American Trails Photo Contest 2009

American Trails sponsors an annual photo contest for photographs of National Recreation Trails. Contest details for 2009 are at the American Trails Photo Contest page.  These are the photos I sent for 2009. The idiosyncratic selection of trails was driven by the rules -- only designated National Recreation Trails are eligible.

The winning photos are at the top, followed by other photos from the Great Allegheny Passage, the Allegheny River Trail system, the Ghost Town Trail, the Montour Trail, the Lower Trail, the Roaring Run Trail, the Staple Bend Trail, the West Penn Trail, the Cuyahoga Valley Towpath, and Erie Canal Heritage Trail.

Winning Photos

Trail Features Category: Arts and Interpretation


Eastern Continental Divide

Great Allegheny Passage at the Eastern Continental Divide east of Meyersdale PA

The new extension of the Allegheny River Trail on the west side of the Allegheny River

Trail Features Category: Innovative Facilities


Stairs up Bow Ridge

West Penn Trail, Conemaugh Lake, east of Saltsburgh PA

The active railroad runs alongside the interurban line that has been converted to the trail

Trail Features Category: Historic Features


Canal Locks in Saltsburg

West Penn Trail, Saltsburg PA

This historic 135-year-old cast-iron Bollman bridge once carried the B&O railroad over Wells Creek. It has been moved to carry the Great Allegheny Passage over Scratch Hill Rd. The approaches to the bridge are still under construction, and the trail community eagerly anticipates the finishing touches


Other Submitted Photos on the Great Allegheny Passage

Allegheny Highlands segment in Pennsylvania


Train art at Rockwood

The Rockwood trailhead of the Great Allegheny Passage features this sculpture, which celebrates conversion of the railroad grade to a bicycle/pedestrian trail.



The Wymps Gap fossil bed emerges beside the trail.

Steel Valley segment    

Riverton Bridge

The challenge of a safe trail crossing of the Monongahela River near McKeesport was resolved by rerouting the little remaining traffic that used the Riverton Bridge, abandoning the bridge for railroad use, and converting the bridge for trail use.


Riverton Bridge

The challenge of a safe trail crossing of the Monongahela River near McKeesport was resolved by rerouting the little remaining traffic that used the Riverton Bridge, abandoning the bridge for railroad use, and converting the bridge for trail use.

Photo by Roy Weil



Sharing the route at Duquesne

The trail parallels the Norfolk Southern mainline between the Riverton Bridge and McKeesport. When this flyover was recently constructed as part of an industrial park development, special provision was made for the trail to go through one of the abutments


Trail at The Waterfront

The path runs between the condos and the Mon River at The Waterfront.

Photo by Roy Weil


Three Rivers Heritage segment    

Hot Metal Bridge

Two near-identical railroad bridges share a single set of piers. The Monongahela Connecting RR bridge on the left once carried general rail traffic and was converted for vehicle use. The Hot Metal Bridge on the right was used to shuttle hot metal from the Pittsburgh Works furnaces to the South Side Works rolling mills; it was converted for bike/ped use. Because of the strategic concentration of rail traffic and steel production, this pair of bridges was the nations’ highest-priority bridge for protection from enemy attack during World War II


Pittsburgh at Night in Station Square

Station Square is a shopping and restaurant complex in the former P&LE Railroad Station across the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh. It features a “dancing fountain”, which was brilliantly lit on Light Up Night.  The trail is just the other side of the fountain from this view.


Pittsburgh at Night from Hot Metal Bridge

The Hot Metal bike/ped bridge offers one of the greatest views of Pittsburgh to be had anywhere in the city. Each year the city celebrates the start of the holiday season with “Light Up Night”, and most office buildings keep their lights on to brighten the festivities. Bicyclists join the celebration with rides around the city. These two views from the Hot Metal Bike/Ped Bridge were taken on Light Up Night 2009.

Youghiogheny River Trail segment

Autumn on the Yough

In early autumn the trail is covered in leaves.




Although it is not common, you may see rattlesnakes near the trail.

