#12 - Lock 12
Property Manager: Brookfield Renewable Energy
GPS address: 699-645 River Rd, Airville, PA 17302
Hours: Dawn until Dusk
Parking: The main parking area is just north of PA-372 on River Road. There is a bigger gravel lot just east of the first small gravel lot, and another small lot further down River Road
Restrooms: Pit toilets near main parking area may be locked and off limits.
Safety Reminders: Lock 12 is a historic area please be careful around bridges and old structures. Birding near the parking area and along the Mason-Dixon trail is safest. Please stay on the trail, and if you hike on the road or from Lock 12 to SGL 181 be aware of your surroundings. There is no hunting at Lock 12, but recall the information that was posted about birding in State Game Lands if you venture there (only attempt on non-hunting days). It is not advisable to kayak, boat, or wade near Lock 12 without prior experience or knowledge of this section of river. Water releases from the Holtwood Dam can create very dangerous situations for those near or on the water.
Best Birding: Non-waterfowl birding is best May through September, dawn until dusk. Waterfowl is best October-April.
Site Description: The Lock 12 historic area is a great area for birders, hikers, historians, and the casual nature observer. The remains of Lock 12 (still viewable at the site) are the best preserved of the remaining canal locks for the Susquehanna and Tidewater canal built from 1836-1839. It is one of several areas along the York Birding Trail that non-birders will also enjoy. In terms of birding, spring and summer are best. During the wet seasons a nearby waterfall is a popular stop for Lock 12 visitors as Mill Creek empties into the Susquehanna nearby. This is a beautiful hike up the Mason-Dixon trail just up the road from the main parking area. A birder/ distance hiker can continue to State Game Lands 181. This is a five mile hike one way from Lock 12 to the parking lot at the game lands. It takes the adventurer through wooded hillsides.
Many uncommon wood-warblers breed in the wooded hill sides near Lock 12. They are sometimes viewed in the main parking area as mentioned later, and for that reason it is the most accessible area for folks to view warblers during the breeding season when migration has ended. Travelling into the habitat gives chances to find some of these birds. This is the only somewhat reliable location for Cerulean Warbler in York. The species was recorded breeding here during a past PA breeding bird atlas project.
Prothonotary Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Kentucky Warbler are also breeders here. Lousiana Waterthrush and other common woodland warblers are found here in migration and breeding as well. Heading north on the trail there are some wet and swampy areas along the old canal path which the raised up Mason-Dixon trail crosses over. This is a great area to look for the Prothonotary Warbler and both waterthrushes.
The Mason-Dixon Trail goes through the property allowing birders to really traverse a majority of the forest habitat along the river. Bring your listening ears as you may hear Yellow-throated Warbler singing high up in a sycamore or perhaps the thin and zippy popping song of the more common Northern Parula. Often early morning birding in the somewhat elevated main parking area is best for picking birds out of the trees below along the river. This can save a birder from ‘warbler neck’ (or a stiff neck from looking high in the trees where these birds often forage). Sometimes traffic noise from PA-372 can be interruptive here, but often the open edge areas give the observer the best shot at viewing birds.
If you wish to scan the river hike down to its edge and look out towards Lancaster. You may see an orange blaze on the way down to the water this corresponds to the Conestoga Trail. Migration of song birds is strong along the river corridor, and winter (cold season) gives chances for some winter gulls and ducks species that are discussed at the other Susquehanna River locations such as Wrightsville and Goldsboro. There is a view of the water behind the Holtwood Dam and a small pull off one mile north on river road. Here in winter diving ducks, loons, grebes, and gulls can be found.