The Highpoint Preserve, so named because it is 1920 feet above sea level and is the highest point in Silver Lake Township, consists of 280 plus acres of forest, challenging accessible trails, vernal pools, Silver Lake shoreline, and the headwaters of Silver Creek. Highpoint Preserve is composed of mature mixed hardwood forest, hemlock forest, and a small emergent/scrub-shrub wetland at the northern end of the lake.
Currently, there are no structures on the property. There is a series of trails throughout Highpoint Preserve allowing for easy access by conservancy members. Along these trails are bridges that were constructed to allow visitors to walk over wet, flooded areas. These trails are clearly marked and are maintained annually.
Butterfly and Dedication Garden and Vernal Pools
In 2006, Conservancy members and volunteers enhanced a small open meadow at the edge of Highpoint Preserve by planting pollinator-friendly flowers and maintaining already present milkweed. The goal of this creation of the “Butterfly Garden” was to provide a habitat for butterflies and other pollinators and also to provide a place for visitors to relax and observe pollinating species.
Conservancy members also constructed two small vernal pools at the sanctuary. These pools are fed mainly by groundwater with some input from surface water flow and hold water year-round. One of these pools is located next to the butterfly garden and enhances the habitat, providing a critical habitat and a place for frogs and salamanders to breed. The other vernal pool is located next to a small, wet meadow in the wooded area of the preserve. Not only are these two vernal pools of great conservation value, but they are also aesthetically pleasing, offer hands-on educational opportunities, and represent another asset that the preserve has to offer visitors.
Near the butterfly garden are some native trees, which were planted to honor conservancy members who were vital in the conservancy’s success. The garden requires annual maintenance and in the summer of 2011, a gardener was hired to maintain the area with the support of a donation.
At the entrance of the preserve there is an open field in which the butterfly and dedication garden, and a vernal pool are located. This area is a good area for use by visitors to observe insects and pool-dwelling creatures. It is also a place to relax after hiking through the preserve. In addition, a bat box was installed in the field as part of a Rockwell Collins Green Communities Grant, to encourage summer roosting by bats. The field supports the growth of common milkweed, and numerous pollinators ranging from butterflies and bees, to hummingbirds, regularly feed on the milkweed. Milkweed is the sole larval food of the monarch butterfly, populations of which are in serious decline.
A large majority of the preserve is made up of mature deciduous, mixed deciduous, and coniferous forests with various tree species native to the area. The forest extends from the top of the preserve to the edge of Silver Lake which the preserve borders, helping to control any runoff that flows into the lake and playing a key role in the lake ecosystem and its overall health.
On a larger, landscape scale, Highpoint Preserve is a significant part of the large, contiguous forested area west of Silver Lake. As such, the preserve contributes substantially to the diversity of plant and animal habitat in the area. Highpoint Preserve is part of the supporting landscape identified as necessary to ensure the high quality of Silver Lake, as well as other important areas such as St. Joseph Ravine to the north, and Cranberry Lake to the east (A Natural Areas Inventory of Susquehanna County, 2006). Highpoint Preserve helps to maintain the vital ecological processes and secondary habitat in the local area and as such, has been identified as an area that should be protected from further fragmentation by roads and other development. Because large forested blocks are critical habitat for plants and animals dependent on forest interior conditions and, along with connecting corridors, serve as the backbone of wildlife habitat in the area, the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program recommends that conservation efforts in the county should concentrate on maintaining these large forest blocks by avoiding further fragmentation.
At the top of the ridge, there are several rocky outcrops and areas covered with loose shale. Within these outcrops are several small cave-like areas. Signs of porcupines and other animals can be found within the openings.
1.1. Emergent/Scrub-shrub Wetland
At the northern end of the lake on the Highpoint property, containing one of the main stream inlets to the lake is a small wetland area. This area is habitat for many wetland plants including the rare flat-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton robinsii).