Other Submitted Photos on the Allegheny River and Samuel Justus Trails

Allegheny River Trail  

Descending from Sandy CreekTrail

Sandy Creek Trail crosses the Allegheny River on the historic Belmar Bridge. The Allegheny River Trail runs along the bank of the Allegheny River. These stairs provide a connection between the two trails.


Parcourse at Franklin Trailhead

In western Pennsylvania, parcourses with exercise stations are common features of trails


Campground by Allegheny River

The Allegheny River Trail offers ample camping between the trail and the river. This site provides an Adirondack-style shelter



Waterfall near the entrance to one of the tunnels on the trail.



Interpretations of a Stone Arch Bridge

A stone arch bridge near the trail offers inspiration for abstract treatment.


Interpretations of a Tunnel Entry

A tunnel entry offers inspiration for abstract treatment

Samuel Justus Traill    

Donkey Engine

The oil industry was born in this region, and oil is still produced here. Several of these donkey engines beside the trail extract oil from small wells

Other Submitted Photos on the Ghost Town Trail



Anticipation: Bridge Construction near Dilltown

Continuity of the Ghost Town Trail has been interrupted by two missing bridges west of Dilltown, which were washed out in a flood. Summer 2009 saw reconstruction of those bridges

Other Submitted Photos on the Montour Trail






 Safety Improvement at Venice Crossing

The Montour Trail, otherwise continuous for many miles in both directions, is interrupted at this intersection by a missing bridge. The trail continues to both ends of the demolished bridge, but the bridge is 15 feet above the road. Trail travelers have been forced to detour for a half mile along busy PA50. An all-volunteer project of the trail group reduced the hazards for trail users by installing a stairway from the old bridge down to the side of the road. The slope of the stairs and a wheel trough provide easy passage for bicyclists






 Campground near Hendersonville

The Montour Trail provides a route from the Great Allegheny Passage to the west, and eventually to Pittsburgh Airport. The trail has created a group of campsites near Hendersonville to support self-contained bicycle tourists

Other Submitted Photos on the Lower Trail






 Stone Arch Bridge

This handsome stone arch bridge carries the trail over Fox Fun. It also provides inspiration for an abstract view of the bridge in autumn.







 Mt Etna Covered Bridge

This covered bridge crosses a mill race near the Mt Etna access area


Other Submitted Photos on the Roaring Run Trail






 Bridge on Roaring Run Trail

A bridge at the mouth of a small side creek rises high to provide passage for high water.






 Suspension Bridge over Roaring Run

A spur  trail runs up Roaring Run. Until this suspension bridge was built, trail users had to ford the stream here.







 Acid Mine Discharge Remediation

The Trux Mine was once one of the worst abandoned mine water discharges in Pennsylvania, with mine water cascading down this slope and coating the bank with bright orange sludge. A remediation project is capturing the sludge, leaving a stable hillside that supports vegetation.


Other Submitted Photos on the Staple Bend Trail





 Staple Bend Tunnel

This is the oldest railroad tunnel in the United States. Until the trail was built, it was rarely accessible to the public





 Stone Sleepers on Allegheny Portage RR

One of the historic features of the Allegheny Portage Railroad was the use of stone sleepers instead of wooden ties. This row of sleepers is visible beside the trail

Other Submitted Photos on the West Penn Trail






Stone Arches over Conemaugh Lake

When the Corps of Engineers built a flood control lake here half a century ago, the railroad was relocated to higher ground. The stone bridges that formerly carried the railroad over the valley now carry the West Penn Trail






 Stone Arches over Conemaugh River

Below the flood control dam, the original arch bridges emerge from a tunnel that is now closed; bicyclists must go over the ridge that the tunnel goes through. The relocated railroad crosses over the original stone bridge, which carries the trail over the river here

Other Submitted Photos on the Cuyahoga Valley Towpath






 Lock Demonstration

The visitor’s center offers demonstrations of a restored lock







The towpath passes through a wetlands on a boardwalk

Other Submitted Photos on the Erie Canal Heritage Trail






 Old and New at Lockport

The original canal had two flights of five locks, one for passage in each direction.  One of these remains; the other has been replaced by a single modern deep lock






 Nine Mile Run Aqueduct under Restoration

This aqueduct is being restored. When it is finished, it will be the only restored navigable aqueduct in New York State

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