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Lake Clarke, PA: Activities and Access Points

Lake Clarke may not be the most developed destination, yet it offers a wide selection of activities. Known for birding opportunities, a river trail, and a rail-trail on the eastern shore, it provides excellent paddling, boating, and hiking.
itiswild.com Lake Clarke PA Activities Guide
Long exposure of the Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Susquehanna River, in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime

Lake Clarke, also commonly known as Clarke Lake, sits along the dividing line between parts of York and Lancaster Counties in southern Pennsylvania. 

Created after the activation of the Safe Harbor Dam and Hydroelectric Station in 1931, this 7,360-acre section of the Susquehanna River provides many water recreation opportunities. 

The lake is a transitional part of the river, where the waters begin to pass through a deep, canyon-like area known as the Susquehanna Gorge.

Conejohela Flats, a popular birding area on the lake, is a place of concern monitored by Audubon. These mud flats and small islands have a rich variety of shrubs known to offer excellent habitat for approximately 37 species of migrating shorebirds. 

A variety of locations offer outdoor recreation access along or near Lake Clarke. Marinas, public boat launches, and parks offer opportunities to enjoy the lake. 

Columbia Wrightsville Route 30 Bridge at Sunset in the Fall. View Looking North Up the Susquehanna River and Shot from Columbia Pennsylvania with Drone
Source: dreamstime


This 12-mile-long impoundment took shape after the Safe Harbor Dam went into service in September 1931. 

Groundbreaking for the last and fourth hydroelectric dam along the lower portion of the Susquehanna River occurred in April 1930. 

Named after Charles E. F. Clarke, the president of the Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation and Pennsylvania Water and Power Company, this structure began to generate electricity in December 1931. 

Portions of the Conejohela Valley flooded as the lake assumed its present form.

Pathway During Sunset in the Fall at Columbia Wrightsville Bridge in Background. View Looking West and Shot in Columbia Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime


Located midway between York and Lancaster, this impoundment of the Susquehanna River, 15 miles north of the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line, is an area with many towns, cities, and boroughs whose residents and visitors enjoy lake access.


  • Swimming in Lake Clarke is not prohibited, though not frequently done.
  • Swimming does occur at “Sand Bar” areas near smaller islands.


  • An active boating community enjoys the lake. 
  • Jet skis and other personal watercraft are permitted.
  • Gas engines are permitted on the lake.
  • Boaters should always check for dam updates
  • Water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing are permitted.
  • Trailer parking is available at many sites.
Susquehanna River, United States
Source: unsplash


  • Canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding are permitted on Lake Clarke.
  • Certain watercraft will require a Pennsylvania sticker.
  • Royals Island and some of the other “Sand Bar” islands, a short distance downriver from Columbia and Wrightsville, are popular with paddlers. 
  • Susquehanna River Water Trail passes through Lake Clarke, offering one of the best paddling adventures in Pennsylavania. 


  • Some of the best largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing along the Susquehanna occurs in Clarke Lake.
  • Other fish include carp, channel catfish, walleye, and crappie.
Safe Harbor, Pennsylvania - Fishing at the Safe Harbor dam on the Susquehanna River
Source: dreamstime


  • Although there are no campgrounds immediately along the lakeshore, visitors will find accommodations nearby. 


  • Columbia Crossing River Trails Center: A popular place to connect with land and waterfront trails in Columbia River Park. 
  • Enola Low Grade Trail: A popular rail-trail that follows the lake’s eastern shoreline providing stunning views and opportunities for hiking and biking.
  • Mason-Dixon Trail: A portion cuts through Apollo County Park and along the lake’s western shore.
  • Safe Harbor Nature Preserve: A trail in a popular hunting area on the lake’s eastern shore.

Access points

  • Apollo Park, near Brogue, with access along Wilson Run (above the dam) and Boyd Run (immediately below the dam).
  • Blue Rock Boat Launch
  • Clarke Lake Marina, Wrightsville 
  • Columbia Crossing River Trails Center, Columbia
  • Klines Run Park, Wrightsville
  • Lock 2 Boat Ramp and Recreation Area
  • Long Level Marina, Wrightsville
  • Public Boat Ramp, Long Level Road, immediately south of Craley Road and Riverstone Lane
  • Susquehanna Yacht Club of Long Level, Wrightsville
  • Zimmerman Center for Heritage, Wrightsville

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