Although my wife and I only make it there perhaps once or twice a year, the Union City Dam is one of my favorite day trips in northwestern Pennsylvania.
We stopped there Sunday to do some geocaching. There were exactly two other cars on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed grounds — one each in the parking lots on either side of the dam. The fact that a public site is so uncrowded is one of its great lures.
The outflow in the 1,420-foot dam provides great fishing for bass, pike, walleye, muskie and panfish at various times of year. A family was catching fish one after the other while we were there. Be prepared to walk down — and back up — the embankment to get to French Creek.
The 2,684-acre dam property is reliably among the best places in the county to see raptors up close. We saw two hawks over the grounds before we even reached the entry gate.
The dry-bed reservoir also provides great wildlife-watching opportunities. The biggest Great Blue Heron I’ve seen, with a white face shining like polished aluminum in the afternoon sun, staked out an enviable fishing spot Sunday in a small channel that rejoined the main flow of French Creek. The heron ate three fish of at least 10 inches each just in the few minutes we watched. Two other herons worked bigger waters nearby.
Access roads and trails dot the property, making it a good choice for a light walk or for geocaching. The outflow engineering alone is cool to ponder. And picnic tables, restrooms and parking lots give the place street cred.
The dam can be accessed off Route 97 at Middleton Road, around three miles west of Union City.