I’ve been to the Allegheny Reservoir in Warren County probably a dozen times in the past five years — it’s just a two-and-a-half hour drive from Hermitage and well worth the effort — and yet I still find new discoveries with each trip up there.

This time it was the amazing Bent Run Waterfall Trail and the delightful Dockside Restaurant. On prior trips I’d discovered big brown trout fishing in the Kinzua tailrace, the thrill of walking out on top of the 177-foot-high dam itself, spectacular large-lake photo ops at Big Bend and Kinzua Point, the swim beach and marina at the east end of the scenic bridge, overlook sight-seeing from Jakes Rocks peak, and more.

Donna Rai’ and I drove up on Saturday and savored the grand woodland scenery while traveling northeast on Route 62, the Allegheny River sparkling in the morning sunshine on our left and the Allegheny National Forest offering a half-million acres of outdoor adventures on our right.

We reached Kinzua Dam and stopped first at the Visitor Center, where Park Ranger Steve Lauser talked up the local ANF hiking trails and handed us brochures. The rangers are in charge of conserving, maintaining, and sometimes promoting the natural wonders of the state’s only national forest.

“Have you been to the Bent Run trail yet?” he asked. “We built the parking lot four years ago. It’s got some great waterfalls. It’s on the right just past the dam.”

“No,” I said, “but we’ll try it today for sure.”

But first we stopped at the dam itself and walked out on top. The view was astounding: green wooded hills rolling down into miles of undeveloped shoreline and the dark blue waters of a very deep lake. We looked over on the lake side and watched schools of big carp feeding on bread scraps tossed in by children standing near us at the railing and then peered over on the downstream side, where millions of gallons of light green waters cascaded one hundred feet down over the concrete face of the dam into the roily, churning tailrace below.

“That’s breathtaking,” said Donna Rai’, and I agreed. I appreciate the thunderous sluices and whirlpooling tailrace every time I see them, but I was also doing some fish-trip reminiscing just then. Right there, I thought, far below, where the concrete abutment meets the waters, Todd caught five species of fish at one spot in one morning last year. And just north of there the year before, I caught a 20-inch brown trout on a jointed Rapala minnow lure. And downstream a ways, where the tailrace flattens out into calmer waters, Rocky, Rich Rick, and I went fly-fishing five years ago, and Rick caught a 22-inch, four-pound brown trout on a Woolly Bugger. An amazing fish whose picture resides in the camp journal today.

Next we visited Bent Run and walked in on the trail under the hemlocks. It was dark and cool in there, and we could hear the sounds of rushing waters right away. We walked a short distance and discovered a true natural wonder, a small, coldwater stream that tumbled down the steep-faced hillside over a conglomeration of rocks and boulders, creating dozens of whitewater mini-falls that poured into frequent small pools before the waters dashed to the bottom of the gorge. We hiked barefoot up the trail and paused here and there to admire the scenery and take pictures. We also tried wading in one of the bigger pools, but the frigid mountain spring water shocked our ankles and toes and cut short that adventure. Donna Rai’ found a discarded fishhook packet on the ground, and I stuffed it into my back pocket. I was disappointed that anyone would leave trash behind in this magical place but intrigued that fishable trout might live in this nearly vertical stream.

We ate lunch at the Dockside Restaurant — another discovery — and then headed over to camp, where we spent the late afternoon hiking two miles up on a wild trout stream. We caught eight native brookies there, two of them nearly nine inches long, which is lunker-sized in that neck of the woods. I caught three of the eight, in case anyone’s counting.

Good luck out there. And have a great week outdoors.

Don Feigert is the outdoors writer for The Herald and the Allied News.

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