not being favorable, I was still encouraged being at the river’s edge at first light.

For me, there are a few schools of thought when it comes to seeing an otter. You can stake out an area where they are known to be seen and wait; take a slow walk or drive down River Road; or turn a paddle on the river.

Since Brandi wouldn’t fit in my little kayak that option was out. A slow drive during the winter months can work, and it allows a person to cover more ground. Nevertheless, at this time of year, I opted to take the slow walk.

Clarion River - River Road

For Brandi and me, the walk, which used to be quite fast, has always been our preference.

At 15 1/2 years of age, she doesn’t do anything fast anymore and for me, the slow walk is a much better way to see wildlife.

While no otters or eagles presented themselves to us, we did see another fairly rare treat – the wood duck.

Male wood ducks have very distinct plumage. Their green, red, white, and black colored heads stand out among waterfowl. For the ladies, their feathers are more muted, mostly gray in color. But, they do possess a characteristic white eye patch. I’d seen some female woodies and their young at State Game Lands 244 in Jefferson County during the spring and summer, but never a male.

On Sunday, I probably saw at least three of them. They were happily cruising the shoreline, every now and then plunging their beaks into the water to snag something to eat.

Due to unregulated hunting in the 19th century, wood duck populations were in serious decline, but the enactment of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 helped wood duck populations recover slowly. Also, other measures to protect remaining habitat, wood duck populations began to rebound in the 1920s.

The development of the artificial nesting box in the 1930s gave an additional boost to wood duck production.

The Clarion River, as it passes through Elk, Jefferson, Forest, and Clarion counties, continues to be a gem for seeing various types of animals, birds, snakes, turtles and many different critters.

For more information on the Clarion River and other areas in the Great Outdoors Region, including places to stay, places to dine, and other things to do, go to



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

Copyright © 2018 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.

Category: Blogs, Local News, News, Regional News