Does anyone know if there is any section on the west branch of the Susquehanna River in PA that would have acceptable water levels to do a three night trip in late July, Early August of this year? Most reports say that the water level on the West Branch is only acceptable through the end of June. Any other suggestions for rivers that are pretty to camp on and not too difficult (travelling with two kids) would be appreciated. Thanks for your help.
You will be completely rain dependent
… in July and Aug on natural PA waterways. A notable exception is the Allegheny River in North Western PA. The Corps of Engineers release water from the Kinzua Reservoir in order to facilitate barge traffic down near Pittsburgh. This is an excellent waterway to take kids to camp and paddle.
My beau and kayaking companion lives directly on the West Branch a little downstream from the Shawville lowhead dam at a point where there was a ford back in the 18th and 19th centuries so it is about the lowest spot in that section. Even with the relative drought last summer (after our record spring floods) it was still navigable even there, though we would sometimes scrape bottom a bit. Never had to get out and drag the boats, though.
Though it is hard to predict this far in advance, I think you would have a good chance of doing it. Just keep checking the gauges in the weeks leading up to your trip. And send me a private email on here and I’ll give you my personal contact info so you can check in with us then on the river conditions if you like. We can literally see the river from the living room window and have a half mile of its bank along the property. Might be able to help you with a shuttle too if we are there. Starting from below the Shawville dam would put you on a good section for a three-day trip with kids. If you didn’t mind a short portage around the dam on the first day you could start in Clearfield.
If you have not already procured one, I strongly recommend the excellent laminated river map and guide pack published by the Lumber Heritage group for the Susquehanna River Trail.
Nicest set of river maps I’ve ever come across with a wealth of information on conditions, campsites and resources. Such a gorgeous river!
Paddling guide to PA
There is a fairly recently published paddling guide to PA waterways that is a good reference for kayak trips too. Lists all the gauges and describes the classes and milestones for the routes.
Keep in mind that a day trip empty
… is not the same as a 3 day camper with kids and all the gear it takes to support kids.
Alternative to Susquehanna
Thanks so much for this informatio.
May take you up on that!!
Thanks so much for this great information. We would very much like to do the sections that you describe. I will check in as it gets closer to our dates.
We have done several week long trips
We have done trips with the kids in Michigan, Florida, Missouri and in the Boundary Waters and the “stuff” you have to pack is certainly different from canoeing for just the day but compared to the Grand Canyon backpack trip we just did with them, canoe camping is a luxury trip as you can take a cooler, fishing gear, water toys…
Very helpful information.
canoeing OK now
Even though rivers are low around here we watched a group of about 20 canoe campers float by the “farm” just last weekend on the West Branch. It was an annual trip they usually do on Pine Creek farther north but that was so low they bailed and chose the Susque. Even laden with coolers of beer the guys were going over the former river ford side with no issues.
keep eyes open for vipers …
… rattlers and copperheads , no big deal , just sayin cause they are there too .
Good to know
snakes not very common
We like snakes and keep an eye out for them but have never seen any along the river. You are likely to see elk, huge flocks of turkey, turtles, fox, herons and we are pleased to report that we have spotted pheasants for the first time in many years. And you may spot black bear if you are quiet (tough with kids along.) There was a sow raising triplet cubs in the woods behind our property last fall – they used to raid the bird feeder by the kitchen window.
You won’t see many fish though
The area of PA that you are considering visiting is one of the more remote areas of the State. You will travel through attractive scenery with ample opportunities for wildlife viewing.
What you won’t see are many fish. The West Branch is slowly recovering from centuries of pollution by coal mining. Once you hit Karthaus, the river is pretty much dead until you near Lock Haven.
You may certainly find some fish close to where larger and cleaner tributaries enter the river, but if fishing is supposed to be one of the primary goals of the trip you’d do better considering another location.
The Allegheny River below Kinzua Dam was mentioned above. The fishing opportunities are much better on the Allegheny. Barring rain of epic proportions, like we received last summer, the river is well controlled by the dam and levels are kept at a manageable but easily passible level.
Tim Murphy AKA Goobs
Tionesta Creek to the Allegheny
I agree it would be worth looking into the Allegheny, perhaps starting on Tionesta Creek which feeds into it past the dam, if you are interested in fishing. Only would be navigable if we have a wet summer though. The creek is heavily stocked with game fish and is a nice 2 day float from Mayburg to the lake above the dam.
Thanks so much
It seems as though the Allegeny may be more reliable and better fishing. Thanks again. By the way, my boys love snakes as well and luckily (as far as I am concerned) though we look lots, we rarely see any.